CONSTITUTION OF NETWORK FOR CHILDREN'S RIGHTS

Our short history

Enterprise Group for Children’s Rights 2000-2004

In the first instance we formed an Enterprise Group and initiated a discussion about children’s rights with several schools and their teachers.  In November 2000 we organised a one-day conference in the Hall of the European Parliament in Athens, which was attended by around 150 people, including lawyers, child psychologists and teachers.  We examined the issue of childrens’ rights violations, looked into what was going on in schools and talked at great length about what the first major objective of our initiative should be.  The conclusion was that we should move in three different directions: inform as many parents and teachers as possible, pinpoint the most vulnerable areas of violation and ask the government to create a Children’s Ombudsman in line with other countries.

In the months that followed we set up friendly group meetings, spoke to teachers, lawyers and psychiatrists, did systematic research on the internet, found organisations in Europe, the US, Canada and Australia and requested information. It became clear that both experts and public opinion in other countries were also concerned about the issue but that unlike Greece, they all had the appropriate institutions to deal with it.  And so in December 2001 we organised an open-day at the Zappeio Conference and Exhibition Centre in Athens which was attended by over 200 people.  Expert opinions were noted, ideas were heard, thoughts exchanged and the most common violations of Childrens’ Rights were revealed. Right there and then we drafted and signed the first «Declaration» of the Enterprise Group, in which we stressed how necessary it was to create the office of  Ombudsman for Children.  A few days later a large group of children visited the President of the Republic Kostis Stefanopoulos and handed over our «Declaration».

In the ensuing months we intensified our contacts and discussions not only inside and outside schools but also with MPs, Euro MPs, the Greek Ombudsman, the Committee for Educational Affairs of the Greek Parliament, the Athens Bar Association, the Offices of the European Parliament and the European Commission in Athens and others.  We also came into contact with foreign organisations for the promotion of children’s rights in other European countries.  In April 2002 we organised a public consultation at the Zappeio with the title  “Children’s Ombudsman: a major step towards the safeguarding of children’s rights and the development of a policy for minors”.  Those taking part included Children’s Ombudsmen from Europe, the Greek Ombudsman, academics, Greek organisations and NGOs.  An Enterprise Group organised a similar event in Thessaloniki.  These two events really highlighted existing needs and were major stepping-stones in the movement towards the creation of the office of Children’s Ombudsman in Greece.

In May 2002, a member of our Enterprise Group was invited to participate in the UN Special Session for children in New York, where she conveyed views regarding children’s rights and took part in the European parliamentary forum “MPs in action for children”.  During the next few months we maintained the momentum by continuing to inform schools and to expand both our contacts and people’s awareness.  We set up enterprise groups and organised discussions in several towns across Greece and by the end of the year we saw our first major goal come closer to becoming a reality.  The office of Children’s Ombudsman was set up in December 2002 – January 2003 and the achievement filled us with optimism and satisfaction.

A  small group of us, armed only with our own concerns and convictions had managed in just two and half years to bring the violations of children’s rights to the attention of a group of about 500 people and to explain what was meant by the term.  We had engendered broad social dialogue,  cooperated with official institutions both within Greece and abroad,  coordinated several dozen volunteers and finally succeeded in setting up the office of Children’s Ombudsman, bypassing the usual apathy and bureaucracy.  It was a good beginning and paved the way for the steps that followed.

Our dealings with  Europe had made us realise that there was no mention of Children’s Rights in the European Constitution which was being debated at that time.  We began to gather signatures in support of the declaration «The Future of Europe is the Future of Children» so that we could advance the cause together with «Euronet» the European network with which we were in close contact.

We also realised that a fight against child labour would have direct positive impact on street children in Athens and so, with funding by Emboriki Bank,  we undertook the Greek translation and publication of the International Labour Organization’s «A Future without Child Labour».  It was the first sponsorship that we had sought and it encouraged us not only to find sponsors but also to request donations from various organisations – both private and state – whenever we wanted to complete a project that went beyond the daily practical work that we shared voluntarily between us.

All these initiatives were being carried out without our having given any legal status to our efforts.  In those early years we often thought about creating an association or an NGO but as long as we were achieving things in practice, we kept postponing the decision to form an official  body which would require serious funding and greater responsibility. Alongside the strong spirit of volunteerism and our unhampered enthusiasm there were many question marks regarding the sustainability of our efforts, which we discussed regularly at our meetings.

