IOCC Helping Children and Tackling Unemployment in Greece

Rock climbing and learning about falconry are among the activities in the education-recreation programs available for children. Photo: IOCC/Apostoli

BALTIMORE, MD – International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) continues to help those in need through its programs and partnerships with organizations in many countries around the world. In Greece, IOCC is currently working with Apostoli, the humanitarian arm of the Archdiocese of Athens, to implement a program that offers educational and recreational activities to refugee children and Greek children from low-income families around greater Athens.

The program includes Greek language classes, music activities, puzzles, and other games to improve motor skills and encourage teamwork. The children have also taken field trips to cultural and recreational sites, like road-safety parks and climbing walls, and have had the chance to meet animals like miniature horses and falcons.

George is an eight-year-old boy who fled Syria with his parents. When he first joined this IOCC program, he had low self-esteem due to the trauma created through feeling conflict and wouldn’t participate in activities with the other children. His teacher noticed and began offering him positive reinforcement, which increased his participation and slowly built up his confidence. “It was like I gave him worth that no one else saw,” his teacher said.

Then one day, the teacher gave the students colored chalk to draw on the pavement with. George grabbed a piece and drew a mural that covered nearly half the courtyard. He seemed to come alive through this chance to express himself artistically. This marked a turning point for George, who now has made considerable progress through this program.

Kick off event in Athens for a pilot project supporting new agribusinesses. Photo: IOCC/Apostoli

Ensuring that children like George continue their education is vital to their future, as is minimizing the psychological impact of fleeing from home. Fostering acceptance, compassion, and philoxenia (hospitality) in Greek children whose communities are hosting refugees has also proved tremendously valuable. Through interactive learning and teambuilding activities, refugee children can renew their self-confidence and minimize the impact of the turmoil and trauma they have experienced. Additionally, all the children involved gain important social skills and build new friendships.

Greece suffers the highest rate of unemployment in Europe — 47%, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development. With a lack of employment opportunities and resources, youth become more susceptible to risks such as marginalization and exclusion.

With partner Finn Church Aid, the CO{DE} + CREATE project brought together local and refugee youth to learn valuable digital skills that help them visualize their potential and look forward to future opportunities. This experience has also facilitated interaction and communication across languages and cultures. “It’s nice to have a place in the city where I feel welcome,” said one refugee participant.

CO{DE} + CREATE taught students beginner and advanced level coding, computer programming, and digital content creation, as well as allowed students to design and program a 3D robot with their new skills. The project offered weekly assignments, quizzes, and access to the learning lab, where students could practice their skills and experiment while spending time with peers in a safe place.

Kick off event in Athens for a pilot project supporting new agribusinesses. Photo: IOCC/Apostoli

“I like everything [about the] class. I’m very thankful to my teachers and all other staff,” said one student, after completing the program.

Providing education and job skills to youth is only one way in which your generosity makes a vital difference. More information is available online at iocc.org for those interested in continuing to help those in need around the world. For those interested in helping provide relief to the people of Greece, specifically, donations to the Give for Greece campaign will go twice as far thanks to The Jaharis Family Foundation, Inc., which will match the first $1 million in donations through February 28, 2018.

IOCC and its partner in Greece, MKO Apostoli, held a kick-off event on November 3 in Athens for a pilot project supporting new agribusinesses. Each small business is being paired with an experienced corporate mentor and will be eligible to receive equipment, training, and additional support to grow their capacity and productivity.

Children learn about falconry in an education-recreation program. Photo: IOCC/Apostoli
Rock climbing in an education-recreation program for children. Photo: IOCC/Apostoli
The business mentoring event in Athens offers valuable advice and information for those interested in agribusiness. Photo: IOCC/Apostoli