Thousands of children in Belarus are living far away from their families. As a consequence of the Chernobyl catastrophe, poverty, violence and alcoholism, too many children grow up in institutions or in fostering accommodations.
Most of the children have discovered the sea for the first time in Crete. By the end of their stay they all have acquired much confidence and have learned how to swim.
The children hosted in Crete are growing up in state institutions or in fostering homes in Belarus
The stay in Crete helps them physically, by giving their bodies a break from the contaminated food which is their only option in Belarus. The world-renowned Cretan diet is packed with fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and pulses, giving them a burst of health, sun and vitamins.
Crete’s experience is also vital for their spirit as they enjoy freedom, warm hospitality, discover a new country, new people and a positive enviroment that opens their horizons.
PALESTINIAN, SYRIAN AND IRAQI CHILDREN
The Belarus children were joined by ten teenagers refugees from Syria and Iraq. Some of them are unaccompanied minors, living in camps and temporary accommodations on mainland Greece. Some of them had been to last year’s camp and in Crete found many of the friends they have met before.
Over and above, a group of young Palestinian youth aged 18 to 21, joined us. They are active in their own communities with Play For Peace© initiative, and while in Crete they organized games and entertainments, often also involving local Greek children.
The Palestinian and refugee youths were, under adult supervision, responsible for the younger children. Their role as volunteers was a reversal of their own living situation, and they took this opportunity to act with maturity, learning new leadership and teamwork skills.
Forty children and young adults, plus volunteers and local people involved in our program, spent many days by the Cretan Sea together. With no common language , everyone found a way to communicate together, sharing their stories and their emotions, exploring what they have in common and how they differ, playing, swimming and enjoying the local cuisine.