For the last 10 years, Betty Athanasaki has spearheaded a campaign in Australia to support children of Greece by raising money for the Smile of the Child (Hamogelo tou Paidiou), a voluntary, non-profit child welfare organisation based in Athens. Having raised more than $200,000, she is continuing her fund-raising efforts with another event at the Hall of the Cretan Brotherhood on 9 November.
She first found out about the organisation while watching TV on holiday at the Halkidiki peninsula in Macedonia. She was so touched by she saw that she had to pay a visit to one of the group’s centres.
“I was moved by the children. They came to me, and all they wanted were hugs and kisses,” Ms Athanasaki told Neos Kosmos. “Some asked me if I was there to take them home. I knew that I had to do something. I had to help these children.”
Back in Australia, she managed to persuade others to join the cause that was founded by 10-year-old Andreas Giannopoulos 24 years ago. Young Andreas, lead a public 18-month struggle to stay alive in 1995. Before his death, he wished for the creation of the organisation to help children, and inspired the creation of The Smile of the Child.
The group has offered refuge to thousands of children, with more than 1,500,000 children helped since its creation. After years of activity, it has become the reference point for children, parents and governmental departments because of its success in providing solutions to the problems children face today in Greece.
The economic crisis lead to many cutbacks, but The Smile of the Child continued to provide its community service and collaborates with international organisations such as the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), the European Federation for Missing and Exploited Chidlren, Child Help Online, the European Federation for Street Children, and the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
It was not left untouched by the huge debt crisis that struck Greece, but has managed to survive thanks to the efforts of people like Betty, her cohorts and others willing to attend activities such as the one being organised on 9 November.
READ MORE: ‘Never give up on your child’
Betty is quick to point out that she is just an ordinary woman and needs help to do what she does and welcomes any donation or volunteer willing to sacrifice their time to make sure that events she organises run smoothly.
If you want to support Betty’s cause and help the children in need, join in the fun for a night of good food and great company in support of a worthwhile cause.
Where: Cretan Brotherhood, 148-150 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East
When: 7pm, 9 November, 2019
Tickets: $65 adults, $30 for children under 12
Contact: Betty’s number is 0411 568 818 or call 9380 6303