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October 22, 2016

I have been going to Crete on holiday for the past twenty years, and during that time I have witnessed some memorable events, met many fascinating people, and forged some enduring and precious friendships with both regular visitors and locals alike. I have also enjoyed wonderful hospitality, terrific weather and superb food.

Manager Maggie.

Chania Manager Maggie.

However, everything I have previously experienced pales into insignificance when compared to a visit I paid to a small building on the outskirts of Chania in northern Crete. Two days before the end of my most recent stay in October of this year, I was invited to accompany the Chania manager, Maggie, to see for myself the working of ELEPAP, a charity for disabled children and adults. There, amongst many other emotion-stirring moments, I was privileged to be introduced to ‘George’.

This is his story, and the story of the people surrounding him.


‘George’ is from Chania. He was born when his mother was only twenty-four weeks pregnant. At birth he weighed a mere eight hundred grams; that’s 1 lb 12 ozs for those used to imperial weights. His parents were warned that he was unlikely to survive, and even if he did so, he would be unable to see, to hear, to speak, or to walk.

Thanks to the magnificent work of the professionals whose caring attention has to be witnessed to be truly appreciated, ‘George’ is now learning to walk. When I met him he was watching his reflection in the mirror (yes, he can see – with the aid of glasses) whilst receiving instruction from his therapist (yes, he can hear). When she asked ‘George’ to recite the alphabet he did so, with confidence (yes, he can talk). He then began to count for her.

I’m not sure which is the most astonishing part of this story, the fact that he has confounded the experts not once but four times, or the fact that when he was reciting he was doing so in English, not Greek – or simply the fact that ‘George’ has not yet celebrated his third birthday.

(George is not his real name, but one that I chose in order to protect his identity. Everything you read has been approved by his mother before publication.)


‘George’, along with many other disabled children, visits ELEPAP on a regular basis. There, a team of dedicated and highly professional therapists, backed by volunteer workers, provide a range of treatments to enhance the lives of youngsters through to adulthood born with physical or neurological impairment.

These sessions range from basic physiotherapy, to neurological development, hydrotherapy, speech therapy and many, many, more therapies in a tailor-made program for each child, regularly amended following ongoing assessment of their needs.

I was honoured to be invited to see the classes being held, and apart from marvelling at the wonderful way the children, some of them not much more than babies, face up to and deal with their disadvantages, my most abiding memory is their cheerful greeting to a complete stranger and their happy, smiling faces.

Maggie knows!

          Maggie knows!

The charity needs help. Government funding has been cut following Greece’s economic crisis. So I’m going to do something – and it involves you. But you’ll have to wait to find out what.

If you want to read more about the charity follow this link:

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  1. A Degree of Hope | Bill Kitson Blog

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