November 27 – Education is the first step to integration

© Consorzio Communitas

Education represents the first step for refugees to make to address a proper integration process of the single person within the hosting community. We are fostering educational process with the project PIER II (Protection Integration and Education for Refugees in Austria, Greece and Italy), thanks to the unconditioned support of The Coca-Cola Foundation.

The project plans the exploration and sharing of innovative methodologies for the teaching of Italian language and civil education, mainly using technological means that makes possible to easily teach also to poorly educated people. The project provides a training to teachers coming from 9 Dioceses, and then the implementation of the learnt innovative methodologies within the Italian language courses which take place at each partner.

For Caritas workers and volunteers, the education of our beneficiaries represents an important and bracing challenge, that allows us to work with effort, dedication and passion. This is what we are doing with the PIER II project.

November 20 – Two days dedicated to children’s rights


The 18th and the 20th of November that have been set, correspondingly, as the Universal End Child Sex Abuse Day and the Universal Children’s Day, are dedicated to children who experience the consequences of economic and refugee crisis.

A basic criterion for the cohesion degree of a society is how it defends its most vulnerable members against all forms of violence. For that reason, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child orders its signatory member – states to ensure children’s access to health, welfare, education, entertainment, information, freedom of opinion and expression as well as to ensure their protection from discrimination and racism.


The protection of children from all forms of violence – based on the principles of the United Nations Convention – requires placing them at the heart of a complete system of holistic approach that works effectively in cooperation with the family, the educational community, the social environment, the justice system as well as the welfare and health care system.

Children are at the heart of the activity of ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth. More than 7,500 (minors) Greeks, refugees and immigrants receive the care services of ARSIS throughout Greece, such as:

For further information you could contact ARSIS colleague: V. Hystuna, phone 6932855699

PIER – Protection, Integration and Education for Refugees in Greece, Italy and Austria, implemented with the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation, allows ARSIS to raise awareness about children’s rights.

July 30 – World Day against Trafficking in Persons – Children: victims of human smuggling and trafficking

20 percent of human trafficking victims worldwide are children; in certain areas of Africa and Southeast Asia trafficked children even make up the majority of the victims. This is the sad result of a UN report on Human Trafficking, published on the 30th of July, the World Day against Trafficking in Persons.


With increased refugee and migration flows to Europe new challenges arise as well as they allow human movement to get directly related to human trafficking. Even though children are the most vulnerable it is still extremely difficult to get them legally recognized as trafficking victims. StreetWork teams of ARSIS estimate that around 700 unaccompanied refugee minors as well as Roma children from the Balkans have been spotted on the streets of Thessaloniki and are subject to various forms of exploitation.

Furthermore, they estimate that 60 to 65 percent of unaccompanied refugee minors arriving in our country have experienced kidnapping.


Within the first six months of the current year the StreetWork teams of ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth , traced 190 minors; many of whom had been subjected to unlawful restraint right after having crossed the Greek borders.

ARSIS looks after trafficked children by proving them with legal, social, and psychological assistance. It also takes action to protect them in camps by creating safe zones, and supplies accommodation, such as social apartments and shelters. The PIER Program enables ARSIS to raise awareness and bring human trafficking to public notice.

1 Year PIER Program – Protection, Education and Integration for Refugees in Greece, Italy and Austria

The PIER Program, initiated by Caritas Austria with the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation, offers aid to refugees at their arrival in a host country, during their orientation and integration: 16,987 people received support.

© Caritas

Caritas Austria and The Coca-Cola Foundation came together to think about the best measures that could help people who had to flee their homecountry. The program that was created together was named PIER. This acronym stands for „Protection, Education and Integration for Refugees” and consists of projects to support refugees in Austria, Greece and Italy in cooperation with the partner organizations Caritas Italiana and ARSIS in Greece. Main target group of the program are children, youth and young adults, who receive locally adapted support at the time of their arrival in the respective host country and during their integration.

The program is based on three pillars: Protection & humanitarian aid for people who had to flee their home country, integration & education as well as community involvement.
The program encompasses a large number of measures. For example: orientation, counselling, supervision and a vast number of different classes and workshops in the Youth Support Centers in Greece, the distribution of „Warm-Up Kits“ with clean and dry clothing for the new arrivals as well as integration measures such as language classes and vocational internships in Italy and afternoon study support and leisure time programs in the Austrian “Lerncafés”. Thanks to PIER, refugees in two locations in Greece (Athens and Thessaloniki), in ten Italian dioceses and in all of the Austrian federal states can receive support.

A special focus of the program is the involvement of civil society and of volunteers. The cooperation with and of Greek and Italian partners supports the know-how exchange beyond national boundaries.

© Caritas


Within the first implementation year of the PIER Program close to 17,000 people received aid with the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation. Due to the large need the program will be continued for one year under the name PIER II. This relaunch will take into consideration the recent situation and need of people who had to flee. The target group remains children, youth and young adults. PIER II continues the measures that were started in PIER I, whilst acknowledging the recent tendencies and developments in the three participating countries and the learnings of PIER I.

