Archive for February, 2015

Theotokos Foundation (Greece)

Here’s a ministry to persons with disabilities which is named after the Most Holy Theotokos,

The Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

who surely watches over them and intercedes with her Son our Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf. In their own words,

The Theotokos Foundation in Athens, Greece, offers services to children and young people with intellectual disability and other developmental disorders as well as giving support to their families. . . . The mission of the Foundation is the education and training of children and young people aged 2½ -32, with the aim of facilitating their full participation in society.

The Programs: Educational/   (Pedagogical) Department/  Pre-vocational Training/  Vocational Training/  Supported Employment ”Ergaxia”/  Transition Program/  Enrichment Programs





Being receptive to the differences within the human family

Being receptive to the differences within the human family

Pantaleon & Rebecca

We humans are an odd species. We are capable of great sensitivity and compassion, yet can also be capable of much cruelty. The outpouring of aid and support directed to Japanese citizens a number of years ago, following the terrible earthquake and tsunami that caused untold suffering, and great loss of life, was an example of human hearts being opened wide. The international organizations that bring children born with deformities, to Western countries for treatment, demonstrates the capacity for charity that resides within the human spirit.

Yet we are also capable of terrible cruelty. Staring at people with facial deformities, or who may have peculiar, physically malformed bodies, may satisfy our innate curiosity, but the cruelty inflicted upon the sufferer is great. As a child I learned the importance of being sensitive to other peoples differences, for I was raised in a family that had a number of relatives with inherited deformities.

My maternal grandmother had a goiter, caused by the enlargement of the thyroid gland. The goiter on her neck, just below her chin, was rather large (she was afraid to have it surgically removed), and I can remember people staring at her whenever she took me to town for a movie, or for lunch. A second cousin was a dwarf, standing about as tall as myself, when I was in the third grade. Our extended family included a great aunt who had a facial deformity that caused one side of her face to sag, leaving her mouth drooping to one side. I had a great uncle who suffered from an enlarged head, which was about twice the size that would be considered normal. I had an uncle who was a black man, and this in 1950’s Spokane, Washington, in a city with a very small black population, and in an age when interracial marriages were rare.

All of these people were wonderful, loving individuals, and I learned to never judge another by their appearance, but rather to always look into their hearts. Even when in grade school, a time when so many children can be cruel, I always befriended classmates who were rejected by other children. One little girl came from a Gypsy family, and had pierced ears, at a time when even adult American women rarely had them. While other children made fun of her, I remember comforting her during on the playground, when she broke down crying. We had a classmate who transferred from another school in the middle of the year, who had a deformed leg, and he became my friend.

I was not an exceptional child, but just a little boy who was blessed to grow up in a family with wonderful, loving relatives who were, in a few cases, different. All my relatives demonstrated the importance of accepting others just as God had created them. As all children, I watched the adults in our extended family, and learned the importance of charity, love, and acceptance.

Racism is a learned behavior, and having Uncle Wally in my family was an early lesson in learning to look beyond skin color. My Great Auntie Grace, whom I adored, and whose kisses I readily received, taught me the important truth that people are just people, regardless of how they look.

I remember a classmate in graduate school who shared the pain he felt, growing up in a wheelchair, when people would act as though he were invisible, and refuse to look at him when he was out in public. From that lessen, I always engage such people, with eye contact, and a smile. These are lessens I always shared with my students, when teaching high school, for I learned that young people are open, if only someone is willing to demonstrate to them the importance of cultivating a sympathetic, and loving heart.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

from Facebook: All-Merciful Savior Orthodox Christian Monastery

picture from Harmony Beat


being a good samaritan

(Meditation below)

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 As We Approach the Great Fast-

Let us remember God’s mercy and love to us and in return, let us show mercy and love to our brothers and sisters!
Seven brothers were ill in one hospital. One recovered from his illness and got up and rushed to serve his other brothers with brotherly love, to speed their recovery. Be like this brother. Consider all men to be your brothers, and sick brothers at that. And if you come to feel that God has given you better health than others, know that it is given through mercy, so in health you may serve your frailer brothers.”
Saint Nikolai Velimirovich

from Fighting the Good Fight with Faith and Love 

Disability and Police Perception

From The Atlantic, by and , May 6, 2014:

How Misunderstanding Disability Leads to Police Violence

The article begins by noting that people with disabilities are violently victimized three times above the average, and

Ethan Saylor

Ethan Saylor

proceeds to the sad and tragic story of Ethan Saylor. The rest of the article focuses on the hearing by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the issue. More tragic stories are shared, and solutions are discussed. How soon, though, will they be implemented?

From the Washington Post, b, August 25, 2014:

Why do police keep seeing a person’s disability as a provocation?

This article shares two more such stories which happened in the three month period between articles. There are also many links to more factual information, commentary, and resources to address the matter. But will these resources be used in the heat of the moment?

Picture from Media dis&dat 

The Social Networks & Ministries of the Church of Greece

Greek Dancers celebrating the 100th anniversary of their Parish Church

One Saturday seven years ago I talked to a Greek Orthodox priest, Father Alexander Veronis, of Annunciation Orthodox Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who gave me a list of websites to further explore the role the Orthodox Church in Greece assumes in the lives of persons with disabilities. I found that there were websites which were partially translated into English, with the parts relating to such ministry untranslated. Then I found a report which explains the Church of Greece’ reluctance to publish the Church’s good works:

As Jesus said, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret may reward you.” (St. Matthew 6:3-4)

An illuminating Greek report, entitled “Welfare, Church, and Gender in Greece,” by Effie Fokas & Lina Molokotos Liederman (this report is no longer available online), is quoted below. The bibliographic reference of one of it’s sources is  

“Ekklesia tis Ellados [Church of Greece] 2001 Martyria tis Agapis. To Filantrhopiko kai Koinoniko Ergo tis Ekklesias tis Ellados [Witness of Love. The Philanthropic and Social Work of the Church of Greece]. Athens: Dept. of Publications of the Church of Greece.)

