Thousands of children are currently living in Greece without any adult care. Most of these children come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria; and are often fleeing conflict and humanitarian crises. In many cases, their journey to Europe involves dangerous land and sea crossings during which they can experience violence, exploitation and abuse.
Unfortunately, reaching Europe is not the end of their struggle. Crowded refugee camps and difficult legal processes mean that these unaccompanied children are often still left without access to education, health, adult care or appropriate shelter even after arriving. And these situations can last for months or even years. All this happens while living in a new country where they do not speak the local language, often after suffering tragedy such as loss of family members, leaving them completely alone.
But there are people standing up to help. People like Lora, who saw what was happening in to children in Greece and knew she had to do something for them.
After many years working with UNHCR in the country, she decided to set up an NGO to focus solely on innovative activities that offer efficient support to migrants and refugees upon arrival to Greece, and helps them get integrated into society. . She called this organisation METAdrasi. Today, they have joined with other local organisations working around the world to form part of the Family for Every Child global alliance, and they continue to take locally-led action for children, families and others in desperate need of help.
“I saw children arriving here after experiencing unspeakable tragedy. For me, standing by and doing nothing was simply not an option. Both as a Greek person and as a human being, I knew that we needed to take action to give these children and families a chance at a better future – ensuring that their human rights are upheld in the process.”
With the support of a growing team, Lora’s organisation today provides unaccompanied children in her country with an invaluable safety net of activities so they can survive and thrive. This includes safe accommodation, escorts to ensure that they can reach safe spaces, support for independent living and both foster families and guardianship, as well as specialised interventions for children experiencing homelessness within the local community. Alongside a place to live, a wide range of educational programmes, traineeships and work placements once they reach adulthood and of course the provision of quality interpretation by specially trained professionals in 43 languages and dialects, give these children and young people a chance to improve their own futures and achieve their dreams.
Being a Greek organisation makes a huge difference to the children and families that Lora and her team support. She says, “Because we’re from here, we know the communities we work in really well. That means we’re well-placed to know what will really work when it comes to supporting and integrating new arrivals. And importantly, being locally-rooted means that we’ll never leave. We’ll be here in the long-term to make sure our society is a welcoming place for those who need us most.”
By being part of Family, Lora and her team are now in a stronger position than ever to impact upon the international systems that need to change to make sure the situation improves. “I’m incredibly proud for all those children and adults that with our support they found the strength to move on and gradually to gain their dignity as human beings,” Lora says, “but the reality is that thousands of children and families in crisis still need our help. As part of Family, we’ll keep on striving to make change happen.”