Christoph Schweifer, General Secretary International Programs of Caritas Austria on PIER: „The PIER Program shows, how the cooperation of stakeholders from different sectors can achieve positive change. Together, we had the power to react quickly, combine our expertise and offer tangible and valuable support. I am very happy, that this help will continue and want to thank The Coca-Cola Foundation for its precious and sustainable support!”

“The PIER program addresses the basic needs of Protection, Integration and Education of refugees and unaccompanied minors in Greece, Italy and Austria. With the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation we are happy that the PIER program will continue successfully this year,” Sofia Kilifi, Sustainability & Community Manager Coca-Cola Central & Eastern Europe, about the Program.

Inauguration of the new ARSIS Youth Support Center in Thessaloniki

ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth created the first Youth Support Center in Athens in 1992 and in Thessaloniki in 1998. Since 2000, it had been operating in the welcoming building on 2 Zaliki Street. Since the beginning of June 2017, the Youth Support Center has been transferred to two new, renovated, locations, these being 9 Spartis Street and 40 Ptolemaion Street, thus continuing to be a structure of direct social intervention and support for children and young people.

© ARSIS Greece

The Youth Support Center addresses all children, young people, their families and their guardians, who are socially disadvantaged and seek social assistance services. In particular, the Youth Support Center aims to support children and young people who are facing insufficient support from their family, rejection from the education system, neglect, immigration, refugee status, lack of housing or inadequate living conditions, abuse and exploitation. In addition to the aforementioned, it also aims to support children and young people who are exposed to conditions that burden or hinder their personal development and who encounter obstacles in their and their families' efforts to access social and material goods. At the same time, the actions of the Center focus on the smooth integration of children and their families into Greek society, with the enrollment of children in public schools, the finding of work for the parents, and overall raising social awareness about the difficulties and prejudices that exist towards certain social groups.

The Youth Support Center offers:

Social Service:

  1. Psychosocial support for children, adolescents, and their families.
  2. Networking the members with other ARSIS structures and with structures of other organizations or bodies.
© ARSIS Greece

Educational program:

  • Intensive tutoring classes for pupils of all educational levels.
  • Courses of Greek as a second language for children, adolescents and adults.
  • Visual Arts and experiential workshops.

Community interventions:

  • Street-work so as to locate and support children and young people working on the streets and/or living under conditions of homelessness or danger.
  • Interventions in refugee camps, Roma camps, and disadvantaged areas with the Mobile School.

Interventions in the school community:

  • Educational interventions on human rights in schools, parent and guardian associations, as well as both non-formal and formal educational frameworks.
  • Teacher training seminars on the use of the Council of Europe manuals on human rights education for children and young people, Compass and Compasito.

On Thursday 10/19/2017, in the appropriately designed and decorated courtyard of our neoclassical building, people had the opportunity to see up close the space that is hosting the aforementioned initiatives, while tasting traditional cuisines and watching the Organization’s social circus with the accompaniment of music and dance.

For more information, please contact the Youth Support Center on Spartis street (+30 - 231 - 0227311).

A “Lerncafé” for the children of the world

In a joyful event Caritas Carinthia opened the “Lerncafé” Concordia in Klagenfurt that is supported by The Coca-Cola Foundation within the PIER program. During the school year 25 children receive free learning support and afternoon care. During the summer around 80 children and youths are learning German at the “Lerncafé” Concordia.

© Caritas

Children between the age of five and eight from various countries of origin performed together with a lot of enthusiasm songs like “Every Children learns how to read”, while their parents were listening proudly. In a colorful and cheerful event the “Lerncafé” Concordia – located in the eponymous student dormitory in Klagenfurt – was officially opened by Philipp Bodzenta, Director Public Affairs & Communications The Coca-Cola Company, and Josef Marketz, Director of Caritas Carinthia, on Wednesday, August 9th.

Within the PIER program (Protection, Integration and Education for Refugees in Greece, Italy and Austria) The Coca-Cola Foundation also supports this new “Lerncafé” in Klagenfurt. Since April 2017 children receive support in studying as well as in learning German at the “Lerncafé” Concordia.

Philipp Bodzenta addressed during his opening words that the world’s biggest challenges can’t be faced by one alone, “but we can provide help and support. Our contribution shall encourage those kids within their efforts and foster their sense of home in Austria,” says Philipp Bodzenta. Josef Marketz thanked for the support and added: “It is great that there are supporters who know that children need to grow up happy and be educated well.”

In spring 2017 25 children from various countries of origin visited the free learning support and afternoon care at the “Lerncafé” Concordia on three days a week. Since July also a summer school is offered. Around 80 children, age five to 16 years, who need support in learning German, are visiting the summer school for three hours daily. They are supported by a lot of encouraged volunteers from the civil society. Ruth Feistritzer, City Council of Klagenfurt for education and integration, is happy about “this additional offer during the summer school break, so the children can continue their fast progress:”

© Caritas

Collection of stories

How well the newly arrived children already know the German language became clear during the opening event. Twelve to 15 year old girls and boys read out self written stories to the interested audience. And nun Silke Mallmann, responsible for “Lerncafés” and the summer school – she was thanked multiple times from parents and supporters for her continuous engagement for the children – presented the collection of stories “Children of the World”. The stories within this collection are part auto-biographical, part fictional, some are retellings and some are thoughts going through these young minds. They have all been written by the girls and boys visiting the summer school as well as adults attending the German language classes. The children aged eight to twelve years within the summer school then had the task to draw and paint the stories read, in order to make sure that they are able to understand what they read and are able to reflect the stories in their paintings.

