Father Antonios, the soul of the non-profit charity “Ark of the World” has been announced European Citizen of 2018. In a ceremony at the European Parliament the Greek Orthodox priest in one of the under neighborhoods of Athens received the Award for his struggle for the underprivileged children of this world. The European Citizen’s Prize is given every year to projects and initiatives that contribute to European cooperation and the promotion of common values.
With the support of his wife and members of the broader community then 26-year-old Father Antonios Papanikolaou launched the Ark of the World (Kivotos toy Kosmou) in 1998 in Kolonos (Akadimia Platonos) where he served as vicar at Agios Georgios Church.
It was the underprivileged children in the neighborhood that gave him the idea to do something for them.
He started with the creation of a basketball team for all those children neglected by their parents mostly due to financial problems or drug addiction.
“We saw at the Agios Georgios square children who should be at school wandering around without any purpose in life, in ignorance and danger lurking beside them. We felt inside the need to open up to these marginalized children and impart the message of hope and Life, ” Father Antonios writes on the Ark’s website.
He soon found more supporters to expand his initiative.
Father Antonios was armed with love for children, a selfless need to give and the desire to create a nest of affection and care for children, young people and parents in need, living in the crevices of society, in “another” Athens at the region of Akadimia Platonos.
With the support of children, parents, associates, volunteers, supporters the Ark of the World became a large family for everyone in need.
Soon the small organization grew to one of the most important facilities in Greece for orphans and neglected children.
More than 400 children, Greek but also from other countries have benefited from the Ark of the World, experiences affection and peace away from past poverty, hunger, racism and other blights tormenting our society every day.
The Arch of the World has now four accommodation facilities for children in Athens, Chios, Epirus and Volos.
Father Antonios’ primary concern is to not separate the family when there is parent interest in and capable of taking care of the child.
Single-parent families with serious financial and social problems calling the services of the Ark of the World where they can find support for their very basic needs, such as food, clothes, medical care and everything they need to live with dignity. At the same time, families receive counseling services, take part in parents’ groups led by family relations specialists and receive information on training programmes in order to be empowered to take responsibility of their children.