A traditional tourist hot-spot, Greece has officially been in recession for the past four years. Official estimates suggest that the economy shrank by a shocking 6.2% in the first three months of 2012. Families, particularly single-parent households, have been particularly badly affected by the current economic crisis. The Greek state has cut social services by 40% and many parents have no one to turn to for support.
Before the financial crisis hit, the most common reason for families and local authorities referring children to SOS Children’s care was as a result of child abuse. In the past year, nearly 100% of new referrals are as a result of a financial crisis in the family and since the beginning of 2011 SOS Children in Greece has received 700-800 requests from families for help.
SOS Children have been working in Greece for 35 years and are well positioned to help families in the current crisis. We have been able to support almost all families who have approached our charity so far through our four Family Strengthening Programmes (FSPs). FSPs keep families together in difficult circumstances, by providing them with food, clothes and loans to start businesses and support their children financially.
Expanding our Family Strengthening Programmes
Due to the overwhelming demand for our support, we are now broadening our existing SOS Family Strengthening Programme in Athens, and establishing a new programme to help families in Thessaloniki in Northern Greece.
The SOS Family Strengthening Programme in Athens already supports the families of over 200 children. The programme will expand to offer services including educational assistance for children with learning difficulties, enabling them to catch up with their peers. The Programme will run counselling sessions for parents, to help them to deal with the stress of tough economic times, resolve family conflict and support their children with any emotional issues they might be experiencing. During 2012-13, we are planning to reach out to over 800 individuals, 550 of these children and young people.
Thessaloniki, in Northern Greece, is the country’s second biggest city. Already home to an SOS Children’s Village and a Youth Home, we are now in the process of establishing a Family Strengthening Programme to support families who are struggling to cope in the community. The FSP will operate out of a centrally-located apartment in the city and during 2012-3 we plan to provide support for 350 individuals. The programme will also train 50 teachers to meet the needs of vulnerable children they come into contact with.
Where parents have been simply unable to care for their children despite our support, we are able to offer them a home in our SOS Children's Villages in the country. Watch this video of Eva, who came to live in an SOS Children's Village in Greece after her mother, a single-parent, lost her job. Her mother is working to get back on her feet and hopes to bring Eva home in the future.
BBC News recently visited an SOS Children's Village in Greece and learnt about the situation of children living there. You can watch the video online here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18166501
How you can help
SOS Children in Greece is not government-supported and relies on private donations. However, income is rapidly reducing as the economic crisis takes hold and people in Greece are unable to afford to donate.
Our Family Strengthening Programmes are run by our SOS Children's Villages in Greece. We do everything we can to prevent family breakdown in the first instance, and accepting children into our SOS Villages is a last resort. To ensure that we can provide long-term community-based support please consider taking out a Village sponsorship in Greece.
Alternatively, you can help to improve the situation for families struggling to care for their own children by making a donation to our work.