The Ark of the Aegean (Chios)

Child Protection Village at Aipos, Chios

With the grace of God, the social care and protection unit, the Ark of the World of the Aegean, was launched in September 2014 at the “mastic tree island” of Chios. It currently accommodates 30 children and its numbers are constantly increasing. Its purpose is to fill in the great gap in the field of child care and protection in the Aegean and serve the needs of this entire sensitive area of our country. It is located at Aipos, 10 minutes away from Vrontados.

 It all began with the recommendation of the Municipality of Omiroupoli for the Ark to make use of the long abandoned village of Aipos, for which it unfortunately has to pay rent. Following many discussions, difficulties we had to overcome and money we had to spend, the renovation of the village began to improve the premises and make the necessary changes in order for the village to serve its new purpose. With much effort and care, all 32 homes were gradually reconstructed and the central building was radically reformed to meet the needs of catering, study and recreation.

“The changes in the premises were incredible; we took delivery of ‘ruins’ and, with the help of God, created ‘heaven on earth’. It is place in the middle of nature and greenery, with plenty of oxygen, just what every child needs”.

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The Ark’s Home at the Child Protection Village of Aipos at Vrontados, Chios, aims to provide protection, warmth, love and comfort to all wounded and suffering children of the Aegean, in a place of natural beauty and peace. It is a major social project of national importance.

The Ark of the World’s children come to the village having been removed from their family environment by prosecutor’s orders due to heavy neglect, abandonment, abuse (physical or psychological) or exploitation.

The necessary “food” for a child is love, care and affection. These children unfortunately do not know these concepts, but the Ark of the World is here to embrace them and make them a part of a wonderful family, where love floods our souls and is lavishly offered.

The secure, stable and structured environment and life schedule of the children help them change their life radically, enabling them to be educated and develop their personalities with steady support, patience, care and love.

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 In addition to high quality food, clothing and footwear, children are offered special pedagogic programmes implemented with the valuable assistance of child psychologists, social workers, instructors, speech therapists and caregivers, so that, first of all, every child we raise can free themselves from the hardship they experienced, feel love and care, find their lost childhood and live according to the needs of their age.

Our goal for all the children is to be able to develop an emotionally and intellectually healthy personality, take part in social activities and receive educational and pedagogic stimuli.

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ΤThis project of the Ark is a beacon of hope and a great relief, not only for the population of Chios, but for the entire Aegean, since it has been established that there is no organisation such as the Ark that can accommodate children and provide all these social services in an environment of understanding, love and affection.

OUR ACTIVITIES

In the Ark of the World in the Aegean, we have placed special emphasis on the extracurricular activities of our children, with an aim to foster the aptitudes and talents of every child, social inclusion and constructive entertainment and investment of their time.

Children take part in clubs involved in football, basketball, swimming, gymnastics, ballet, traditional and modern dance, painting and arts and crafts. They also take part in clubs involved in books, journalism, photography, computers, pastry making and cinema, as well as in groups involved in beekeeping, gardening and domestic animal care.

ΈWe apply a personal approach, so that each activity can match the character and bring out the talents of the children, in line with their potential, and help them develop such talents and overcome their personal weaknesses.

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Through sports, children learn to work in groups and practice good sportsmanship as they train their body.  

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Through arts and painting, they practice their aesthetic criteria and cultivate love for beauty, good taste, as well as accuracy, imagination and patience.

When children take care of animals and plants, they learn about love for the environment, responsibility and empathy and enrich their knowledge of nature.

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The children’s clubs, teachers and trainers have been valuable supporters and assistants in our efforts to nourish the children and enrich their routine with various activities.

3.4      Apprenticeship

The apprenticeship programme is implemented by the Ark of the World with an aim to train its young members in the line of work they wish to take. In these cases, we collaborate with the prosecution service for children and a technical professional to guide young people and give them the opportunity to experience real work conditions.

In the past year, two of our children had the chance to learn from an experienced craftsman who imparted with love the craft of boat woodworker and we warmly thank him for it.

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The aim of this programme is to support children who had a difficult and deprived childhood to stand on their own two feet, because work is a key “weapon” for children to become independent as adults.

3.5 Programme for the accommodation of unescorted refugee children

 In the past few years, Chios and all the frontline Aegean islands have been suffering from immense flows of refugees.

The State cannot meet the accommodation needs of refugees. The first thought of Father Antonios when he saw the difficulties and pain of these people was that we had to help them.

                The Ark, unable to be idle in the face of a problem tormenting our society, decided to resolve part of this huge humanitarian crisis and took action for unescorted refugee children who come to our country by meeting the basic needs for food, clothing, footwear, medical and pharmaceutical care and psychological support. Thus, the Ark of the World launched the programme for the accommodation of unescorted children refugees in December 2015 with the sole purpose of taking care of and protecting these children.

These are children who have lost their parents in the trip or whose parents sent them alone to escape from the horrible consequences of the war and fight for a better future.

