Our History

The dream

Ioanna Tsokopoulou, mother of a child with Down syndrome, made it a purpose in her life to find a way to help her child and at the same time other children with intellectual disabilities, so that they would be able to be integrated not only in society, but in productive forces as well

She worked the idea in her mind for years. At various times, she visited special schools in France, China and, in 1975, in the Soviet Union, she saw a school of this type – a model that fascinated her – and thus the idea started to acquire a form and shape.

 

The beginning

“The beginning took place in 1976. With the help of friends and colleagues, I created an association acknowledged as “specific purpose, non profit”, whose goal would be the creation of a model education center for people with special needs. I paid a visit to the Academic Angelos Angelopoulos, Manager of the National Bank, told him what I wished to do and asked him to let me use by commodate a property of the Bank in Pendeli. And he accepted,” Mrs Tsokopoulou writes in the book “He Is My Son” (Kastaniotis Editions, Athens, 1988).

 

The inauguration

On November 2, 1979, the Special Education Workshop “Margarita” was inaugurated – a small house with three rooms and a large kitchen, of a total surface of 220 square meters in a property of 4,500 square meters, covered with pines, olive trees, hollies, clematis, chamomile, mallows

The name

“The name MARGARITA had been decided since the moment I heard the name of Nelli Zelioti-Giannopoulou’s daughter. Nelli had lost her only child, Margarita, at the age of eighteen, just a few days before I made her acquaintance, in December 1977. It was so soon after the tragic event, that her sorrow had penetrated my bones.” 

From Ioanna Tsokopoulou’s book, “He Is My Son” 

(Kastaniotis Editions, Athens, 1988)

The first programs

Under the guidance of the first director, Mrs Maria Peponi (Social Worker), the personnel was selected based on the criteria of knowledge as well as sensitivity. The trial of the first programmes starts: kinetic education, housekeeping, gardening, weaving, school knowledge preservation. Other activities are also tried out, such as the training of the young people in autonomy and communication, in the ability to circulate in the city by themselves, to help themselves in their everyday life, to make financial transactions. In other words, to acquire skills for their everyday life.

  

The first workshop

In the same year, the first workshop starts its operation. It is the handicraft workshop, which, besides practicing the hands, introduces the young people in the notion of productive work as well; two looms are purchased.    

The students reach the number of 12.

So this is how MARGARITA began

 

Margarita grows

In the next year, the second workshop, that of weaving, is created, with the two looms, whereas equipment for silk screen printing is also purchased. 

A psychiatrist and a psychologist join the scientific personnel.       

From then on, MARGARITA keeps growing, the number of the students increases and the institution becomes a pole of attraction; soon it is obvious that the space cannot cover the needs of its students any more.

In 1983 it has 30 students and 11 employees.

In 1990 the students reach the number of 60 and the employeesthat of 28.

In 1993, with Mrs Margarita Samourka’s donation, the first extension is made.

Immediately afterwards, the first floor starts being built above the initial building. The works were completed in 1995.

In 1998 the students are more than 80 and the personnel consists of 35 people.

In May 2000 the construction of the new building next to the old one, as well as the arrangement of the surrounding space are completed. The new building has a surface of 992 square meters. It was financed by the Public Investments Program of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and co-financed by the European Union. 

Today

MARGARITA hosts 100 students, while also supporting 14 graduates who work in the professional sphere. Its personnel numbers 31 people and implements an education program for sustained living in a privately owned apartment in Pagrati.    

A few thoughts

In spite of the progress made in our country, there still a lot of things that have to be realized in what concerns the rights of people with disabilities. They must have the chance to stand as independent individuals in the community, work, have friends, entertain themselves, fall in love, get married. Because they are entitled to all those, just like every other individual.  

MARGARITA, like the few other similar centers existing, with great effort and an everyday struggle, opens a horizon for as many young people with intellectual disability as it can. We do not forget that there are many others, all over Greece, who do not enjoy this care.