Throughout 2003 we worked at institutional and European levels informally, voluntarily and with passion.  Following the passing of the bill for the establishment of a Children’s Ombudsman by the Greek Parliament we arranged for a group of children to visit the President of the Republic in order to express their thanks.  A group of teachers and pupils from the schools with which we were working, took part in a trip to the European Parliament in Brussels where we put forward the idea of a European Network for the Safeguarding of Children’s Rights and made many new contacts.  We organised a public debate at which special needs schoolchildren as well as pupils of primary and secondary schools spoke about their “own special rights”.  Two more public debates were “The Importance of the Newly Established Children’s Ombudsman” at the Athens Bar Association and  “A Future Free of Child Labour” at the Hall of the European Parliament in Athens and also in Thessaloniki.  At the latter venue we presented the publication that accompanied the International Labour Organization’s exhibition of the same title.

The establishment of the “Network for Children’s Rights” 2004

Our organization was set up in 2004 with 80 founder members.  The massive surge in immigration that was occurring at the time and which brought with it its own set of problems, led to our decision to single out the issue of Diversity among the various educational and cultural concerns and make it our focal point.   This meant more discussions in schools and more initiatives that concerned pupils whose families were repatriates, immigrants or refugees.  The first action undertaken by the “Network of Children’s Rights” after its foundation was a National Competition entitled “An Obstacle Course… with Vision, Endeavour and Hope” leading to awards entitled “Double Effort”.  The aim of these prizes was to reward the intensive efforts of that particular group of pupils who were trying to integrate smoothly and make headway in Greek schools.  The children were indeed commendable because they managed to overcome a series of linguistic, cultural and social obstacles and to assimilate into a not always friendly Greek environment.  The prize giving on April 29th 2004 was a great success.  We were all moved by the way the children expressed not only their difficulties but also their dreams and hopes for their future, and we were prompted to work with the well known publishing house “Kedros” in the publication of their writings in a book entitled “Hey, buddy”

Our next initiative in 2004 was called “A Safer Internet Environment for Children and Teenagers” because we believed that apart from being a major source of information, the Internet could also be a dangerous place.  We took part in conferences and in open discussions in schools concerning the rights of children with specific relation to the problems of the web, security measures etc.

During 2005 and 2006, together with our members and our volunteers – whose numbers were on the increase – and the teaching staff we were working with, we looked into various alternative proposals that could bring better results.  The concept of children’s rights was not automatically evident to everyone and had to be analyzed and discussed in depth. Only then could we identify and address them correctly.  We organised a series of seminars on children’s rights in the cultural centre “Book Gallery” where speakers included academics, psychiatrists, social scientists and educationalists.  We took part in meetings in Europe for the exchange of ideas and experiences, and in open discussions in towns of northern Greece following invitations by schools and local government bodies.  We organised the Network’s 2nd National Competition at the Zappeio with the title “Co-existence in a Multicultural Society”.

Our collaboration with the Bernard van Leer Foundation 2007

The collaboration began in 2007 and gave us a new very positive boost by enabling us to take a more serious and methodical approach to our issues and initiatives.  Ever since the end of the Second World War, the Van Leer Foundation had focused on very young children and on diversity and it responded positively to a scheme of ours concerning books for children.  The basis of our proposal was the theory that we could use books as an effective tool for putting across the subject of Diversity to children.  The Foundation decided to fund our proposal outright for three years.  It was a great opportunity to acquire a full time secretary who would work systematically to coordinate our dozens of volunteers and oversee our correspondence and records.  The Foundation’s assistance was also significant from a scholarly point of view because it provided research, bibliography and expertise.  We launched ourselves into work. We had to set up groups of volunteers who would read and select children’s books that talked about diversity and classify them by subject matter and age group.  The work was challenging: we had to complete the lengthy catalogue, post summaries of the books on the internet, organise one-day conferences, book exhibitions and public debates in the various boroughs of Athens and other major cities, arrange seminars with educationalists and parents and create educational programmes in which we would use the books with groups of children.  This enormous workload meant that cooperation between our members, our volunteers and our educationalists became more demanding and at the same time more essential.  Our exchanges produced many creative ideas, while the meetings of the various work groups were lively and filled with enthusiasm.

We continued at this hectic pace throughout 2008, each one of us reading and commenting on dozens of books, discussing and exchanging views with authors and illustrators, academics and educationalists.  We set up children’s groups and recorded their experiences and reactions.  Our final goal, a catalogue of books on diversity, was beginning to take shape. During that same year, in conjunction with a programme being run by the Van Leer Institute, we organised a series of open events in schools on the subject of rights that included talks and discussions with the children themselves.

In 2009 we broadened and deepened our work on Diversity.  Around fifteen new volunteers collaborated earnestly in the Van Leer Foundation programme. At the same time society was being plagued by a new phenomenon of xenophobia, which we needed to fully understand before we could take any positive action.  The reality was that Greek society was displaying symptoms of intolerance and aggression against the “other”, “the one that was different”, proving to each and every one of us the importance our work in school, in the family and more generally in the social milieu.  Our frequent contact with local government was exposing this harsh reality, which manifested itself in the way the influx of immigrants and refugees was being dealt with, in matters of education and social integration, in school bullying and more.

Unaccompanied under-age asylum seekers.

In 2009 the subject of unaccompanied under-age asylum seekers became our central issue.  It was a particularly sensitive matter and was acquiring unusual dimensions.  We had come across and talked to quite a few children between the ages of 12 and 18, the majority from Afghanistan but also from Pakistan and Bangladesh with a few from Africa (Nigeria, Somalia and the Ivory Coast) who had arrived in Greece all alone with no family.  Their stories shocked us and it was impossible to remain indifferent to their plight.  We prepared an open letter to the leaders of all the Greek political parties, to MPs and to the Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament pointing out the treatment they were entitled to from the state, based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and on international treaties for asylum and immigration.   In July we visited the Foreign Asylum Seekers Detention Centre in Lavrio, on the east coast of Attica, together with the European Ombudsman and we talked about how they coped with the minors who were housed there and what problems they faced.  Furthermore, we set up a meeting with the President of the UN Refugee Agency in Greece and the Scientific Director of the Association of the Psychosocial Health of Children and Adolescents (APHCA).  As part of the Network’s activities concerning unaccompanied under-age asylum seekers, we teamed up with the Child Care Association of Athens in order to provide help for the Shelter for Unaccompanied Under-Age Asylum Seekers, housed in Exarchia, central Athens.  This partnership was to develop into a two-year programme of social integration and support for the Shelter’s children on the part of the Network.  The wide-ranging programme included daily Greek lessons given by our volunteers, participation in cultural visits and other events, the cultivation of friendships and bonding between the children and the families of the volunteers.  We also provided nutritional support, encouraged them to take initiatives, arranged extra support teaching for school lessons and provided bursaries for studies.

We also took part in the Founding General Meeting of Greek NGOs for overseeing the International Convention for the Rights of the Child and helped compose the report that Greece was obliged to submit.  On World Children’s Day in December 2009 a meeting was arranged in the Hall of the European Parliament Office in Athens with high school pupils and unaccompanied minors.  Every child had the opportunity to take part in open discussion, to ask questions, express their anxieties, to get to know each other and become friends.  This was a great step towards the social integration we were hoping for.  In the same month, a group of us, including unaccompanied minors and primary school pupils, were invited by the Speaker of the Greek Parliament to celebrate Universal Children’s Day.

At the beginning of 2010 we decided to gather petition signatures in support of the granting of Greek nationality to children of immigrants that had been born in Greece and attended Greek schools.  We gathered more than 3000 signatures and we were able to organise several meetings to promote the idea.

The publication of the catalogue of books on diversity – June 2010

After approximately three years of work the catalogue of books on diversity was finally in print and ready to be distributed to schools, parents and societies.  It was a colourful, well thought out volume and it listed 170 books.  We also made its content available in electronic form on the Internet in order to facilitate its use by teachers and educationalists.

We marked the publication with several presentations of the catalogue at schools, cultural centres, societies and book fairs.  We received much praise from the Van Leer Institute who together with many academics, teachers and authors, rated our work very highly.  Demand for the catalogue soared.  Schools throughout Greece were asking for it and their teachers were sending us summaries of educational programmes on Diversity that they were going to run with the help of the catalogue.  The first edition sold out very quickly and we had to reprint it.  Part of the costs had been borne by children’s book publishers who had worked with us on the project and from them too we received enthusiastic reviews and praise.

One-Day Conference at Athens University: “Seeing the World Through Different Eyes.  Children’s Books and Diversity” November 2010.

To coincide with the publication of the catalogue, we organised a one-day conference in collaboration with the Faculty of Primary Education, Department of Humanitarian Studies , Athens University.  The subject was “Seeing the World Through Different Eyes.  Children’s Books and Diversity” and it took place at the University of Athens.  More than 500 teachers took part, as did the University Chancellor, the President of the Faculty, the Head of the Department of Humanitarian Studies and the Chairman of the Hellenic League for Human Rights.  Speakers included professors and researchers.  Our links with the Faculty of Primary Education gave our volunteers as well as a large number of teachers and students the opportunity to attend seminars and talks that focused on rights through a variety of specialist view points.  In the months that followed 500 copies of the catalogue Seeing the World Through Different Eyes were distributed to students and teachers by the Faculty.  We also sent it to 100 libraries both throughout Greece and abroad.