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The programme began as a short-term accommodation programme (3 days), since unescorted children had to stay in unsuitable places together with adults, until they were transferred to long-term accommodation premises for refugees. The initial plan for short-term accommodation changed subsequently, for reasons known through the mass media. Nevertheless, the Ark remains a transitional place of accommodation for unescorted refugee children.

We have accommodated 150 unescorted refugee children so far, since the Ark could not shut its ears to the anguished cries for protection and care of the tormented children, for whom there was no place to accommodate and protect them. In the environment of the children’s village, children have the security of which they were deprived; we also offer them clean and dry accommodation, healthy food, medical and pharmaceutical care, which are not self-evident for most of our planet’s population, especially refugees whose houses were destroyed and were forced to relocate in search of safety.

Jointly with volunteers, we try to have the children participate in organised activities (English and German lessons, guitar lessons, sports activities, walks, excursions, visits to museums etc.) so that they forget about the horror of war, feel safe and carefree and live according to their age, a right that has been violently breached.

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Through organisation, plans and hard work, we succeeded in having our children peacefully coexist with refugee children. Our path to this peaceful coexistence has been hard, but we can claim to have won this bet. Sides, our path is always difficult when new children join the Ark’s family and we must fight to reform them and heal their mental and physical wounds.

We have to struggle every day for the children to revive, smile again and look at the future with optimism. Where the prosecutor’s order ends, we start our efforts to reorganize the children. This is the essence of the Ark and many people cannot see it, but its results are visible. Seeing the children bloom day by day like flowers, we feel elated and receive moral rewards.

ΠΡΟΓΡΑΜΜΑ ΣΤΗΡΙΞΗΣ ΓΙΑ ΤΗ ΜΗΤΕΡΑ ΚΑΙ ΤΟ ΠΑΙΔΙ

With an aim to improve the quality of life of mothers and children in need, we launched programmes to support destitute and single-parent families. Our objective is to support mothers and help children stay in their family environment.

To implement this objective, destitute mothers with young children can join the support programme of the Ark of the World in the Aegean, which enables them to meet their standing obligations. Forty destitute/single-parent families of the local society are currently being helped by the Ark of the World in the Aegean, in food, clothing, footwear, medical and pharmaceutical care, counseling and psychological support, as well as continuing education and training for the children, so that the daily schedule can offer them equal opportunities as all the other children.

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.At the same time, our social workers act as “intermediators” and provide proper support with an aim to help mothers find jobs and earn their own money. In this way, mothers do not lose their dignity, manage to stand on their feet on their own and with our support and regain their lost self-confidence. 

We should add that this year, realizing the need to support the refugee population, we supported over 500 refugees, mainly mothers and children, in food, clothing/footwear and medications.

SUPPORTIVE SERVICES BY THE ARK OF THE WORLD IN THE AEGEAN

1.OUR SOCIAL PHARMACY

This year, we managed to fully meet the needs of the children accommodated at Aipos and the members of the supported families in pharmaceutical care.

This could not have been achieved without the valuable help of volunteer pharmacists, who offered us whatever we needed.

Two months ago (July 2016) our social pharmacy was launched in collaboration with the Pharmacists’ Association of Chios and the IASIS pharmaceutical company, who supplied us with all necessary medications.

The social pharmacy of the Ark of the World in the Aegean is housed in a building at the centre of the town. It opens twice a week and whenever there is an emergency. It was established to meet all pharmaceutical needs of uninsured Greeks living on the islands, where even this self-evident need is hard to meet.

For the school year 2015-2016, the total value of medications offered free of charge to children and families with no access to the public healthcare system came to 7,700 euro.

Social workers, in collaboration with volunteer pharmacists whose support is praiseworthy and the social pharmacy of the Ark, provided pharmaceutical care to about 40 uninsured families and children.

1.SOCIAL DENTAL PRACTICE

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The need to provide dental care for our children and the families supported by the Ark of the World in the Aegean has led the Ark's people to organised a comprehensive dental unit in the same building at the town of Chios as the social pharmacy of the Ark of the World in the Aegean.

Our objective is to practice preventive dentistry and deal with the dental problems of the children accommodated in our home and those of the supported families.

The social dental practice of the Ark of the World in the Aegean was launched in July 2016 and once a week, in collaboration with volunteer dentists from the Chios Dental Association who were very eager to support our initiative and take care of the dental needs of our children and destitute parents, provide a special relief since the examinations and treatments are very expensive.

In particular, in the school year 2015-2016 all 75 children participating in the Ark's programme underwent dental examination and 15 of them are receiving comprehensive dental treatment.

SOCIAL SERVICE OF THE ARK OF THE WORLD IN THE AEGEAN

Our social service is responsible for receiving the children referred by prosecuting authorities, procuring their safety and healthy psycho-emotional development. It also tends to all the needs of the children housed at Aipos and their contacts with local society in the context of the sponsorships and material support that it offers us every day.

On a daily basis, the social service tends to all the needs of the children accommodated at Aipos by prosecutor's order. Specifically, we provide for the needs in food, clothing, footwear, medical and pharmaceutical care, education, psychological support, entertainment and social inclusion by organizing trips and excursions and ensure their participation in activities depending on the children's talents and wishes; we also assist children in legal matters with the valuable aid of the Ark's legal advisors. The social service, aware of the valuable help of volunteers in the Ark's projects, is always looking for and training new volunteers who will help us meet important needs of the children.

