As Hellenic Fund Forms, UNICEF Raises Concerns for Migrant Children in Winter

New York, N.Y. With winter fast approaching, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today raised concerns about the dangers facing unaccompanied refugee and migrant children crossing Europe, where many countries are either overwhelmed or closing borders.

600-UNICEF196290_MigrantBoy copy A boy carrying his belongings in a large cloth bag over his shoulder is among
people walking
on railway tracks to cross from the Former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia into Serbia.
Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2015-2203/Georgiev.

My team and I share these concerns, but how can a person help – especially when they are not in Europe? After much consideration and a trip to Greece over the summer, our foundation is launching our Hellenic Fund on November 4 here in new York. We hope to raise cash and publicity for all of the children of Greece, those devastated by the economic collapse, and those washing up on its shores.

In Geneva, UNICEF spokesperson Christopher Boulierac said what we all have been fearing:

Children arriving in the Balkans are physically exhausted, traumatized and some in need of medical assistance. The number of children on the move is persistently rising and despite changing political scenarios in Western Europe and the dangerous sea crossing, there is no indication that the numbers will decrease in the near future.

Therefore, he urged the governments in Europe to head the coming winter and its impact on refuge and migrant families with children. Christopher reported that a lack of heating and limited access to washing facilities are creating enormous health risks for children.

FFFSeated, from left to right, Faiz, 13, Nour Aldin, 9, Hind, 10, Abderrahmane,
10, and Shahid, 9, arrived in Austria after traveling for 25 days through
Turkey, Greece, fYR Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary. They fled with their
family from Damascus, Syria. Photo: UNHCR/M. Schöppl.

UNICEF is unable to get accurate estimates of the number of children traveling alone as most are avoiding government registration for fear of being detained.

According to UNICEF, Macedonia had registered 3,857 unaccompanied children in the last four months. The U.N. agency states the number could be twice as high.

UNICEF has been reporting from not only Greece, but also Austria, Germany, and Hungary. They are finding, in the words of Christopher Boulierac, “Overstretched national capacities, insufficient coordination, and unmet child protection standards in reception and transit centers.”

I recently announced that our Foundation will launch our Hellenic Fund to support children in Greece — whether economically distressed, orphaned, or refugee — at an elegant Greek restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We can no longer watch children wash up on the shore and not respond.

Logos for HuffPoAs I wrote in The Huffington Post, when I visited Greece last spring, I was deeply moved by the economic conditions I witnessed impacting the children of Greece. I also had a foreboding of waves of refugees to the Greek isles — many children — escaping the violence and destruction of countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.

I thought to myself: If my family were to be sandwiched between ISIS and Assad, I would flee with them too.

Our kick-off reception, to be held beginning at 6pm on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at the renowned Yefsi Estiatorio on the Upper East Side, is the first The Orpheus Luxury Collection Symposium in Support of selected charities.

Yefsi Estiatorio, under chef Christos Christou, is often named as the best Greek restaurant in Manhattan. It is located at 1481 York Avenue, between 78th and 79th Streets.

As I reported on this site a few days ago (link), the numbers are staggering. In addition to the 1.5 million native children living in Greece, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (site) states there are more than 4 million Syrians who have fled their country since the country’s civil war began in 2011, almost half of whom are children. UNICEF states that 2 million Syrian children are living as refugees in neighboring countries or on the run in search of safety (site).

04072522_bs_0000000004580782-girl-homs-syriaA little girl from Syria receives care in Europe. Photo: UNICEF.

I will be back soon in Greece, meeting with government and local officials, to coordinate our efforts to help these children, born in or escaping to Greece. We will lead a group of our Foundation’s young global leaders to witness the situation on the ground and be a part of creating our response to this human tragedy.

The Facebook invitation for the launch event may be found here. Contribution may be made here. Checks may be sent to the J. Luce Foundation, “Hellenic Fund,” 540 Main Street #418, New York, N.Y. 10044.

Join us in the spirit of Hellas — doing what we can to help the most innocent of all in Hellas — its children.

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The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation ( There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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