Fifth “Lerncafé” in Carinthia

© Caritas

With the opening of “Lerncafé” Concordia, Caritas now runs five “Lerncafés” in Carinthia. In 2016 around 146 children have been supported in this innovative educational measure in Carinthia. “The Lerncafés are a free learning support and afternoon care for children with migration background as well as children from the host community, which parents are incapable of supporting their children with homework and studying accordingly,” Silke Mallmann says and emphasizes: “To pass on the enjoyment of learning is one of our highest aims working with these children.”

International protection: the PIER program is on the way

Pope Francis: “I am close in affection and encouragement to all those, who open themselves up wisely to the complex phenomenon of migration by offering appropriate support, bearing witness to those human and Christian values that are at the basis of the European civilisation.”

© Stefano Schirato

Tuesday, 25 July at 11.00am at the Bishop's Place (Episcopio), in Piazza Palazzo 1, in Cagliari, the PIER Program (Protection, Integration and Education for Refugees), with components on integration and reception for refugees and asylum seekers was launched.

The initiative will be implemented by Caritas Italiana, Caritas Austria and the Greek association Arsis. These organisations will work together to strengthen the integration activities already carried out widely in their respective countries.

In Italy, thanks to PIER program, eleven diocesan Caritas – Aversa, Benevento, Cagliari, Capua, Conversano, Florence, Genoa, Saluzzo, Pescara, Ragusa, Palermo – will boost Italian language courses, psycho-social support actions and work placements for refugees. In addition thousands of "Warm Up" kits will be distributed on the ships engaged in search and rescue operations at the Mediterranean Sea and to those diocesans Caritas operating in the ports of landing.

The PIER program, funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, is therefore another important pillar to the humanitarian activities carried out by our Caritas network across Europe. With this project, Caritas Italiana and the diocesans Caritas want to emphasize what Pope Francis affirmed by expressing his closeness to those who "open wisely to the complex phenomenon of migration with adequate support measures, witnessing those human and Christian values that underlie European civilization".

Caritas Austria opens the 50th “Lerncafé” location

Michael Landau, President of Caritas Austria: “No talents and abilities should remain unused, 1,440 children and teenagers receive free study support.”

© Caritas

“Education is not only a human right, it is also the most effective way to escape poverty on the long-run. Our vision as Caritas and as a society needs to enable all children to take part in this important educational journey. This is what our “Lerncafés” – a free and low-threshold study support and afternoon care for students from 6 to 15 years – provides. In the school year 2015/16 97 out of 100 children supported in the “Lerncafés” managed to pass their respectively school level. Ten years after the start of the first “Lerncafé” we are now able to open the 50th location of this important learning support – an amazing success story,” says Michael Landau, President of Caritas Austria, on the occasion of the opening of the 50th “Lerncafé” in Styria, Austria.

Unfortunately, the social background of a child is often more decisive for its educational path than its talents and passions. A lot of parents are simply not able to support their kids in their education the way they would need it. Some because of their working hours, others because of their lacking German skills that prevent them from helping their children with their homework or their test preparation. “The increasing number of “Lerncafés” during the last years shows how big the need for such measures was and still is at this point,” so Landau.

Study support for 1,440 children and teenagers in 50 “Lerncafés”

The Caritas “Lerncafés” do not only provide homework support. The afternoon care also significantly improves the children´s German language skills and supports the children in their preparation for tests and exams. Last but not least the “Lerncafés” have the goal to connect a feeling of joy with studying. Healthy snacks as well as recreational activities and encouragement and support for the children are also on the agenda. The success of the Caritas “Lerncafés” is not least owed to the amazing commitment of full-time employees and 670 volunteers, who accompany and support 1,440 children in passing their school levels as well as in improving their German language and social skills.

Caritas President Landau also thanks the committed supporters of this important measure: “Without the financial support of the Ministry of Integration and European and Austrian Development Funds as well as a many strong business supporters we would not be able to work with children in 50 locations. Thank you very much for this support.”

“From the very beginning it was important to me to support this integration policy education measure also financially, in order to support children and teenagers with migrant background sustainably in their individual educational efforts. I am pleased that the “Lerncafés” developed to be an Austrian-wide and even internationally acknowledged success project,” says Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz.

The arrival of people who were forced to flee from war torn countries and disaster areas during the refugee movement in 2015 also increased the demand of vacant places in the “Lerncafés”. “Besides the already mentioned business partners, The Coca-Cola Foundation also stepped in and financed the opening of eight “Lerncafé” locations,” says Landau.