The Athens Open Schools program was an initiative of the Municipality of Athens, implemented thanks to an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the coordination of the Athens Partnership, through which school buildings were transformed into creative meeting points for the whole community, by hosting a series of programs and free activities related to culture, technology, sports, recreation and education for all ages.
In March 2017, we became part of this initiative and began a journey in districts of Athens, in neighborhoods where the notion of solidarity is still present in everyday life. Children of every age, nationality and ability have paved the way for a society of cooperation, through their need for expression and creation. Without labels, only instinct. They introduced us to their friends and they revealed their needs and concerns. Children need attention; They need education, time to play, to create and to learn. In order to do all this though, a shelter must exist, a place where they can return when the day turns into night. This shelter is family; an institution that has been severely affected by the modern way of life. Family is where children learn the world, develop a critical mind and are encouraged to take their first steps outside fairytales’ books. This is where we ought to turn our gaze and strengthen our most representative tradition as a nation: family.
The Athens Open Schools initiative illuminated the city and made it dress up every afternoon, all year round, re-introducing schools as places where never-ending-smiles live. Smiles that we hope that one day will be able to change the world.
What this trip has left us is the hope that we might meet these children again as grown-ups; we will then know if we too, once instilled in them our ethos and values.