CREATING SAFE AND HAPPY PLAY SPACES FOR DISPLACED CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES IN ATHENS
We are Christa and Helen, 2 volunteers who met in Athens in 2016. Helen is a qualified teacher with 12 years experience, working in early years education in the UK. Christa has 6 years experience of working with children, both in the UK and in Greece. Christa started off teaching debating to kids in schools around London and spent 2 years as a nanny. Following a year and a half of coordinating the Kids Space at Khora Community Centre with Helen, she spent time as a nursery practitioner in Scotland.
Since 2016 we have worked together, alongside a team of brilliant friends and teammates, to create play and learning spaces for displaced families in Athens. Within these spaces children can feel safe, play and learn and create some happy memories of childhood. Many children have never attended school or have missed years of education, either due to the situations in their home countries or through being displaced and being constantly on the move.
According to the European Commission’s humanitarian agency, ECHO, “education is crucial” for girls and boys affected by crises. It said that education can “restore their sense of normality and safety,” provide important life skills, and is one of the best investments in “their long-term future, and in the peace, stability and economic growth of their countries.”
Kids Klub Athens works with families to register children into school in Greece when possible. By creating playrooms, classrooms and outside playgrounds and by working closely with families and their communities, we establish long-term relationships and give support through this transitionary period of their lives.
In 2016 we were part of a group who opened Khora, a community centre offering support to people who came to Greece as refugees. Within Khora we established 2 family spaces and a creative learning space for children aged 0 to 14. Within the family spaces young children had daily access to early years learning through play. Within the creative space for older children, daily educational sessions took place.
Families were given support to register their children into the Greek school system. Many regular extra - curricular activities took place, such as weekly cookery sessions, outings to the theatre, horse riding lessons, skateboarding sessions, gardening, visits to the park and to the Acropolis and football and hula hoop sessions. We also coordinated with other groups who brought theatre, art, music and dance to the children at Khora. Children and their families became part of the wider support network of the Khora community, with access to the free café, free shop, dentistry, language lessons,information and legal services.
We are now working to expand our outreach into the informal living spaces of the displaced families in Athens. With the refugee camps in Greece full and overcrowded, many families live in informal spaces within the city. In these places we are developing playgrounds and classrooms with scheduled lessons and play sessions. We coordinate a team of volunteers who establish long-term relationships with families and offer a wide range of support, including play sessions and language lessons.
We are currently excited to be building our first outdoor playground, thanks to our collaboration with Scrap Coop (facebook, website) who provide us with a workshop, tools and building advice. This playground will be a beautiful family space including a sandpit, climbing frame, a small stage, a seated garden area, a mud kitchen and a central area for circle games and shared snack times.
INTO THE FUTURE
We believe that our work makes a difference to the lives and futures of the children and families who came to Greece as refugees.
By establishing more family spaces, playgrounds and classrooms and coordinating a team of skilled volunteers, we continue to expand our work to reach more families.
We are grateful to be supported by the umbrella project, MASS Action, which provides grassroots projects with funding and support.
We rely entirely on support from donations. Everyone at Kids Klub Athens give their time and skills voluntarily which means that all money donated to Kids Klub goes directly to providing resources for children and families.