During 2011 we continued to support the Shelter for Unaccompanied Under-Age Asylum Seekers through afternoon lessons, weekend outings and by encouraging the children to acquire various skills.  We arranged meetings with friends of the Network in order to broaden the children’s social circle and we organised an exhibition of artworks out of paper and wire made by one particular gifted child, which were subsequently sold by the Benaki Museum shop.  Furthermore, we decided to support children even after they came of age and gave two scholarships – both substantial sums of money donated by friends of the Network – for one youngster to study at art school and another at cookery school.  Our pursuit of sponsorship became more methodical and we turned to private individuals and to companies, to the state and to European programmes for funding. We had to have the means that would enable us to undertake any course of action that we considered to be essential.

Community of Afghan Refugees in Metaxourgeio 2011

The Samaria Community was a case in point.  After considering various proposals of our members and friends about where we should give our support, we concluded that Samaria was where urgent action was most required to protect the rights of children.  For three months we worked on a plan of intervention, spoke to the refugees themselves – primarily to the wives and mothers among them – and sought sponsorship.  In February 2011 we began to support Samaria, a community of Afghan refugees with large families in the deprived Athens neighbourhood of Metaxourgeio.  There were more than 60 children there, between six months and twelve years old.  Our intervention strategy included: regular weekly presence of a group of volunteers at the shelter; English and Greek classes; a playgroup with drawing materials, books, music dvds and toys; cooking and a free meal after the activities; medical care; registration of the children in schools; a campaign for the collection of food, clothing, toys, hygiene items, nappies etc; food and first aid parcels for mothers; setting up a network of schools to support the Community; recreational activities, visits to museums and other outings; handicraft workshop for mothers; and collaboration with other NGOs.  More than twenty volunteers worked regularly at the Community premises every week.

Sarif

In May of that year we were faced with an urgent case of a child requiring lodgings.  Sarif was a twelve-year-old refugee from Afghanistan. He was waiting for his permit to go to Germany to meet his mother and brothers, in accordance with the law regarding the reunification of families, and he needed a safe place to stay temporarily.  The Network housed him in the home of one our members for three months.  Friends and volunteers offered care and teaching and extended invitations to him, thereby making his stay more pleasant.  Hill Primary School allowed him to sit in on English lessons, one of our volunteers taught him German, while the “Ecumenical Refugee Programme” undertook all the necessary legal arrangements that enabled him to leave Greece and be reunited with his family.

The recession

2011 had witnessed increased anxiety amongst our members and volunteers as a result of the financial crisis and its consequences.  We discussed the matter and concluded that we ought to look at the problem from a multi-angled approach, exchange ideas with others outside our circle and share our experience on how a group of people can turn a plan into reality. In conjunction with other bodies as well as individuals we organised a public debate in March 2011 with the title “From Progressive Ideas to Practical Application”.  More than 300 people attended, many of which took an active part in the discussion.  We talked about what it meant for each one of us to put our ideas into practice; how to stop recycling theories amongst ourselves and initiate meaningful debate with kindred spirits in the outside world.   What is it that makes someone take the crucial decisions that result in cooperation and open intervention? What is it that makes people sit up and become proactive?  We also talked about the importance of volunteerism and NGOs.

In the same year, we took part in several public debates and collaborated with many other organisations in the Samaria programme.  Our pursuit of sponsors who would fund our basic overheads was equally intense.  Schools, groups of friends and NGOs gave us support in a variety of ways, while two banks, a supermarket chain, a restaurant and hundreds of friends showed their faith in us by offering sponsorship

Alternative Report of NGOs for Children’s Rights in Greece – June 2011

Our participation in the delegation that delivered the Alternative Report covering the period 2002-2009 was an important event in our history.  The report was presented to and examined by the responsible committee of the UN in Geneva on 22nd June 2011.  It was an invaluable experience, not only because we saw how such procedures worked, but also because it involved an in-depth analysis of children’s rights violations, in particular those of the more vulnerable groups with which we were in regular contact.

In the autumn of 2011 the concerns of our members and volunteers about the recession and its consequences became even greater.  We arranged a series of meetings in order to discuss what the priorities of the Network should be.  This was nothing new, however the discussions were much more intense and lasted longer than those of previous years and they involved more people.  What worried us most was that the Network really ought be giving priority to all children from deprived neighbourhoods in central Athens, children who were severely affected by the economic recession and by poverty, regardless of any other special circumstances (refugees, immigrants etc).  The decision that finally emerged from our discussions was that we should indeed focus on all children in those run-down areas, with the aim of improving their living conditions, and contributing to their educational and cultural development.

