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About Us

Andreas Yannopoulos, a 10-year-old boy with a terminal illness, founded The Smile of the Child in 1995. It was his belief that every child, irrespective of colour, race or religion, deserved to smile. His dream has continued to grow even though Andrea is no longer with us. Through the hard work of staff and over 2,500 volunteers, the organisation has grown and is the largest non-government organisation in the field of children's rights in Greece. While the organisation works directly with children in Greece, its child advocacy work includes European and international efforts.

 

The Smile of the Child is a member of Missing Children Europe (MCE), a European federation consisting of 19 organisations in 15 European Union member states.  The Smile of the Child holds Vice-Presidency of Missing Children Europe and represented MCE throughout 2006 and 2007 at the European Council's Experts' Committee on the Convention for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, which was signed by Greece in October 2007.  The Smile of the Child was also an active member of MCE's data collection task force, in which a software package was created, with the assistance of Oracle, in order to collect data on missing, exploited and trafficked children.  

 

The Smile of the Child is also on the Board of Directors of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC). In November 2006, a four-day training seminar was organised with the assistance of ICMEC in order to train Greek National Police on how to investigate cases involving missing children.  The seminar was so successful that in the fall of 2007, The Smile of the Child and ICMEC were asked by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Hellenic Aid) and the Greek National Police to organise a similar training seminar.  This time the four-day training course was held for law enforcement, prosecutors and justice authorities from 22 neighbouring countries.

In October 2007, The Smile of the Child, along with ICMEC also hosted a one day "U.S./Balkan Forum on Missing Children". The focus of the forum was current and emerging issues particularly in respect to child trafficking.  The aim of the forum was to encourage national and cross-border collaboration and cooperation, with a view of eventually creating a Balkan Centre for Missing & Exploited Children which will be based in Athens Greece.  The Centre will work with governmental and non-governmental agencies and coordinate law enforcement efforts in the Balkan region to locate child victims of trafficking. 

 

In March 2008, along with ICMEC and Microsoft, The Smile of the Child organised a four day seminar entitled "Computer Facilitated Crimes Against Children".  Once again law enforcement, prosecutors and judges from Greece and neighbouring countries were brought together for training on investigating crimes against children through computers.

 

The Smile of the Child runs the Greek Centre for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children. The Centre works closely with parents, judicial and law enforcement authorities, the press and the public in order to find missing children.  The Centre's mandate includes poster campaigns in all publicly accessible areas in Greece; television, radio and print publicity, as well as receiving tips from the public on the Centre's hotline SOS 1056.  The Greek Centre works closely with other European non-government organisations as well as government authorities and law enforcement from around the world in order to locate missing children.

 

The Greek National Regulatory Board for Telecommunication and Post assigned the European number for missing children "116 000" to The Smile of the Child.  On October 29th, 2008 the European hotline was launched in Greece by Mrs. Margarida Barroso, Independent Administrator of Missing Children Europe and wife of the President of the European Commission. The launch was during a high level round table discussion entitled: "Missing Children: Addressing the Problem" and was organised by The Smile of the Child and Missing Children Europe.  The event was co-hosted by the Belgian Ambassador to Greece, Mr. Pierre Vaesen and the Greek Minister of Interior, Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos. Participants to the discussion included member of Missing Children Europe from seven European states and international guests from Switzerland and the United States.  116000 is one more significant tool in trying to find our missing children.  Once the number becomed operational across Europe, it will ensure that children and adults have a free number to call on a 24-hour basis from anywhere in Europe.

 

On May 25th 2007, in close cooperation with the Greek National Police, the Centre launched AMBER Alert Hellas. The system is the first public emergency broadcast system that partners 51 public and private agencies in an effort to locate missing children.  Partners include eight government ministries, public airports, seaports, roads and highways; as well as all public and private television stations, radio stations, all mobile service providers and internet service providers. Once the police decide that the disappearance of a child merits activation of the public emergency broadcast system, the Centre activates AMBER Alert Hellas.  Proof of the success of AMBER Alert Hellas can be found in the European Union's announcement to implement a European Child Alert system.  In 2007 The Smile of the Child was invited to speak to the European Commission and to Justice Ministers from the European Union states and share knowledge and best practices on emergency public broadcast systems. Throughout 2008, The Smile of the Child has continued its efforts to support other European countries in implementing a child alert system. 

