With a team in Greece since 1982, SOS Children has been there for Greek families throughout the financial crisis. When a new Eurozone bailout deal in 2011 brought increased austerity measures designed to curb government spending, families experienced renewed pressure as public services were cut.
Pay cuts and rising unemployment led to falling family incomes, while at the same time taxation crept up. Since then, we have offered a host of new services to help the most vulnerable Greek families weather the storm of austerity.
Delivering critical children's services at a difficult time
In 2012, we opened seven new SOS Social Centres in major cities such as Athens, Thessaloniki and Piraeus, which fill the gaps in children's services left by the spending cuts, and provide help to families who can no longer afford to pay for these services. Our main aim is to ensure that families get support as soon as possible so that children can remain in a stable environment with their parents.
SOS Social Centres are run by a mixture of social workers, teachers, psychologists, and others are brought in from time to time depending on the specific, local needs of families at a given time. Volunteers are also crucial to our efforts.
Some of the services we are providing are:
- Education: We provide educational assistance to children with learning difficulties
- Therapy and counselling: We offer speech therapy to children and counselling to parents to help them deal with the pressures of long-term financial hardship. We also offer pychological support both children and parents
- Material assistance: Depending on what needs we identify, we may offer aid or money to families.
What are we doing today?
George Protopapas, the National Director of our team in Greece, has informed us that demand on our services has not increased significantly over recent weeks. However, he stresses that the economic effects of Sunday's “no” vote could leave more families in need of support.
“Over the coming days, critical decisions by the European Central bank and leaders of the Eurozone will give us a better idea of how SOS Children's Villages will need to respond,” says George. “Today, the situation faced by many families in Greece – devastated by poverty and unemployment – has not changed following the ‘No’ vote.
“But so long as the banks are closed and the financial system is paralysed, uncertainty will continue to cast a cloud over families, especially those who were struggling already. We hope that we will be able to do everything we can to support them.”
What you can do to help
At the core of our response to the crisis in Greece are our Children's Villages, where we care for the most vulnerable children of all, providing a home when they cannot live with their own parents. We have cared for Greek children since 1982, through thick and thin, but today, the need for quality care services is as great as ever.
Today, you can sponsor a child so that they can grow up with a mother, a family home, education and healthcare – all the ingredients of a happy and stable childhood.