Pammacaristos Children’s Foundation is located at Nea Makri – Marathon - Greece, and has been providing social care and education to children and adolescents since 1953. A variety of services regarding education, social welfare and vocational training have been established during these years and more than 5.000 children and young people with various problems have been provided for by the Foundation. Since 1980 the Foundation has been specialized to provide a variety of services regarding education, social welfare and vocational training to children and young people with: • Autism spectrum Disorders • Cognitive/mental deficiencies • Speech, language and communication difficulties • Attention disorders • Combination of the above disabilities At present the Foundation provides services to approximately 120 individuals of an age range of 3-30 years, who come from all over Greece. About 25 of them are boarders and the rest semi-boarders commuting daily with the buses of the Foundation.
The foundation for the Child Pammakaristos situated in Eastern Attica in the region of Nea Makri. It occupies 30 acres in which the various settings of the Foundation are accommodated. In the same area, there are the following: a) a primary special needs school for children from a wider region of Eastern Attica study and b) a secondary school for adolescents with special needs. These two schools are public and they operate independently in relation to the Foundation of Pammakaristos. However, there is a strong collaboration between the schools and the foundation since a number of Pammakaristos students’ have attended these two schools.
Ιn 1953, after the big earthquake in Ionian Islands, the nuns of Pammakaristos hosts in their camps, 70 children whose homes had been destroyed. Then, the Refugee Agency asks Pammakaristos to host refugee children from the former Soviet Union and then from Romania, Constantinople and Egypt.
Due to the demanding educational needs the foundation had to deal with, the setting up of a new primary school and a “household” school was thought to be a necessity in order to meet the learning needs of the refugee children.
Within the next 15 years, the Foundation has the opportunity to develop and to provide services from preschool age to vocational rehabilitation. In order to meet the needs of the families, Pammakaristos offers special services with the assistance of social workers and psychologists.
Psychological support for children and their families in individual and group basis begin to be provided, as well as a variety of creative social activities in order to improve socialisation. Furthermore, the Ministry of Welfare and the European Union programs co-financed and contributed to the building of conversions, so the large rooms - dormitories are converted into groups - families. The Oikotrofeio (Boarding Home) tends to be similar to a big Home.
The public school is converted to a public Elementary School for special needs and the first special needs teachers are employed. For the children who are unable to attend the program of the Household school, the foundation created a number of training groups according to the operational standards in our country and abroad.
The complex educational and psychological needs of the children demand further training and extra specialization of the staff. Through European programs, some employees are being further trained and in turn offer seminars to the other co-employees.
Over the years, the programs for children with more serious difficulties increase. This is a time of great challenge.
In 1987, the first effort to include 4 children with severe learning and communication difficulties to Pammakaristos’ program is a fact. After two years of hard work the Multidisciplinary team of the Foundation feels confident to increase the number of children who could be educated and the use of special educational/interventional programs commences. The primary objective was to prevent behavioural and communicational problems.
Since then, with the development of expertise and the assistance of specialists, the Foundation began and continues to provide a variety of educational, training and social welfare services to children, adolescents and young people with communication difficulties, mental disorders and/or within the autistic spectrum.
The European programs offer the opportunity to communicate and contact with other foundations and settings abroad and in turn to develop new methodologies and highly specialized programs. So in 1998, the Foundation becomes the centre for alternative augmentative communication through the language program of ΜΑΚΑΤΟΝ which provides educational opportunities for professionals from the welfare and the educational sector.
Pammakaristos’ development in each period was determined by the specific needs of the children. Educators are flexible enough in order to address these needs. All these years, over 5000 children and young people have been trained in Pammakaristos in various levels of the Foundation.
Current Settings of Pammakaristos Foundation
Currently, one hundred and fifteen (115) children, adolescents and young adults are educated and trained in Pammakaristos. The training groups are divided into two categories, the productive workshops and the daily living workshops.
The productive workshops include catering, ceramics, cold ceramics, crafting/ decoration and weaving/carpet and they educate adults with Learning disabilities and/or Autism Spectrum Disorders according to their abilities and interests.
The trainees gradually become familiar with the learning steps and the main subject of the each workshop and they then participate to all the stages of the preparation and the production of the products. Products from the productive workshops are exhibited to local fairs and bazaars.
- Workshops of daily living
In these workshops, individuals with low functioning profiles are trained in basic skills of everyday living. The training depends on their individual profile and the main idea is to acquire and maintain functional skills such as cognitive, social and emotional.
- Boarding School.
Currently, in the boarding school there are 20 girls who are accommodated and cannot stay with their families due to inappropriate family environment or lack of suitable educational setting in their area to meet their needs. Furthermore, they may face serious problems in their families (psychological, child abuse or neglect, poverty etc).
The boarding school resembles with a “large home” where they spend their leisure time with various activities. The philosophy of the Foundation is that the girls should be in touch/communicate with their families as often as possible (if there are no prohibitive conditions to do so) and especially during holidays.
Presently, there are 40 toddlers who attend the nursery school coming from neighbouring areas. There are two groups depending on the children’s age. Children with both typical and non typical development are included in these groups aiming at the integration and inclusion of the children with difficulties. Children with non-typical development are provided with therapeutic programs depending on their difficulties, e.g. speech and language therapy, occupational therapy. Additionally, this year, a counselling group was initiated for all the parents of the children. It is run by specialists (Social Worker, Psychologist and a Speech and Language Therapist) and its objective is the discussion of different subjects that the parents have chosen so that they could be offered appropriate help.
All of the beneficiaries of the Foundation are given special services and support by qualified personnel. The services include psychiatric and psychological support, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, gymnastics, counselling to parents and social work services. At the moment, drama therapy groups and music therapy have been temporarily ceased.
The aim of the intervention in general is to address the needs of each student individually during either group or individual sessions. Also excursions to various settings in the community are provided in order to entertain the students/trainees and to develop social skills.
The team consists of a child-psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker, an occupational therapist, the special educator responsible of the boarding school as well as the speech and language therapists of the Foundation. The “extended” team includes the music therapist and educators responsible for the workshops.
The group meets on a weekly basis aiming at discussing issues regarding the case load and issues of scientific interest as well as management issues relating to the Foundation. Also, members of this team may carry out all the necessary assessments of the children and/or the young adults who parents may apply to join in the various settings of the Foundation.
In addition, the Unit of Communication, Language and Learning Services provides comprehensive supporting therapeutic programs (after full assessment) to children from the community of Nea Makri. The program may include child psychiatric service, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, advisory and counselling and special education service. There is also a possibility for group sessions with the use of specialized therapeutic programmes (e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Drama, social skills groups and phonological awareness groups).
Non-governmental organization/ non-profit