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Gov’t replaced board of children’s charity following abuse claims

The Greek government on Tuesday replaced the board of child welfare NGO Kivotos tou Kosmou (Arch of the World), with its sole guideline being the interests of the highly vulnerable children living in the care of the charity. The decision was made at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Maximos Mansion on Monday.

The new board is reportedly comprised by:

Alexandra Martinou, economist, president of the “Mazi gia to paidi” (together for the child), as president of the new board
Ioannis Spyridon Tentes, former prosecutor of Areios Paghos (Supreme Court)
Ioannis Papadatos, paediatrician, former chief of the intensive care unit at the childrens’ hospital “Panagiotis and Aglaia Kyriakou”
Giorgos Protopappas, general director of SOS children villages
Erika Economou, psychologist, secretary at “The Friends of Theotokos”
Andreas Tzobanakis, economist, president of the center for people with disabilities “Hara”
Constantinos Gloumis-Atsalakis, lawyer, chief of Deputy Labor and Social Affairs Minister’s office.

According to the relevant announcement, the change of the board is temporary and and its term is one year. The new board is called to ensure the smooth operation of the agency and to carry out an administrative and financial review.

According to media, the old board of the charity was comprising of the priest’s wife as CEO, and three male adults from Iraq who were hosted at the charity when they were minors.

The formal “sexual abuse” complaint of a now 19-year-old to the Greek Ombudsman last week opened the can of worms into the circumstances of the children’s charity founded in 1998 by a charismatic Greek Orthodox priest in a depressed Athens neighborhood.

Young adults who used to live in the charity’s facilities and even former workers  report of tough living conditions, threats, punishments and isolation of up to three months, of child labor and of sexual abuse.

“The allegations are serious, particularly as they concern the extremely sensitive issue of children that have been removed from their family environment,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said. “These allegations must be fully investigated.”

A police and judiciary investigation is under way into allegations that some children in the organization’s homes around Greece were subjected to physical abuse in punishment for perceived misbehavior. One case involved alleged sexual assault by a charity functionary.

The Ark of the World, which hosts scores of children in five facilities, has denied the allegations.

The organization depends on private donations, and until the scandal broke, it enjoyed broad respect and extensive positive publicity for its work with children from troubled backgrounds and support for single or underprivileged parents.

According to media, the charity hosts some 500 children in its facilities and has around 4 to 5 million euros revenues mostly in donations yearly.

The new appointed board will have also to decide whether an investigation into the charity finances would be necessary.

Worth noting that there have been isolated complaints by former workers and also parents about the charity in the past but these complaints were apparently not investigated by authorities.

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