The Youth Centre of Eleusis recently underwent a dramatic renovation, thanks to the financial support provided by the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, and Hellenic Hope. The goal of this renovation project was to transform the building into a more functional, secure and modern space, which would be better suited to the needs of the staff, volunteers and children who populate it. The centre has been in operation for over five decades, and currently offers support to 160 children, all of whom come from vulnerable families in the local area. Those working here help these young people in many different ways, from organising educational activities for them, to providing them with healthy meals.
The centre was founded in 1964 by a man named Father Pyrounakis, who wished to establish a safe space for local children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The reopening of the centre, following its renovations, took place on the 5th of October 2014, 50 years after it was first established. Whilst the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation funds a wide variety of projects, the details of which can be found on its About Me profile, this one was of particular importance to its board members, as the creator of the foundation, John S. Latsis, had always been an ardent supporter of this centre.
Having been raised by a very poor family, Latsis understood precisely how beneficial a place such as this centre could be for children from similarly disadvantaged backgrounds. He himself had to work from an early age, and it was only through his own determination and tireless efforts that he managed to become a successful entrepreneur within the credit, financial, oil and shipping industries.
The supervisory board which now funds projects like the Youth Centre of Eleusis is made up of several members of the Latsis family, including Marianna Latsis, Margarita Latsis, Spiro Latsis and Henrietta Latsis. This group work together closely to create opportunities for young people across Greece. Through this foundation, they have donated more than four million Euros to students and families; this youth centre project is just one of the many projects which they have been involved in over the past few years.
Many changes were made to each of the centre’s three floors; new electrical equipment was provided, an upgraded heating system was installed, the window and door frames were replaced and the kitchenware was modernised. In addition to this, the bathroom facilities were renovated, the walls painted and insulation added. All of this was carried out under the strict supervision of the aforementioned foundation, so as to ensure that the finished work met the board members’ high standards.
All children in need of help are welcomed here; the staff celebrate diversity, and the centre itself could quite rightly be described as a cultural melting pot, as whilst quite a few of the children who visit the centre are of Greek descent, a large number are originally from Turkey, Romania, Russia and Albania. The main facility within the youth centre is known as the ‘Friendly Nest’; it is in this space that much of the centre’s educational activities take place. These activities are designed to promote both the academic and personal development of the children who visit. The centre is a proponent of equal opportunities for children, particularly in regard to creative development and education; as such, the staff working here do their utmost to make sure that young people from adverse socio-economic backgrounds are given the support that they need to thrive.
Every day after school, children from the surrounding area visit the centre; upon arrival, they are fed a nutritious lunch, and are then given the chance to participate in games, or arts and crafts lessons. The centre also collaborates with local groups, so that the children can engage in other fun educational activities, such as computer classes, foreign language lessons, sports, or choir practice. Children who display an interest in music can take harmony lessons, or even learn to play an instrument like the guitar or the piano, if they so wish. In terms of sports, they can take up things like table tennis, volleyball, basketball, football or gymnastics. There are also frequent excursions to theatres, parks, archaeological sites and museums.
Teachers help to arrange the educational programmes for the children, whilst social workers help families with issues relating to school attendance. Approximately 70 of the staff members work here on a voluntary basis, choosing to take on ad hoc, seasonal or permanent positions, based on their own circumstances. These volunteers play a crucial role, offering a variety of services which ensure the smooth running of the centre. They also help with the arrangement of larger events; for instance, during the summer months, volunteers arrange camps, called ‘Happy Children – Happy Youth’
In addition to providing more formal educational sessions, the centre encourages its young visitors to educate themselves, by using the building’s library, which contains more than 20,000 books. The staff also provide the children and their families with basic necessities which can improve their overall quality of life; things such as furniture, household appliances, food and clothes are given to those that need them. Many of these items are donated by generous local businesses and individuals.