A Canadian initiative to build a safe home for vulnerable refugee children stuck in Greece is under way with Smile of the Child (Hamogelo Tou Paidiou), a well-known charity that has worked for years helping vulnerable, abused and abandoned children in Greece.
Fundraising for the House of Canada and the Americas (HOCATA) launched with a generous gift of $40,000 given by Ambassador Robert Peck, an ardent philhellene and former Canadian Ambassador to Greece. The gift, according to Ambassador Peck was made in keeping with the wishes of a deceased family member, the late Hélène M. Cooper of Montréal.
Numerous organizations, Greek Orthodox church communities and individuals have pledged their support including Ladies Philoptochos Societies in Canada, the philanthropic women’s organization of the Greek Orthodox Church, as well Montreal-based Magic Mission which is supporting a number of charities in Greece.
The shelter will be built in a dilapidated mansion that belonged to an aristocratic family on the island and was donated to Smile of the Child by its owner, Ms. Cornelia (Nelly) Binou, who passed away in 2014. Binou was described by those who knew her as a loving, compassionate woman who cared tremendously for the well-being of children.
The house, in order to become a fully functional facility that will accompany abandoned and vulnerable children, requires in excess of $140,000 in repairs and renovations, as well as regular upkeep and operating costs.
HOCATA will serve children– regardless of their ethnic origin, vulnerable to exploitation, especially unaccompanied refugee minors, who are living behind barbed wire fences in terrible conditions or in make shift shelters on the island.
According to Peck, who has enthusiastically embraced this project, “These children are innocent victims of the refugee crisis who find themselves in very dire circumstances, often lacking adequate shelter, food and health care.”
Once the renovations are completed, HOCATA will become part of The Smile of the Child network of homes in Greece, which are well-known for their support to children whose lives have been scarred by abuse, mistreatment or other traumatic experiences.
Donations to the project are being taken via a YouCaring site created by the organizers.
Watch a video tribute to refugee children on Lesvos, shot by Canadian filmmaker/photographer Jeff Malo: