"Children’s basic rights are violated in a most apparent way, even in our continent" -Evi Hatzivarnava Kazasi

Member Spotlight: Interview with Evi Hatzivarnava Kazasi, Chair of Home-Start Worldwide

1. Could you tell us about your background, what brought you into children’s rights sector?

I have worked with families and children throughout my life, developing, supporting and assessing programs to promote their welfare, in the public sector and with charities in Greece.  I was active in the national campaign against the corporal punishment of children and took part in child participation research and studies. I helped set up Home-Start in Greece which I saw as an excellent practice in promoting children’s rights in the context of families. In Europe, I represented the Greek Government on the Council of Europe Expert Committee on Children and Families, and was a member of the Bureau of the European Forum for Child Welfare.  

2. Can you explain briefly the work of Home-Start? 

Ours is a simple but proven concept, at the heart of a child’s right to early childhood care and a stable family. We recruit, train and supervise volunteers to support the parents of young children who are struggling and ask for help. Usually calling weekly, for as long as there is a need, volunteers impart their own wisdom as parents on a friendly, non-judgmental basis, become a trusted confident and regular presence, help sort administrative, health, nutrition and similar concerns, share their parental experiences and skills, built the social network of families and promote the parents’ and children’s self-confidence and autonomy. We helped over 40,000 families in 22 countries in 2015 (14 in Europe), from Japan to Canada and from Uganda to Norway and the formula seems to work its magic all over!                  

3. What is the achievement of your organization that you are most proud of? 

We are thrilled to find our work, launched more than 40 years ago in Leicester, so central to the pillars of the European Commission Recommendation. And that it has been validated empirically, and emphatically, for its positive long-term impact. This makes us pioneers in key areas of children’s rights with a valuable, tested solution. We are also proud to be sought out as experts in the recruitment and training of volunteers, and prouder still of their commitment and high standards, which have been crowned since 2014 by an EPIC, evidence- based ‘Best Practice’ rating for the effectiveness, transferability and long term impact of the Home-Start work.                                                                                                                      

4. What are the key concerns and challenges you face in your work?

We are confronted daily with the challenges that families face in different parts of the world. We work in countries, such as Uganda, where issues such as HIV, malnutrition and child violence threaten the basic right to survival. Tragically, the world turned again into a violent and unpredictable place and children’s basic rights are violated in a most apparent way, even in our continent.  

Resources are spread unequally. We have big Home-Start networks in some countries such as in UK, the Netherlands and Japan but only one or two schemes that struggle for survival in other parts of the world including Europe. However, even in the richer countries, restraints in funding have affected mainly our national associations. But if national associations become weaker, they would have less capacity to promote family issues at national level and will be less able to support us at the international level. We are all part of a system in which one part affects the other and the whole system.

What is the answer? More solidarity and stronger alliances at all levels in order to pro-mote the voice of children, help prioritize resources for families and children and develop cohesive and coherent action. 

5. How has the refugee crisis affected your work?

We have for many years supported migrant families in our normal course of work. However, the present crisis will need special measures. Home Start Norway is running activities for integrating refugee families in two schemes, with funding from the Directorate of Immigration. Home-Start Hellas is working with the Athens municipality to help build a structured response. Communities will need to come together to share good practice, and the cultural knowledge is needed. Local volunteering could play a central role in resettlement and refugee integration.                                       

6. To you, what role can the European institutions (EU, Council of Europe) play in the area of child protection and children’s rights? And how do you see the role of Eurochild network in relation to this?

The European institutions have played a major role, often over and above their basic remit. But much effort is still needed to fulfill children’s rights at local level. As a long-time Eurochild member, I am delighted to see your important work on better co-operation be-tween institutions, your energy and increasing influence in all areas of child rights, and your recent call to members to pool resources. Members could perhaps also help disseminate knowledge of EU and Council of Europe recommendations and policies related to children’s rights at local level, as these are not always known, or understood, by those who could prove key to the solutions. In fact, this is an area that I believe that both the European institutions and Eurochild should focus their attention.                                                 

7. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Eurochild network?

Effectively, we are looking for new members for our worldwide Board and would be delighted to welcome applicants. We need deep professional or research expertise in family support, children’s rights, child protection or related field, but we also need people with broad international experience with a charity or international organization as well as people with fund-raising and communication expertise. These are voluntary positions but involve some work commitment and provide the opportunity to work within an established and respected international organization doing effective, tested work, across a fascinating swathe of countries. Please contact us on info(at)homestartworldwide(dot)org if you are interested or send the message around to people that they may be interested.                                                      

Find out more about Home-Start here