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Rachel-Maria Athanasopoulou. Photo: Courtesy of Rachel-Maria Athanasopoulou
ATHENS – Rachel-Maria Athanasopoulou is the founding member of the theatrical workshop ‘Paidia epi Skinis’ (Kids on Stage) and since 2000 she is its artistic director, designing, organizing, and implementing dozens of educational programs, emotional intelligence (EQ) programs, and artistic events for children and adults. They have stood out from the beginning for their quality and were much loved by parents and children. Athanasopoulou spoke with The National Herald about her work and future plans.
The National Herald: When did the Kids on Stage workshop begin and what is its philosophy?
Rachel-Maria Athanasopoulou: Kids on Stage began in 2000 with the desire to create a space of expression, learning, and creativity for children and adults. The concept of ‘team’ is very important and is the basic principle of our philosophy, as through the emotional security that it creates the child expresses, learns, communicates, interacts, discovers himself, and finds his place in the whole by strengthening confidence in his abilities and cultivating empathy and mutual respect.
TNH: What kind of programs are implemented in Kids on Stage and why do parents and students embrace them with such love?
RMA: There are annual workshops for children from 18 months to adults, independent emotional intelligence programs for groups of children and parents, and training seminars for group animators, educators, parents, artists.
The implementation of all programs is done live and online in Greece and abroad. We are going through a difficult time that requires the strengthening of thought, soul, communication, and coexistence and this is what is required for Kids on Stage.
I love teaching and this love I think is returned. I believe that children have a great deal of talent to make a better world and I feel lucky that I can and an infinitesimal stone to their ability and I also believe that the teacher teaches what he wants to learn, he and I still have a lot to learn from my students.
TNH: An important part of the Kids on Stage effort is the independent interactive emotional intelligence programs. What are their goals and what audience are they addressing?
RMA: Emotions when experienced and expressed correctly contain wisdom, guide thoughts, shape values, and provide survival tools. Especially in this day and age after the last two years that upset the basic balances and behaviors of children and adults, we need new tools, new ways of thinking, and the aid of emotional intelligence is crucial.
The participating groups are children from 3 years old to teenagers with parents and teachers. The family and the school are the basic cores of the child’s emotional education and their coexistence is important for us in order to develop common codes of expression, effective communication, and common ways of resolving issues.
EQ programs are performed for parents, educators, and group animators as the healthy development of our emotional intelligence is a model of behavior for children.
TNH: Prior to the pandemic, you had visited New York and collaborated with Greek organizations to present independent EQ programs. What did you gain from this experience?
RMA: I was very pleased with this experience, for the people I met, for the acceptance of the programs. To find that people dream the same way, we have common issues, we face similar difficulties. It was touching, the rapport, the connection with children and adults who speak the same language, we have common codes regardless of geographical boundaries.
Although the pandemic postponed the scheduled workshops in 2020, it is our immediate goal to continue these collaborations with presentations of EQ programs in public groups and schools in the Greek Diaspora.
We are starting in May 2022 with the online presentation of programs for groups of children and parents. The programs will take place on Sunday morning so that parents can also participate, as they will gather resources to help the child in his daily life. I want to believe and I wish from the bottom of my heart that we present our programs soon and for life.
TNH: What are your plans for the future?
RMA: Better to talk about dreams, about hopes – we have seen so many designs and plans being overturned. I think the concept of ‘team’ is more important than ever, and I would like the Kids on Stage to continue to be a place where people, both inside and outside the country, meet with the same attitude and ‘create’ – believing that the world can be made better through art.
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