Monthly Archives: March 2017

Greek NGOs Work Hard to Support Unaccompanied Migrant Children

In recent years, irregular entry of migrants into Greece – many of whom are from the Middle East – is an issue that Greek authorities have been working hard to bring under control. Unaccompanied children and youths make up a good number of the new arrivals and, with the country still working to find stability after a devastating financial crisis, systems for protecting minors are not entirely adequate.

According to a human rights report, more than 1,900 unaccompanied children arrived in Greece in early 2016 alone, with more than half under the age of 14. Social services such as psychological care, guardianship and language training are taken up by civil society organisations, many that are constrained by lack of funds.

Children who are separated from their caregivers are more susceptible to abuse, exploitation and neglect. As vulnerable members of society, it is the shared responsibility of governments, citizens and non-profit organisations to protect and care for unaccompanied minors, which is an obligation captured by the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child. It is with this in mind that several organisations in Greece have teamed together to fund a programme to address the issue of unaccompanied and separated children.

Various European public interest groups, led by the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, and the Bodossaki Foundation, among others, have come together in an initiative called “Never Alone – Building our future with children and youth arriving in Europe.”

The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, which has Greek businessman Spiro Latsis as an executive member, was established in 2005 to continue the charitable works of its founder, John S. Latsis. The Foundation has put public benefit at the forefront of its work by funding and managing programs aimed at improving various aspects of Greek society, including health, education, science and culture.

The EPIM fund is designed to offer assistance to civil society organisations that will focus their attention on three important aspects:

  1. Building secure networks and structures that aid the identification process of unaccompanied and separated minors.
  2. Providing protection mechanisms that improve guardianship systems for these children.
  3. Raising awareness among the public on issues that affect unaccompanied minors and increasing support towards youth programs.

The overall goal of the projects, funded to the tune of 450,000 Euros over a two-year period, will be to ensure the children who make the highly-risky journey into Greece have access to information and services such as accommodation and protection. It’s the aim of the various groups working together to see that the migrant children and youths have access to high-quality medical, psychological, social and legal support that will help them integrate into the Greek society.

Continuing Efforts

Helping unaccompanied and separated children find new life in Greece is one of the humanitarian aspects of the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation. In 2015, the Foundation opened an Accommodation Centre for Unaccompanied Minors that addressed the need to provide quality accommodation to minors who have lived in detention centres for long periods. Along with proper housing, the Accommodation Centre also provides legal counselling, mediation services, Greek language courses, and psychosocial support to its residents.

When it comes to child welfare, the Foundation has focused on initiatives that improve and increase the provision of social services to children. It has funded some initiatives, including paediatric clinics, heating fuel programmes for orphanages, and meeting the core costs of risk youth centres and children’s hospices. Since many child welfare organisations struggle to raise finances to keep going, the Foundation continually strives to support them.

While Greek legislation has provisions for the temporary appointment of guardians, the growing number of minors has put a strain on public workers’ caseloads and, since the number of daily actions that require a guardian’s consent are many, the absence of a special guardians body has made it all the more necessary for charitable foundations to step in and assist however they can. It’s a gap that the civil society has shown a willingness to cover, as evidenced by the actions of the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation and others.

Based on the experience of the involved foundations and additional research, the potential for improved knowledge and practical solutions grows. Through the project, caregiving staff will get to interact with the children and youths and possibly uncover some of the reasons behind their journeys; an issue of concern in many European countries. A policy brief from this can address the political reasons, with the increased awareness helping Greece and other member states to address issues of neglect and exploitation of children and youths.


Celebrating Greek Culture at the Museum of Prehistoric Thira

Greece is a country full of diverse cultures and interests. Visitors to the country have plenty to see and experience, from the food and language to religion and archaeological sites. The Greek people are proud of their country and go to great lengths to highlight the aspects that define their nation. It’s against this backdrop that the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation has worked to preserve and promote the country’s cultural heritage. Through funding programmes directed at culture, the Foundation has helped Greek citizens enjoy history through The Museums Cycle publishing programme.

The Museums Cycle is a volume published yearly that documents an archaeological museum, capturing the aesthetics qualities and scientific validity of a particular institution. In doing so, this programme has helped contribute to the body of knowledge regarding Greek culture. While these yearly volumes are not sold, they are made available without charge to public institutions such as libraries and universities.

In December 2016, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation – named after the father of Greek businessman Spiro Latsis – unveiled a volume on Prehistoric Thira, which is based on archaeologist Christos Doumas’ work at the Akrotiri excavation site. The launch was attended by members of the Greek archaeological community and representatives from the ‘Culture & Sports’ and ‘Education, Research and Religious Affairs’ ministries.

More specifically, the volume provides insights into the Akrotiri archaeological site, whose many findings can be found at the Museum of Prehistoric Thira. More importantly, the book displays for the first-time murals restored from private homes and public buildings in the Akrotiri settlement, artistic works that were not previously made public at the museum. Exquisite paintings, such as a 4-metre long mural that once belonged to a private home and a painting depicting a traditional initiation rite, are part of the works featured.

Mrs Marianna Latsis, daughter to the late John S. Latsis, had the honour of writing the preface to the 2016 volume. In her remarks, she commended the work done by the Museum of Prehistoric Thira in preserving an invaluable piece of Greek history, while also acknowledging the role the book played in bringing to light knowledge and artistry that had been hidden in the excavation site. Distinguished guests allowed to speak at the unveiling of the book also spoke glowingly about its unique place among other Museums Cycle volumes, noting it conveyed aspects of Aegean history brilliantly.

The author of the 2016 publication, Christos Doumas, was quick to thank the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation for its desire to shed more light on the ancient Akrotiri site. He noted that the release of the publication coincided with the  50th anniversary in 2017 of the site’s excavation work, much of which has been put on display at the Museum of Prehistoric Thira. The publication made it possible to trace the history and get a picture of progress on the site.

Prehistoric Thira

Located on the island of Santorini, the Museum of Prehistoric Thira was built on the site on an old church that was destroyed by an earthquake. Early excavation on the location started as far back as 1867 when a French geologist acted on the findings of local people at a nearby quarry. Other archaeologists have been interested in the site, but the main excavation work has been directed by the Archaeological Society of Athens.

Much of the Museum’s displays focus on ancient Akrotiri, going as far back as 3300 B.C. Artefacts from this early period are presented chronologically, and includes jewelry, paintings, sculptures, and ceramics. Early Cycladic pottery is a highlight among historians, as are objects from the Late Cycladic periods (a time in Greek history that featured the use of pure white marbles, and later, bronze). The site has attracted visitors during its excavation period, thanks to the rare artefacts that can be found there.S.Latsis-Misc.Prehistoric

Supporting Greek Culture

The Latsis Group has supported archaeological museums across the country with the help of the Eurobank Banking Group since 1997. The Foundation has seen it necessary to extend its public benefit initiatives to preserving Greek culture through financial support and development initiatives such as the Museums Cycle publications.

Founded in 2005 to continue the philanthropic legacy of John S. Latsis, the Foundation has collaborated with various partners to help the advancement of initiatives in a broad range of sectors, including health, social welfare, the environment, science and education. From providing research grants and academic scholarships to leading the fight against food insecurity and the promotion of children’s rights, the Foundation has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Greek citizens. The Foundation believes in highlighting the country’s cultural wealth as much as it can, and has implemented a framework for identifying charitable projects to support.