SOS Children's Villages has been working in Greece since 1975. Due to the financial crisis which started in the late 2000s, we have increased our activities in the country. Our eight family strengthening programmes, two youth programmes and four villages providing family-based care, currently support over 2,000 children and adults people. In 2015 we started providing emergency aid to refugee families and children arriving in Greece.
Life has been fraught with difficulty since the beginning of the debt crisis in 2009
Children who can’t live with their parents find a home in SOS Children’s Village Vari (photo: SOS archives)
Vari was the first location in Greece where SOS Children’s Villages began its work. The small town of Vari forms part of the Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni municipality, and is located in East Attica on the Saronic Gulf coast, just twelve km from the Acropolis. It has a population of approximately 11,000.
Greece has been a country in crisis since its credit rating was downgraded in late 2009. In order to receive the rescue package that Greece urgently needs so that debt repayments can be made on time, the government has been introducing increasingly tough austerity measures, including pay cuts, fuel price increases, and tax rises.
Life has become a struggle for many families in Greece: While previously the reasons why children came to live in an SOS Children’s Village was often alcoholism, drug abuse or illness in the family, today many parents simply cannot afford to care for their children.
The future is looking grim for thousands of Greek families
The continuing uncertainty of the Greek economy has also led to shrinking employment opportunities and industrial production, leading to sky-rocketing unemployment rates. Although the official unemployment rate is 27 per cent, it is higher in some areas of Athens.
SOS Children’s Villages has felt the effects of these events very strongly, not least because as of 2011 charities also have to pay high taxes in Greece. And there are more and more desperate parents turning to SOS Children’s Villages as an absolute last resort, having exhausted their own family support network – an increasing number of them from the middle classes. We are currently supporting 50 times more families than before the crises.
What we do in Vari
Children need our support so that they can grow up in a stable environment (photo: L. Yassin)
SOS Children's Villages began its work in Vari in 1982. Family-based care: For children from the region who are no longer able to live with their parents, 11 SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 48 children. In each family, they live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother. The children attend local schools and are therefore integrated into the local community.
Support for young adults: When young people from the children’s village are ready to leave their family in order to pursue further education or vocational training, the SOS Youth Programme provides shared accommodation in Athens. With the support of qualified counsellors, the young people learn to take responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.
Family strengthening programmes: In Athens a family strengthening programme aims to alleviate hardship in the community in a holistic and sustainable manner. We offer support to families struggling to care for their children so that they can stay together and children are not abandoned. The SOS-Eliza Home provides short-term care (up to 18 months) for up to 20 young children under the age of five.