Abbahouse Greece, not an orphanage but a home
April 22, 2022
Jenny Papopostolou is the founder of Love to the Nations, a non-profit Christian ministry, and Abbahouse, a children's home, and orphanage, in Thessaloniki, Greece. In her 20's, Jenny worked at a church in Texas and traveled globally, speaking about the Father's love for his children. "I had felt a really strong desire to help the fatherless. There is such a need to care for the orphan."
When she took a speaking arrangement in Thessaloniki, Jenny said she felt in her heart that this place was where she needed to be. "There are so many abandoned children here in Greece, many due to the financial crisis. I just knew this is where God wanted me."
Jenny then formed a partnership with Liana Stamati, a local who helped in the church Jenny was speaking in. Together they decided they would start an Orphanage right there in Thessaloniki.
"Even though Greece was more of a financial burden, we really felt like these children, these orphans, should not be neglected."
Like any good thing, Abba House did not happen overnight. Firstly Jenny and Liana had to come up with the funds and apply to the government for the ability to create an orphanage in Thessaloniki. Once they got the needed funds and approval from the government, they needed a place for the children. They spent months looking, locating, and choosing their home. Finally, they found a beautiful Greek house in the hills of Thesalini. This home can accommodate many children and has enough land, so children have plenty of space to run around.
There were other challenges as well besides the funds and location. "We have to cooperate with the government for children. They basically assign us, children." Many children aren't orphans of abandonment but because parents have to give them up for a few years to make enough money to care for them and eventually want them back. "There are a lot of children that they call social orphans, these are children who have parents, even loving parents, but because of their financial situation, they need to drop their children off in orphanages."
As Abba House got in swing, Jenny and Liana started to hire help to care for the children. "What we have on our team is a social worker, a phycologist, a medical doctor, and in our home, we have Theas." These Theas, which means aunt in Greek, are provided with full training and are in charge of constantly being updated with all local government and childcare worker regulations.
With the help of the Theas, the children receive care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With full meals, new clothes, sports, and activities for each child. Jenny and everyone involved desire for each child to feel that when they enter Abbahouse, they enter a family.
At the heigh of capacity, Jenny says upwards of 25 children, all various ages, from three months to 16 years. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, the orphanage took a hit and lost many children due to recirculating government funds and, therefore, removing children. With only four children left at Abbahous, they are on the road to recovery and determined to get back to that high number.
Having an orphanage comes with other challenges as well. Sometimes children are taken without warning, never feel like they belong, or they resist the love Jenny and her team give.
One child they had in their care was a girl named Maria. A child whose mother had to give her up because she struggled financially. The government sent her to Abbahouse, and there she spent a few years before running away and never seen again. "We looked and looked. She was just gone."
Despite the hardships of running an orphanage, those working at Abbahouse love the work and love the children. They also provide a good education for the children by teaching school curriculum and coupling it with real-life skills: job training, computer skills, language skills, psychology, and counseling classes.
"We don't see the children as a whole group of children but see the child as an individual. We know every child has unique and individual needs. It is about making an effort for these children not to be seen as just numbers but to be seen as unique individuals and empower them in that way."
"this Thea is from Abbhouse. It is the only place I've ever been loved."—
Jenny says that she desires Abbahouse to be seen as a home and not an orphanage. It is a place of love where the children are cared for and can grow and learn in a safe environment and become aware of the Father's love for them.
"There was a child, prematurely taken away from our home. One night she saw one of the caretakers, and she told her friend, "This Thea is from Abbhouse. It is the only place I've ever been loved."