We decided to look into the matter further by conducting a sociocultural survey and asking people to fill in a questionnaire.  It was essential to know what the families themselves thought of the recession, how they tackled it, what fears and hope parents had for their children and in what ways the Network could help them.

However, while conducting the survey and writing a working hypothesis for the Network’s programme we began to realise that we needed even better organisation, more volunteers, an appropriate space of our own and sponsors to actually make our ideas happen. A number of members of the Network formed a working group and undertook to put the entire project and the needs that would arise from it in writing and then present it to the rest of us and to our volunteers.  In a very short space of time the working group had put together a programme which proposed the creation of a “Culture Lab” for the children living around Larissa Station, the main railway station of Athens.  In no time at all we were in full agreement and began to discuss the idea more widely with teachers, friends and NGOs operating in that area.  Some people expressed minor objections but the basic idea of a community centre in the area that would benefit all children without discrimination found majority support.

There were many opportunities for further discussions in the months that followed: with students and lecturers of Erasmus University who visited Greece in June 2011 to research Human Rights and Social Justice; in a one-day conference on “Social Policy and Child Protection” at the Child Protection Centre of Neapolis in Crete; at events organised around Children’s Rights in various schools in Athens; and at the Seminar on Positive Parental Education, organised by the Network in conjunction with Oxford University, the Onassis Foundation, the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine and Pataki Publishing House.  It took place in Pataki’s bookshop and was attended by over 300 parents.

All agreed that a “Culture Lab” would be a major contribution by the Network and the most appropriate one given the prevailing circumstances.

The decision was accompanied by the creation of more working groups which divided the work with the Network’s Board of Directors.  This included research, contact with schools and NGOs in the area, search for appropriate premises and sponsors and the drafting of a programme schedule.

Support us
Greece in 2013 suffers not only from the recession, but also from a wave of intolerance towards the foreign and the underprivileged, the weaker members of society who are often viewed as pariahs. Children are those who suffer the most, especially children in degraded areas of Athens, where the Network for Children’s Rights tries to focus. In order to help these children thrive and build a stronger, more tolerant society, we need all the support that our friends and donors can give us. No help is unneeded and no amount you may contribute too low to not be appreciated.

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CULTURE LAB

The Culture Lab 2012

The positive response of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to our request to fund the programme signaled a major step for us.  The creation of the “Culture Lab” gave new direction to the Network: from now on our task was to respond to the new living conditions imposed on children by the recession.  The question of their rights acquired new meaning and substance.

In May we carried out the socio-cultural survey with researchers from Panteion University supported by forty-five volunteers, members and friends of the Network.  The findings of the survey confirmed our work hypotheses and were very encouraging for the whole project. The results were analysed in a report entitled “Beyond Urban Decline: Seeking Creative Outlets and Osmoses for Children and Parents”.  There followed a round table discussion whose speakers were the President of the City of Athens Cultural, Sport and Youth Organization, delegates from Kethea-Mosaic Therapy Centre for Dependent Individuals, Babel Day Centre and the Greek Council for Refugees.  Dimosthenis Daskalakis, professor at the Faculty for Primary Education, University of Athens also presented the findings of the recent research entitled “The Status of Children in Greece: 2012”.  The findings of our survey gave us the ability to define our goals correctly.

We looked for a space to house our cultural centre and eventually found it.  At the same time we arranged meetings with heads and teachers of neighbouring schools.  Both sides benefited greatly from the exchange of ideas because they not only pinpointed existing needs but also highlighted the cultural initiatives that we would be able to take together.

We decided to open the “Culture Lab” before actually tailoring the space to our needs and during one week in May we hosted fourteen classes from five primary and one nursery school in the area, a total of 245 children and their teachers.  The children saw the space and gave us their ideas about how we should use it and what changes we should make.  A team of young architects undertook the architectural design.  During May and June we initiated meetings with over ten Greek NGOs that were active in the area and we talked about prevailing conditions and the possibility of cooperation.  We exchanged experiences and knowledge about the area and its cultural resources, if any, and we discussed ways in which we could work together on future initiatives.

We wrote a mission statement for the “Culture Lab”, then a daily timetable consisting of creative teams, educational programmes, meetings with authors, events, visits and guided tours.  We planned a lending library intending it to becoming a major constituent of the centre and its activities and worked out how it would operate.

The building works were finished by the summer of 2012 and the opening scheduled for October of that year.

The “Culture Lab” became a reality thanks to the generous donation of the “Stavros Niarchos” Foundation and its executives.  We had worked closely together during the preliminary preparations and on everything else that was required before the official opening.  The project would also not have been possible without the help of numerous members, friends and volunteers of the Network, who offered their valuable time and their ideas with reliability and efficiency.

