Children in Greece
From stability to uncertainty
Historically, Greeks have enjoyed a high standard of living and good quality of life. Located on the southern-most tip of the Balkan Peninsula, it is made up of two mainland peninsulas and thousands of islands. It has a rich history, and, with its Mediterranean climate and beautiful scenery, is a popular tourist destination.
However, living standards in the country have suffered considerably following the economic crash in 2008. Greeks are facing a dire situation. Unemployment is high, particularly among the young – the unemployment rate for 15-24-year-olds stood at 49.7% in 2015. Family incomes are steadily declining and many parents have lost their jobs, or are facing redundancy.
The hardest hit are the 1.9 million children under the age of 18 in Greece – the child poverty rate rose by over 50 percent to 40.5 percent between 2008-2012. Poverty in rural areas is increasing particularly rapidly and children from migrant families are especially negatively affected; they are twice as likely to end up living below the poverty line. Shockingly, 18 percent of Greek families are now unable to afford a meal with meat, fish or chicken every second day. There are growing fears about malnutrition becoming an issue.
Greece has become the gateway to Europe for hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants seeking a better life in Northern and Western Europe. Over 41,000 people are currently stranded in Greece thanks to border closures and restrictions throughout the Balkans. The already overburdened government is struggling to cope with the influx of people and there are fears that the impact on the economy will be significant. The refugees who arrive in the country are often unable to access much-needed services and are in need of assistance.
Our Children's Villages in Greece
In 2015 we started providing emergency aid to refugee children and families arriving in Greece. We are running three child-friendly spaces, one in Athens at the Eleonas refugee camp and two on the island of Lesbos. So far over 440 children have been able to participate in the activities run at these child-friendly spaces. From offering arts and crafts sessions to sports days, we are giving children safe places where they can play and escape from the chaos that surrounds them. Specialists are also on hand to provide dedicated psychosocial support to traumatised children.
Recently, our work in Greece has a strong emphasis on helping young people and families as well as children. We now run eight Social Centres in major cities such as Athens, Kalamata and Thessaloniki which support and strengthen families so that they can stay together.
The Social Centres run vocational training sessions and offer education and counselling services to help parents improve the quality of care they are able to give their children and to help them overcome challenges they might be facing. Over the last four years, there has been a significant increase in the number of families seeking our help.
Emergency Relief Work
We have always adapted our work to address the needs of the Greek population. In 1999 when Athens was struck by an earthquake, the SOS Social Centre team worked alongside other aid organisations in aid camps set up across the city and helped more than 2000 people get back on their feet.
We opened our first Children's Village in Greece in 1982 at Vari, about 25 km from Athens. Located in the province of Attica on the coastal road at the foot of the Hymetus Mountain, it enjoys wonderful views over the sea. Vari has a number of family houses with an SOS Youth Home at nearby Voula where teenage SOS children take their first steps to independence while studying or acquiring skills for the future. Children from the SOS Children’s Village attend the local schools in Vari.
Plans for a second Village at Plagiari, a small village of around 2000 people about 18 km east of Thessaloniki, began in 1994. The first mothers and children moved into the ten family houses in 1998. As in Vari, the children attend local schools and are well integrated into the community. Two playgrounds and a sports field provide plenty of space for games and recreation.
In 2009, SOS Children's Village Thrace opened in the north east of the country, not far from the border with Turkey. The village is home to up to 50 children and includes an SOS Social Centre that provides day care and counselling for up to 120 children.
SOS Children’s Villages Greece
Ermou 6 10563
Tel: +30/210/331 3661
Fax: +30/210/322 6652