The Multicultural Children Center “Athena”
Children of pre-school and school age play and learn in the embrace of Peace, Freedom, Love, Friendship and Hope rooms of the Multicultural Children Centre “Athena”, which was built there by the “Foundation for the Child and the Family” and “ELPIDA” association.
Τhe history of the establishment of “Athena” Centre starts from the war in the Balkans. It was April 1999 when the President of the “Foundation for the Child and the Family” and “ELPIDA” Association, Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, deeply moved by the plight of mainly mothers and children, took the initiative to organise the “Tele-Marathon of Hope” in cooperation with Mega Channel, in Greece. Greek peoples response was massive. A significant amount of money was raised as well as huge quantities of food and medical supplies.
At first, 100 tones of supplies were sent to refugees and then of the funds was used for equipping the Surgical and Post-Surgical Unit created in cooperation with “Medecins du Monde” in the upgraded Surgery Centre in the town of Gracanica in Kosovo. The remaining funds were donated for the creation of the Multicultural Children Centre, which was put under the auspices of UNESCO with a view to promote the Culture of Peace.
A few years later, in a piece of land donated by the Municipality of Zemun in Belgrade a beautiful building of 573 sq.m. was constructed containing a multiuse room, two infant rooms, two school rooms, a library, dinning room, offices, a kitchen, a surgery and stockrooms.
In September 2006, in the Press Conference in Athens for the presentation of the work, Mrs. Vardinoyannis emphasised: “Our aim is for this place to become a warm embrace for children of pre-school and school age, a source of knowledge, culture and creation and, through these activities, the Culture of Peace will be promoted according to the relevant educational programme of UNESCO”.
The Press Conference was attended by Dr. Jan Sadlak, Director of UNESCO – European Centre for Higher Education (UNESCO-CEPES), HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia and the Ambassador of Serbia in Greece, Mrs. Ljiljana Bacevic.
The message of the Director General of UNESCO, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, was also read: “UNESCO has the mission to build up Peace in peoples minds and I am glad that through this centre we will be able to promote the intercultural dialogue and respect towards human rights. I consider the offer by ELPIDA and the Foundation for the Child and the Family, both presidenting by UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mrs. Vardinoyannis, of high importance. I would like to take the opportunity to express my deep respect towards her personality and work and to congratulate her on the completion of this Centre as well as her dedication to the ideal of Peace”.