European Solidarity Corps voluntarism activity "Agios Athanasios"

The ESC voluntarism project was carried out by the AMKE YC Epirus from July 2023 until August 2024, in Ioannina. 

 

ACTIVITIES

The project aimed to support and facilitate the integration of asylum seekers while preventing hate crimes and discrimination against marginalized asylum seekers in the Epirus region and Europe. This was achieved by promoting ethnic diversity, solidarity, tolerance for asylum seekers, equality, cultural understanding, and intercultural cooperation. Additionally, the project aimed to build the experiences and capacities of all partner organizations involved, and importantly, enhance the competencies and future employability prospects of young people directly and indirectly involved in the project.

 

From a longer-term perspective, the project sought to support and enhance the daily activities of our organization for asylum seeker children and unaccompanied youth, increase non-formal education opportunities for asylum seeker children and youth in the Epirus region, promote a fair and positive image of asylum seekers in Epirus and beyond, support the capacity of our organization, improve creativity and intercultural dimensions within our organization, and promote volunteering activities among a larger number of young people from our local community to raise awareness about asylum seekers and foster participation and solidarity among local residents.

 

VOLUNTEERS

Six young adults directly participated in this project, committing to daily activities and offering their voluntary contributions to help the organization achieve its aims and objectives. These participants came from five countries – France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Turkey – and resided in Ioannina while volunteering within the project for periods ranging from 2 to 6 months. They were aged between 20 and 27, with an average age of 23, and brought diverse backgrounds, skills, and new ideas to our organisation.

 

OUTCOMES

The activities carried out were in two main sectors – non-formal education activities with teenage unaccompanied asylum seekers and creation of online content for awareness raising about asylum seekers and connecting themes. The non-formal education activities with asylum seeker teenagers were carried out in the Agios Athanasios facility for unaccompanied minors, which hosts up to 40 beneficiaries at any given time and is coordinated by our organization. The facility provides the teenagers with accommodation, care taking, legal and health support, formal education support, psychological and other types of support and services. To compliment the services provided by our organization’s staff members at the facility, ESC volunteers of this project offered daily non-formal education activities to the teenagers. Generally, the fields of these activities covered sports, outdoor education, crafting, arts, intercultural learning, English language support and many other activities aimed to support the formal education topics of their age group. For example, some of the specific activities carried out were: intercultural cooking workshops, initiatives related to integration, cooperation games to enhance the relationships, volleyball, football, basketball, painting, crafting, creation of songs, and getting to know dances of the world, activities for initiation to adult life, watching of movies and discussing, making DIY structures, theater games, body movement dynamics, mathematical riddles, creating a mural with the teenagers at the facility, discovering and making decorations for various celebrations such as the carnival, Christmas and Eid. 

 

These activities were demanding - they required extensive planning and preparation, addressing the best interest and needs of the teenagers, training of volunteers to work according to humanitarian and youth work principles. Here, you can read more about the Agios Athanasios facility project.

 

During the remaining time, volunteers worked on online content creation to raise awareness and address issues related to asylum seekers (and refugees), their perspectives, and struggles. Altogether, volunteers have created a great amount of content that was shared on our organization’s social media, website and on online public groups both in our region and in Europe. Some of the best examples of the created content are the creation of a magazine which includes information of the activities that are happening at the facility, and it also includes interviews both to the staff members and the teenagers that are hosted, a public event related to the Kurdish community where the attendees could learn diverse cultural matters, the situation of displacement of the community and enjoy some Kurdish dishes, and  the creation of an artistic mural in collaboration with the teenagers where their future dreams were shaped. The sum of these contents are aimed to raise awareness about these themes in the public, therefore promoting understanding and solidarity towards asylum seekers, and at the same time, these materials are also available for downloading and learning/sharing purposes to professionals and volunteers working with asylum seekers, as to anyone else interested in these themes. You can access (download, use and share) all created content within this project on the page Toixos – Wall of Voices on our website (see collections 2023 and 2024). 

 

QUOTES FROM VOLUNTEERS

 

Halit from Türkiye writes: “Participating in activities with the teenagers and being able to coordinate them when needed made me realize how beautiful it is to be and work as a team. I am sure I will remember the great conversations and wonderful memories with my friends for the rest of my life. The happiness of meeting so many people from different cultures through this program is indescribable.  There are even some wonderful people among them that I call my family.  If I were to talk about these people I call my family, I would have to write pages and pages of articles and I am sure that nothing negative will happen on any of these pages.

 

Salma from France says: “The teenagers in the facility are amazing and it's amazing how much they've taught me in the space of just 2 months... They were themselves, completely human and touched by their story and will have a special place in my heart! Because despite all their experiences, their trials, they always knew how to smile at life, and that makes me beam with a thousand fires. I'll never thank them for having had them in my life. My flatmates, the ESN and the Erasmus students, the staff at the Youth Center of Epirus, the people I've met over the months, the places I've visited with them. I don't know if you realise how much it has shaped me and helped me grow and gain confidence in myself. All thanks to them. Because in reality, what I'm going to miss most is not so much the city but the people I've met throughout my experience. But all good things must come to an end.

 

You can read full articles about the experience of all volunteers within this project in the section International Volunteers.

 

The project was financially supported by the European Commission, and supported by the Youth and Lifelong Learning Foundation (I.NE.DI.VI.M.).

This project was co-funded by the European solidarity corps program of the European Commission.