The ESC voluntarism project was carried out by the AMKE YC Epirus from July 2022 until August 2023, in Ioannina.
The project supported and promoted asylum seeker integration and promoted prevention of hate crimes and discrimination against marginalizes asylum seeker in Epirus region and in Europe by promoting ethnic diversity, solidarity, tolerance for asylum seekers, equality, cultural understanding, and solidarity. As well, the project promoted intercultural cooperation, built experiences and capacities of all involved partner organisations and, importantly, increased competences and future employability possibilities of the young people directly and indirectly involved in the project.
From a longer term perspective, the project aimed to support and improve the daily activities of our organisation for asylum seeker children and unaccompanied youth, to increase non-formal education opportunities for asylum seeker children and youth in Epirus region, to promote a fair and positive images of asylum seekers in Epirus and on a wider level, to support the capacity of our organisation, to improve the creativity and intercultural dimension within our organization, and to promote the voluntarism activities of our organisation to an increased amount of young people from our local community in order to raise awareness about asylum seekers and promote participation and solidarity among the local people.
6 young adults participated directly in this project and carried out activities, offering their voluntary contribution on daily basis and helping the organization to reach the project’s aims and objectives. The participants were coming from 4 countries – France, Spain, Italy, and Belgium, staying in Ioannina and volunteering within the scope of the project for periods of 1 to 7 months. They were 19 to 30 years old with an average age of 23 years, coming from diverse backgrounds and bringing various skills and new ideas to our organization.
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: cultural exchange workshops, initiatives related to integration, cooking, volleyball, football, painting, crafting, games of English language learning, musical activities, and dances, watching of movies and discussing, making mechanic structures, biology and physics experiments, making DIY structures, theater games, mathematical riddles, doing a photography project, 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, as well as to face challenges related to covid-19 and other local reality restrictions. 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 a photo exhibition where volunteers capture some moments shared with the unaccompanied asylum seeker minors during their volunteering project, a video documentary about migration where people coming from diverse backgrounds shared their thoughts about migration, and a virtual map that explains the context of several countries from which people are currently feeling. 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 2021 and 2022).
QUOTES FROM VOLUNTEERS
Maewenn from France writes: “I am grateful for the chance I had to meet all these people from all over the world, and for all the moments spent with the unaccompanied minors of the Perama centre. They will remain precious memories. I will remember the laughter shared, the enriching conversations exchanged, the dances and songs learned (yes, I have a whole playlist), the meals we had together and all these mixed languages. "Sharing", I think, is the perfect word to describe what we experienced with the teenagers: powerful moments of exchange. The challenging language barrier did not prevent these moments, and even made the experience more precious: it is amazing to be able to understand someone without words, to enjoy a moment of sharing through laughter, miming and simple looks.”
Gisela from Spain says: “My volunteering has consisted of two things: on the one hand, office work, where we prepared the afternoon activities and worked on a personal project; on the other hand, carrying out non-formal education activities in a center for unaccompanied minor refugee children. Moreover, in my free time, I have had the opportunity to discover the city and to travel around the country, enjoying its gastronomy and landscapes. Thanks to Youth Center of Epirus for giving me the opportunity to have lived such a beautiful experience, from which I take friends and learning, a lot of learning. I leave with a suitcase full of things from different countries and with more intellectual and cultural baggage.”
Dani from Spain shares about his experience: “In these 6 months I have been able to develop as a person and as a professional, learning a lot from my colleagues and, also, the minors, and at the same time I have been able to get to know this wonderful country, learning about its culture and its very important history. I am writing from the airport ready to return to Spain having learned a lot and I can only thank everyone. Thanks to the 10 volunteers I have been able to meet during this time, to all the colleagues in the office and the wonderful working atmosphere, and thanks to the minors for teaching me so much. Thank you for these 6 months!”
Laura from Italy writes: “I had good expectations going into this project, as I have a strong interest for this topic. So, I was excited to experience first-hand how a facility hosting teenage male asylum seekers works and to interact with them on a daily basis. On this account, my experience surpassed my expectations: I had a great time connecting with and learning from the asylum seekers.”
Chiara from Italy shares her memories: “I didn't know that for 5 months, the city Ioannina, the volunteers, and the other wonderful people I met, would become my home and my family. Confronting the reality of the facility, hearing the stories of the guests, and their hopes for the future was a very touching experience for me, and I certainly grew as a person. These months have been really significant for me. I have learned so much about myself and others. I will treasure this magnificent experience forever and I am sure I will meet everyone again, in Greece, Italy or wherever our paths will cross again.”
Alphonse from Belgium writes: “ I loved my job which consisted on the one hand in organizing cultural and sporting activities and supervising circus activities. Indeed, an American NGO came one month to teach circus to young refugees. We helped them to supervise the activities and even the simple fact of discovering the circus was a unique experience. On the other hand, I also had a personal project which was the co-organization of a photography exhibition. I took photos of the young people for a few days and before my departure, we printed our photos with Chiara, another volunteer, and put them on the street. It was a great opportunity for me to show the work done for over a month. I found my job very interesting and the fact of spending a few hours a day talking and sharing moments with young refugees was something very nice, very enriching and I must say that I also learned a lot with them. I also liked the fact of being able to communicate in French (my language) with some refugees and sometimes to do French-English translations when it was necessary. ”
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.