 

In July 2007, The Smile of the Child became associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information.  One of the mandates of this association is to advocate for international cooperation on issues of child protection and children's rights through the promotion of international instruments including the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child.  In July 2008, the Smile of the Child was proud to receive special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

 

In Greece, The Smile of the Child is active not only in advocacy of children's rights but also works in the field of child protection, having direct contact with children.  The organisation runs an outreach programme to reach children living and working on the streets. Because of Greece's geographical location, children are often trafficked through Greece, from neighbouring Balkan states and Eastern European countries.  Their final destination is either Greece or a western European country. The Association works with law enforcement agencies throughout the world and with other government and non-government organisations to prevent the trafficking of children.  In cases involving missing children, The Smile of the Child work closely with the U.S. based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and with Scotland Yard in England in order to age process photographs of missing children in an attempt to increase the likelihood of locating them. In July 2006 with the assistance of photo aging, the Association was able to locate a child that had been missing for 10 years in Austria! As well, the Greek Centre for Missing and Exploited Children is regularly called upon to assist in parental abduction cases where the custodial parent wishes to exercise their rights pursuant to the Hague Convention. Fortunately in many cases through the joint efforts of the public and law enforcement agencies, the Centre has been successful in locating children and helping their safe return home.


The Smile of the Child currently runs 9 community homes throughout Greece. In 2008 the organisation had legal guardianship of over 245 children as a result of judicial orders.  These children came to the organisation because they were physically and/or sexually abused, abandoned, neglected or victims of trafficking. The community homes are located in neighbourhoods and are modelled on a healthy Greek family. The homes are clean but comfortable with lots of toys, photographs and memorabilia scattered throughout.  Each child is treated as an individual and his/her needs and desires are fostered. Children that reside in the community homes attend public schools in the local neighbourhood and are involved in community activities. Children attend ballet and dance classes, English or French classes, music lessons, athletic events and any other extra-curricular activities that may interest them.

  

In mid-November 2005, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Right of the Economic and Social Council, Mr. Juan Miguel Petit, visited Greece. He took the opportunity to visit six out of the eight community homes and meet children that reside in the homes. As well, he toured SOS 1056 hotline and met with social workers, psychologists and other staff. During the press conference of November 14 2005, he took the opportunity to comment that he had visited children's institutions throughout the world but that he felt that it was noteworthy to "underline the enormous work done by a non-governmental organisation in Greece, "The Smile of the Child", created by a boy who died....because of the work of this organisation, 1000's of children have been helped in creative ways....".  Mr. Petit also cited The Smile of the Child under "good practices" in his report that was released in March 2006.

 

The Association also runs "social markets" throughout Greece. Thousands of children and families rely annually on these social supermarkets to meet their daily requirements for food, clothes, books, toys, diapers and furniture.

 

The Smile of the Child is involved in a number of other services. There is a team of volunteers, psychologists and social workers that provide creative and educational programmes to children that are in hospital because of serious medical conditions. The programme works out of Athens, Thessalonica and Patra, the three biggest paediatric hospitals in Greece. To this end, there is also a life fund. Money in this fund is used to assist families with medical costs or to transport a child either within or outside of Greece to receive medical care.

Aside from maintaining the services listed above, the Association operates the toll free emergency telephone line SOS "1056", 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The helpline is a member of Child Helpline International (CHI), which operates out of Holland and is a federation of youthlines from over 80 countries.  In October 2006, The Smile of the Child was appointed to the Advocacy Task Force of CHI.  One of the main functions of the taskforce is to ensure that helplines are part of every country's child protection plan, as recommended by the United Nation's "Study on Violence" and by the European Union through their written declaration in 2006 (0050/2006). As well, the Advocacy Task Force tries to find ways through different technologies, to reach children that are marginalized, especially in developing countries, and ensure that their voices are heard.

 

In 2008, SOS 1056 received 306,000 telephone calls. Calls to 1056 come from people wishing to report abuse or children who need just to talk to someone for advice or support. In fact, 7,419 of those calls were to report children in immediate danger. SOS 1056 is the only youth line in Greece. In fact, most of the services described above were created and are provided as a result of calls that were received at SOS 1056. The number is used not only by the public but also regularly receives calls from the police and the prosecutors' office when they have located a child in danger and need to find a social worker, a psychologist and/or shelter. In December 2006, the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity designated SOS 1056 as the "Greek National Helpline for Children" and awarded The Smile of the Child with the "NGO of the Year" Award.

 

In May 2008, The Smile of the Child received the "Chairman's Award" from WITSA, the World Information and Technology Services Alliance, with a consortium of 73 international ICT organisations whose members comprise of more than 90% of the global IT market. The award was given to The Smile of the Child for its use of technology to assist all members of society and to improve the social good of the community.  The award is especially significant as it is recognition by a global organisation of the work that The Smile of the Child does in Greece, in Europe and globally to reach and help children.    


It is important to note that Price Waterhouse audits all financial records and the results are published annually.  The administrative costs of the organisation are only 10%, with the rest of the budget being used to provide direct services to children. The result of all these efforts is that The Smile of the Child has managed to gain and maintain the public's confidence and trust. In a recent study published in daily newspapers, The Smile of the Child was rated first in public recognition and 93% of those surveyed felt they could trust the organisation and the work it does. This is an achievement of which we are very proud and wish to preserve.

We are grateful to everyone, staff, volunteers, sponsors and to all those that help us in their own way take one step closer to our goal of never saying "no" to a child that needs us.