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The Smile of the Child

The Smile of the Child

Member: NGO Premium
Since: 26.10.2009
Voluntary Children's Association

10, Zinonos Eleatou Street, GR-151 24 Maroussi, Athens, Greece

'The Smile of the Child' Foundation

22.03.2006 Share

By Oznur Cevik

"To Hamogelo tou Paidiou" ("The Smile of the Child") is an independent philanthropic organisation that addresses the growing needs of the homeless and often orphaned children on the streets of Athens as founded by Costas Giannopoulos, who after losing Andreas, one of his two sons, at age 10 to cancer, started to fulfill Andreas' last will.
I was privileged to visit one of these homes, of which there are seven in total, and Costas is eager to increase this number both in Athens and all over Greece.
I was deeply touched when I visited the house and happy that I was able to be with the children of "To Hamogelo tou paidiou". There are few joys in life that come close to this extraordinary experience: to see the smile of a child, to be hugged by a little child, to see a baby get up and take their first steps, to hear a child laugh with the freedom and joy of one who knows not the dark and complex cares of the world.
The house I visited, in spite of it being set up only a few months ago, was spotless, well organised, with many volunteers running around after the children (from babies to 10-year-olds) and thanks to sponsors, all their necessities such as home-cooked food, clothes and toys were available in abundance. And the children were clean and happy.
I was reminded once more of how children set an example for us to follow towards our salvation. How they speak to the hearts of all grownups, reminding us that we must emulate their purity, innocence and honesty.
Unfortunately, our hard-edged societies (all over the world) have transformed children and youth into a market, a group of consumers to which adults are pressed into offering goods and services. Contemporary society has made children an economic commodity to be manipulated and exploited. Consumer society has transformed childhood itself into something that seeks to emulate adult needs, desires and wants. The result of this terrible state of affairs is evident in the angst and depression that has infected children in our global culture. Children are forced to grow up faster than they should, faster than their natural maturation would dictate.
The very same societies, the very same impulse that drives us to turn everything into a commercial and every person into a slave of phantom desires, have hardened the hearts of adults as well. The definition of a well-functioning person must always also include a deep appreciation of one's fellow human beings. To be fully respectful of our personhood, we must respect and honor the personhood of each and every other human being. This is a difficult principle to follow, of course. But it cannot, it must not, be made difficult for us to respect the personhood of the most fragile amongst us, our children. We must surely not lose our innate human ability to love and cherish children who are the true owners of the future.
These children, all children, are the inheritors of the best of what we are and the worst of what we are. We must, each and every one of us, demonstrate our love to those children who are in tangible need of love and support.
Standing in the house, I saw the faces and smiles of children who are "ours" as well. The love we teach and preach extends to the hearts and minds of all those children. I had the chance to look around this fine institution, its children and the adults who sacrifice so much to care for these children and feel how much the Greek people love and care for children, indeed for all who need that extra measure of love and support.
However, we also need to help and support one another. We need to share not only our resources but also our cheer. And as there is no joy greater that the smile and laugh of a safe, secure child, no greater feeling than to be embraced by the unconditional love of a child, I wish there were the same sort of institutions in this country as well. It is my humble wish! Surely there can be no greater demonstration than to love those little people.
I trust that Costas will continue to embrace these wonderful institutions with his endless efforts and love. I pray that every happiness and good will be multiplied for all who live and work there. I thank him for the opportunity to let me share some very precious time with those lovely children.
And I hope to be able to visit a Turkish "The Smile of the Child" institution that will be founded before someone has a reason like Costas'.
Until next week keep cool and healthy!

Source: "The New Anatolian", Turkey's only independent English-language daily.