Culture Lab 2012-2013

The “Culture Lab” started operating the very day after the official opening with a ten-hour daily programme for children.  The lending library was open all day long for young readers to borrow books and board games.

The morning educational session was entitled “Young Librarians in Action”, lasted an hour and a half and was aimed at classes from schools not only from around the Lab but also from other areas of Athens.  A trainee librarian became responsible for presenting the programme to pupils and we asked their teachers to comment on it by filling out a form.  At the same time we promoted a campaign entitled “Donate the books you have loved, this is what will make our library different from all the rest”, directed at schools, authors, publishers, foundations, companies, volunteers and friends in order to increase the number of books in our lending library.

In the afternoons we started support teaching by our volunteers, whose numbers had risen to 25 within six months.  We also had three sessions of English each week. The Polyphonica choir came to hold auditions and took on some new singers from amongst the children at the Lab. Today the choir consists of 42 children aged between 6 and 15 years of age from twenty-six countries.  We also have creative teams in the afternoons that are run by volunteer coordinators.

Campaign for International Children’s Rights Day 20th November.

As part of our campaign we gave a poster and a handout containing the rights to each child attending the schools in our neighbourhood.  Each class received a puzzle with the same theme for the children to solve.  On the same day we held a meeting with parents and teachers in the reading room of the nearby Public Library while their children were occupied in creative activities that we had arranged.  The discussion was very interesting and covered many issues, ending with the decision that the Network should organise seminars for parents of pre-school children as well as parenting classes at the beginning of 2013.

Between October 2012 and July 2013 we hosted 52 events which included meetings with authors, visits to museums and theatres, special educational programmes, a series of seminars for pre-school age children from 0 to 5, classes for parents in conjunction with the General Secretariat for Lifelong Learning of the Ministry of Education, and a bring-and-swap bazaar at which chefs from six of Athens’s top restaurants cooked and the Polyphonica choir sang for us.

April 2013. “Let’s Read!”

A campaign with the slogan “April 2013 – Let’s Read!” held more than forty events throughout that month.  27 cultural and educational bodies as well as countless number of individuals worked together to promote reading.  We aimed primarily at children, although some of the activities included their parents, and there were seminars for teachers.  Our aim was a three-year programme with a steady network of reading groups that would send the message out every April via the campaign.

Athens 9.84, the radio station of the municipality of Athens, the newspaper Athens Voice and all television stations, both national and private gave us free advertising time and promoted the “Culture Lab”, the Network and the “Let’s Read!” campaign

Cooperation agreement between City of Athens Cultural, Sport and Youth Organisation and the Network 

This was signed in June 2013.  The agreement includes recognition of the work of the Network, it encompasses several joint projects by the two bodies and declares the City of Athens’s support for the Network’s initiatives of Children’s Rights.

There are 500 children at the “Culture Lab”, all of kindergarten and primary school age, plus two full-time and one part-time staff. There are 60 volunteers who work one to three hours every week, plus another group of 10 volunteers who are involved in other projects (information, communication, sponsorship, legal support etc).  We have calculated that our volunteers work the equivalent hours of four and half full-time employees per month.

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS

1. “Mobile Library”

Actions

  1. “In and out of books”
    Children take off their shoes and sit on pillows inside the Mobile Library. Those who can read may pick their favorite book and read through it. Those who cannot, participate in a group, where we are reading a passage from the book they have picked. Then, children are asked to seek the objects mentioned in the passage and bring them to us.
  1. “Lonely reader tent”
    There is an individual tent beside the Mobile Library for children readers who wish to enjoy reading alone and in the company of the heroes, a book’s protagonists. The only thing they have to do in this case is that they write a paragraph in a special diary with their thoughts on the book they have read.
  1. “Children’s rights”, a group floor game designed and painted by writer and illustrator, Vasso Psaraki
    A group of children are invited to roll a big dice and move on the floor game according to the number rolled. Each time they are standing on a painted image, they must answer a question, so as to move further on. All questions relate to children’s rights, as well as stories and book characters.
  1. “We are the city” group board game
    We are inviting a group of children to learn, by playing, vehicle circulation, driving, speed and safety in the city. Each child picks a car, moving alongside other children in the city, until they reach their destination. The aim of the game is neither speed nor the first one to arrive is the winner, but safe journey and the winner is the one who respects and follows the rules.
  1. “What is a child?”
    Based on the “What is a child?” book, we ask a group of children to create their own booklet of rights with images and collage. Cutting images and words from newspapers and other publications and painting materials, children are outlining their thoughts in their own manner.
  1. “My friend the dragon” (for Kindergarten children and 1st and 2nd grade school children)
    Guided by the “My friend the dragon” book, we are asking a group of children to read it and make chinese ideograms with plasticine.
  1. “Discovering my identity”
    We discuss with children their cultural preferences (books, music, foreign languages, etc), as well as issues pertaining to citizen’s identity. Then, each child fills out their own identity in a special form.
  1. “Book pages asking us to put them in order”
    We ask a group of children to randomly share large size pages belonging to one or more illustrated books and hang them from their necks. The group must read the pages, put them in correct order and children hold hands together, so that they all form a book. We ask the children to take turns and read aloud the book.
  1. “A hero… a puzzle” (for children that do not read)
    Dinosaurs, witches, wolves, giants, dwarfs from illustrated books have turned into a puzzle and we ask children to make them. Then, we ask each child to find the book whose image they have just assembled. If they wish so, we are reading them the book, while they are watching and observing its illustrated pages.
  1. “Come be photographed in the jungle”
    A board is depicting the jungle with wildlife. Children are first finding the animals in books, recognizing them by names, imitating their sounds and moves. They are then standing behind the board, putting their face in the cut out holes. They are taking digital photos of their friends.

Mobile library

Mobile Library has visited tenths of school yards and city squares

For kindergarten and elementary school children

A library that travels winter and summer alike, offering children the opportunity to live in the amazing and fascinating world of books in the countryside (square, school yard, public gardens, playground)

The Mobile Library is a temporary library that can last a few hours only or an entire day. It can travel where it is invited to, bringing lots of books with it, as well as toys, puzzles and other activities that are wrapped inside a colourful plant and bird-themed cloth.

Book themes on Diversity, Animals-Insects-Plants and Giants, Dwarfs and Witches. Books with no words, for younger and older children, illustrated, literary, knowledge books that are targeting different ages.

Four book cases, rope, a tarp, a chalk board, colourful puzzle-like flooring, pillows, the lonely reader’s tent and large figures decorating it: a tall giraffe, its emblem, a tree, the child-reader, posters, the Mobile Library flag, etc.

Hidden and obvious animals lay around the Mobile Library, which children can find while reading books. A parrot, an owl, fish, shells, a sea turtle, a small boat, a wolf, a fox, butterflies, a pair of red glasses, a chinese hat, the giant’s shoe, kiddlings, piglets, a frog, a hare have come out of the books’ pages, patiently waiting to take part, along with the children, in the Mobile library’s activities.

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2. “How many strangers can you count among us?”

Experiential, Participatory Educational Program

For children attending Elementary School (4th-6th grade) and Junior High School

The aim of this Program is to offer the children the experience and analysis of Diversity, through simple activities, information, participatory observation and role play. Together with the whole team, we explore the different emotions born inside us, depending on the interpretation we give in order to deal with an incident of everyday life. On this basis, we invite the children to participate in a game of recording their emotions. In this activity, a whole bunch of impulsive reactions unfold and become analyzed, such as anger, fear, frustration, guilt, optimism, solidarity, the feeling of injustice, assertion, etc. Through this gradual approach and the free expression of the different ways in which each child has confronted, felt and managed a problem, we lead the children to recognize in a friendly manner the concepts of different identities, of the “foreign” elements included in our lives and of the different values and emotions through which we communicate.

Then, we invite the children to travel from their own microcosm to the external world and to what happens around us, whether distant or nearby. We hand out clippings from newspapers and magazines, containing short stories and contemporary issues of Diversity. Then, we invite the children to present them to the team, together with their own opinion. This attracts their attention and helps them compare small and big problems, as well as the many different responses to them, and to perceive the many “alien” situations that may affect or touch us more than we thought they did. We comment on the problems and their solutions as they are presented in the press. We imagine ourselves in the place of some children who have been the protagonists in the news. We invite the children to stand in those other children’s shoes, and to write small ads asking or offering help to those in need. We also ask them to describe how they imagine someone who asks for or offers help.

Finally, we hand out a cultural identity form, in which each child fills in freely their own cultural identity, including data regarding who they are, how they believe that the others perceive them, their desires and expectations, the aspects in which they feel alike and the aspects in which they feel different from the others, as well as the positive and the negative elements that they believe their identity includes.

As a token of this Educational Program, the children take with them the form in which they have outlined their own cultural identity. In this form, the following text is highlighted:

OUR IDENTITY IS NOT RATED, BECAUSE WE ARE WHO WE ARE, ALL DIFFERENT AND UNIQUE WITHIN A COLOURFUL WORLD

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3. “The child-citizen”

Experiential Educational Program

For children attending 4th – 6th grade of elementary school and junior high school

The aim of this Educational Program is to offer to the children the experience and the concept of citizenship in the contemporary democracy, as well as the meaning of responsible attitude towards society. All these are offered to the children through simple activities, information, printed material, role play and participatory observation. We give the children the opportunity to comprehend that, in modern societies, the citizen must be informed and shape an opinion regarding the many different issues concerning the local community in which they live, their country and also the global community.

We also help the children understand that none of these problems is foreign to their own life and to the life of their family, and that this calls for their participation and contribution in the treatment and resolution of these problems.

The children detect, chose and are informed about problems concerning the environment, health, education, culture, poverty, peace, safety etc. Then, through role play, the children comprehend that in the contemporary democratic society, an active citizen -a citizen who is well informed and contributes in every aspect of public life- plays a very important role. They also realize how many differences there are between a society of passive citizens and a society of active citizens.

During the program, we chose the most convenient educative ways in order to make the pupils comprehend, through events and examples of everyday life, that every individual or group activity concerning the collective life is connected with a political decision, in the broad sense, as well as with society’s prevalent attitudes and behaviors. For this reason, the children are encouraged to proceed to analysis, questioning, management and decisions concerning the chosen exemplary situations. The thematic units approached through question and answer “games” and experiential exercises relate to the following fields:

  • Human needs and how they connect to individual, family, local and broader social life.
  • Search for priorities within a list of individual and social needs.
  • Identification of the institutions (state, self-governed administration, foundations, etc.) responsible for assistance in specific needs.
  • Interaction of different social groups towards meeting the needs.
  • Hierarchical structures, framework, rules and laws that determine the management of the needs.
  • Citizen identity.
  • The citizen and his/her responsible attitude in everyday life.
  • Decision making process at individual and social level.
  • Rights and liberties.
  • Citizen society and social solidarity.

This program aims at the cultivation of individual responsibility in relation to the values of social solidarity and social cohesion, as well as the development of critical thought and concern for human rights: freedom, egalitarianism, justice, tolerance of diversity, pluralism, the right of participation in public life, respect for human dignity, the right to cultural diversity and identity.

In the end, an identity form is handed out, similar to that of the adults. Each child fills in their own identity, including data regarding who he/she is as a young citizen. As a token of this Educational Program, the children take with them the identity that they have outlined for themselves.

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4. “Young readers in the books’ world”

This educational program addresses young readers attending primary school. The program aims at awakening children’s interest for the world of books, and to lead them to realize that a library can satisfy the most diverse interests, can generate surprise by opening new horizons, and also that it needs a guide.

The right to learn, to be curious, to read, is best fulfilled in a library, especially in a lending library; there, the transition from the private space and choice to the public space and interest is realized smoothly. Through experiential activities, the children have the opportunity to become familiar with children’s books and its categorization: fairytales, literary, historical, books of knowledge, etc. It is here that the journey in the books’ world begins.

Then, the children learn to identify the basic elements that make up a book: the cover, the back cover, the title, the book’s details. After that, they become acquainted with the author, the illustrator and the publisher. They are offered the opportunity to browse catalogues of publishers, to compare topics, authors and titles, and to understand how important the choice of books is and what are the key criteria for this choice.

Finally, the children participate in the procedure of publishing their own book. The duration of the program is 1 hour and 15 minutes; the program addresses children attending elementary school.

Print material distributed:

  • Full list of Children’s Rights in accordance with the United Nations International Convention
  • Mobile Library thematic bibliographies for children, parents and teachers
  • Network’s short history leaflet
  • Stickers and pins
  • Teachers may borrow the thematic book collections for two weeks and use them in their class

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Swift: CRBAGRAA
IBAN: GR19 0140 3530 3530 0200 2004 804
BIC: 353-002002-004804

 

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The short history of the Network for Children’s Rights begins in the spring of 2000 with fewer than fifteen of us, all teachers, writers, artists and journalists.  And it begins with a random incident of abuse which touched us all and made us determined to take action. Up till then, none of us had even heard about the concept of children’s rights and it was during those first enquiries that we also heard about the UN International Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by Greece in 1992.  It became evident all too quickly however that neither children’s rights nor the International Convention were known to the interested parties, namely parents, children and teachers and that furthermore they were frequently flouted at home, at school and in society.

We began discussing what sort of action we should take, how best to intervene as a group in order to disseminate the 42 articles of the Convention, how to bring other people on board and how to increase people’s respect for rights by speaking to individuals who shape public opinion.  Our aim was to bring the problem to light so that Greece would begin to uphold the Convention.  We wanted to put an end to the negative reports that our country was receiving internationally, to allow children’s voices to be heard, to ban corporal punishment in school and in the family,  to offer support to disabled children and so much more.

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