Given that the call for help from destitute and single-parent families in the area was pronounced, the Ark of the World could not help but supporting them. Therefore, the social service has undertaken to support these families with an aim to help parents raise their children with dignity by providing everything they need and prevent the children from being institutionalized and removed from their family environment. Thus, our offices house the mother and child care centre. Our key objective is to help children perform well in their homework through the daily supportive teaching programme, with the valuable aid of volunteer teachers. At the same time, with great consideration to the parents, we support them in their need for food or clothing, allowances, psychological support, medical and pharmaceutical care and anything else they need to raise their children with dignity. We also try to provide counseling support and guidance in matters relating to and affecting children.

To meet all these needs, we are constantly looking for resources to be able to respond to all requests. The social service is open every day between 9.00 and 17.00 at our offices in the town of Chios (Castle area) and our facilities in the Aipos children's village; every offer than can help us is more than welcome.

OUR VOLUNTEERS

Our volunteers are the driving force of the Ark of the World, offering their time and love and helping it to continue its hard and hopeful journey all these years.

Since the Ark was established, it was the everyday people who loved our work and assisted us in any way they could.

You can also assist in this God-pleasing work and make an important contribution to the Ark of the World's projects. The first step to become volunteers is to state your intention to our social service, receive information and fill in the volunteer application form.

In more detail, our volunteers can assist in the following areas

  • Providing supportive teaching
  • Transporting and escorting the children of the Ark of the World to medical appointments and their activities
  • Providing transportation (e.g. taking delivery of medications or products necessary for our children)
  • Preparing meals
  • Cleaning the premises
  • Taking care of the children's clothes and bed linen
  • Overseeing sick children when they need to stay in the hospital
  • Assisting in artistic or sports activities (arts and crafts, theatre, dance, gymnastics, swimming, football, basketball)
  • Shaping and smartening outdoor areas our Children's Village (pruning, weeding, cleaning, gardening)
  • Providing services of their speciality (doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, electricians, plumbers, technicians)
  • Psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, meeting the needs of our children.

                                                                                OUR NEEDS

One of the most direct and current needs, for which we seek funds every day, is paying the salary of our staff. The Ark employs 18 people (teachers, psychologists, social workers, cook, cleaner, driver, general-purpose staff). This staff is responsible for raising our children, providing them with the best possible care in all areas.

Another great need is paying for standard expenses such as utility bills, gas and maintenance costs for the Aipos village.

The Ark plans to create a new home for our older children. Finding an appropriate place in the town would help in ever-increasing needs of our older children for education, apprenticeship, employment and entertainment, so that children can have easier access to activities.

We also need support to complete the premises of Aipos and, in particular, a) to complete the indoor court for the various needs of the children and the Ark of the World in the Aegean, and b) to create an energy park that will render the Ark energy-autonomous.

2.ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΚΟ ΟΔΟΝΤΙΑΤΡΕΙΟ

Η ανάγκη για οδοντιατρική περίθαλψη των παιδιών μας, αλλά και των υποστηριζόμενων οικογενειών της Κιβωτού του Κόσμου-Αιγαίου, οδήγησε τους ανθρώπους της Κιβωτού να οργανώσουν μια ολοκληρωμένη οδοντιατρική μονάδα σε κτίριο στη πόλη της Χίου, η οποία συστεγάζεται με το κοινωνικό φαρμακείο της Κιβωτού του Κόσμου-Αιγαίου.

Στόχος είναι η εφαρμογή της προληπτικής οδοντιατρικής, αλλά και η αντιμετώπιση των οδοντιατρικών προβλημάτων των παιδιών που διαμένουν στις εγκαταστάσεις της δομή μας αλλά και των υποστηριζόμενων οικογενειών.

Το κοινωνικό οδοντιατρείο της Κιβωτού του Κόσμου-Αιγαίου ξεκίνησε τη λειτουργία του τον Ιούλιο του 2016 και μια φορά την εβδομάδα σε συνεργασία με εθελοντές οδοντιάτρους του Οδοντιατρικού Συλλόγου Χίου, οι οποίοι δέχτηκαν με ιδιαίτερη χαρά να στηρίξουν την πρωτοβουλία μας φροντίζοντας τη στοματική υγιεινή των παιδιών μας, αλλά και των άπορων γονέων  προσφέρουν ιδιαίτερη ανακούφιση εφόσον πρόκειται για μια πολύ δαπανηρή εξέταση και θεραπεία.

Πιο συγκεκριμένα, κατά το σχολικό έτος 2015-2016 πραγματοποιήθηκε μαζικός οδοντιατρικός έλεγχος και στα 75 παιδιά που συμμετέχουν στα προγράμματα της Κιβωτού, ενώ παράλληλα 15 απο αυτά έχουν μπει στη διαδικασία μιας ολοκληρωμένης  οδοντιατρικής θεραπείας.

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