Here are some excerpts from this 51 page report by Fokas and Liederman:

Beyond state benefits and the informal but important care provided by the family, social needs that are not fully satisfied by the family or the state are usually filled by private or voluntary sectors (international organisations with Greek branches, such as the Red Cross, SOS Children’s Villages, etc.) and the Church. Therefore, the Greek case is a good example of the Southern European welfare model, with a classic underdeveloped state welfare sector coupled with the important role played by the family and women in providing essential social care. In this bi-polar model, the Orthodox Church is a third source, offering a wide array of social services, including the provision of support services for women and the family (see part II). The Greek example is schematically described as a triangular welfare model (state-family/women-church), in which the family and women seem to act both as providers and receivers of social care. (P. 298) 
…. Finally, there are a variety of state financed programmes for persons with disabilities (such as disability benefits and boarding houses for semi-independent living and full-time living for disabled persons, as well as, activity centres and summer camps for persons with disabilities) and other vulnerable groups (refugees and asylum seekers and Greek Roma communities) in collaboration with NGOs.” (P. 301)
…. Before highlighting the Greek Church’s actual social work, it is important to note a tendency for it to not publicly promote its welfare work, primarily because it takes place at the level of local interaction between the parish priest and individuals. Furthermore, the Church considers publicizing its social work to be contrary to the principles of philanthropy and the Orthodox ethos. Therefore, the Church’s organisations and monasteries involved in social activities also tend usually to act locally and informally and, thus, to avoid any type of public visibility of their social work, seemingly being more interested in offering social services rather than receiving public recognition for their work; in this way, they also tend to have an inward focus and operate in a closed network with minimal cooperation with other non-religious organisations involved in similar activities. (P. 318) .
…. The Church’s social services are put into action by local parish priests and other religious and non-religious staff (paid and unpaid laymen and laywomen), working for the Church in various capacities. Moreover, the Church benefits from a large network of volunteers it has created; according to 2001 statistics, the Church has an active network of approximately 23,000 people who are utilized and mobilized on a regular basis, offering their services to the great variety of social services provided by the Church … including … “Christian Solidarity“: charitable funds established by the Archdiocese of Athens and other metropolises; they provide locally, at the parish level, material and other types of support to a variety of individuals (elderly, single mothers, people with special needs, etc), suffering from poverty and financial and social exclusion, such as shelter and food (“soup kitchens”/sisitia), scholarships, child and elderly care, blood donations, etc. In 2003, there were 1,839 such funds. … People with special needs: assistance to individuals with special needs (for example, the blind) including medical care, financial assistance, psychological counselling, institutional care, training and professional occupation and leisure, as part of a wider effort to improve their insertion and integration into Greek society. Some local metropolises, which are active in this area, employ a large number of individuals with special needs (such as in the painting of icons, in gardening, in cooking and kitchens, etc). (Pp. 319-322)
Picture from Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral Parish Celebrates 100- Year Anniversary

The Nation: Why Are We Using Prisons to Treat the Mentally Ill?

Why Are We Using Prisons to Treat the Mentally Ill? This is an introduction on the webpage of NationAction of a three-part short film series entitled OverCriminalized, which considers the current practice of using prison to deal with the homeless, persons with mental health problems, and addicts rather than more effective and less expensive alternatives. Here is the series on You Tube:  

Here is a post I put together last February on this same subject, which features a number of related online articles and stories, as well as the sites Orthodox Christian Prison Ministries & the Fellowship of St. Silas

Jailing Persons with Mental Illness

Mental Illness, Insurance, Homelessness, and some proposed solutions

From the National Coalition for the Homeless: Mental Illness and Homelessness 

This 1 page synopsis contains some basic facts, a discussion of policy issues, and references to it’s more thorough sources. Briefly summarized, the synopsis reveals that 20-25% of homeless persons suffer from mental illness, and that difficulties in maintaining relationships, obtaining employment, and a lack of household and self-care skills contribute to this.


Additionally, this online summary sheet  is an examination of the state of mental health services in the United States from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, entitled Treatment/Recovery Information and Advocacy Database- Results of a National Survey of NAMI Members Living with Mental Illnesses and Their Families:

The insurance industry needs to be held accountable for their denial of the treatments prescribed by the doctors of persons with mental health issues.  Here are some articles which address this matter. The first zeroes in on an  insurance company and the story (from the TV show 60 Minutes) of a young lady, now deceased, who was denied treatment by them. The second article gives excerpts of other stories of extreme frustration in regard to insurance coverage:

The Middle Ground: Anthem, Mental Health’s Public Enemy No. 1, Called Out in “Denied”

National Alliance on Mental Illness: What NAMI members said about health insurance coverage for people with mental illness

One problem is that persons with mental health issues often neglect their treatments, and lose their disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. This can be due to the fact that the prescribed treatments or medications are unaffordable, with no free or low-cost clinics reasonably available, or perhaps simply because of mental illness, the failure to follow treatment being a symptom of the disease. Here is a legal site which addresses this matter: NOLO Law for all: Being Denied Disability for Failing to Take Medication or Follow Treatment

And finally, here are two webpages which put forth solutions to these problems. (1. How to fix the broken system so that persons with mental illness can recover. 2. How to pay for care.)

NAMI/TRIAD: 12 standards of care

MHA: Paying for Care

Picture from Lupal Dacic




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