The ESC voluntarism project was carried out by the AMKE YC Epirus for 13 months, from February 2021 until February 2022, in Ioannina.
AIMS OF THE PROJECT
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.
12 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 Portugal, staying in Ioannina and volunteering within the scope of the project for periods of 2 to 7 months. They were 19 to 30 years old with an average age of 23 years old, 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, which provides the teenagers with accommodation, care taking, legal and health support, formal education support, psychological and other types of support and services, is located in the mountainous rural area of Zagori. 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: cooking, yoga, football, slacklining, painting, crafting, hiking, games of English language learning, musical activities and dances, gardening, watching of movies and discussing, making mechanic structures, biology and physics experiments, making DIY structures such as solar oven and birdfeeders, tie dye workshops with tote bags and t-shirts, astronomic learning and observations, 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 booklet guide of human trafficking and its connection to refugees, a video guide about unaccompanied minors process of asylum seeking in Greece, an article about asylum seekers with disabilities, a guide regarding LGBTQ+ refugees, a collection of poems about migration, a photography exhibition about young asylum seekers time of waiting, a guide for asylum seekers on how to improve social skills and address social challenges in their host country, an article about arts in “refugee camps” and it’s benefits, short podcast series about asylum seeker and refugee situation in Ioannina, an informative article about being a women under Taliban rule, an article in many languages to mark International Translation Day and note the importance of translators in the work with asylum seekers, an article about the role of sports in social integration, and other smaller online projects. 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
Marta from Italy writes: “Even though it wasn't my first experience of non-formal education with teenagers, it has been definitely a challenge as much as a fulfilling experience. The language barrier, their temporary stay and hence the turnover, the delicate 'teenage' combined with a tough background pushed me (and my fellow volunteers) to find alternative and creative ways to catch their attention and interest. Once you reach that, your path is more or less smooth and it allows you to grasp precious pieces of information: does he like sport? Was he a straight-A student in Maths back in Afghanistan or the captain of his cricket team? Does he like to draw or dance? Does he have amazing manual skills? It also gives you a great chance to learn from them!”
Gaya from Italy says: “Every day here is an emotional and creative storm, the desire to do and the enthusiasm are many, and ideas crowd my head, fervent by a renewed vital drive. With every smile of the boys, my heart bursts with joy and love, the real one, bringing to mind the reason why I am in this land so ancient, primordial, archaic mother of the West. … I believe my work here in Ioannina is so intense and profound that I find myself thinking that perhaps it is the only really important thing I've ever done. Whenever I'm lucky enough to be able to emotionally connect with guys, I also rediscover myself. I see in them the embodiment of hope, titanic strength, vulnerability, visceral attachment to life.”
Adan from France shares about his experience: “I improved a lot my English skills. I also improved my creativity because we had to make new activities about non-formal education every week. In addition, I ameliorate my ability to organize because we, the volunteers, were in charge to search for activity ideas and to make the planning of the afternoon at the facility with the young teenager’s. I discovered the Greek culture, by tasting traditional food and by meeting local people. At the same time, I discovered the Arabic culture since I was sharing most of my time with refugees from this background.”
Sara from Spain writes: “The role as a volunteer is precious because you accompany and promote with distraction and entertainment; It's fundamental. Help them to have their minds in the clouds, to stay busy and get a running start; so that one day they can fly with all their strength: free, determined and without fear. It is enriching to be with them in that imagination and in that game, to be present and get involved body and soul. … Make a more humane and more beautiful world with social involvement. Thanks for what I learned, I hope I have left a grain of myself there.”
David from Spain shares his memories: “We, as volunteers, teached them many things: how to do macrame, arts and crafts, slackline, gardening, scientific experiments, we also did a night of stars, we did sports ... but we also learned many things from them, they taught us new ways of doing the activities that we prepared for them, but most importantly that taught us humility and other values, such as being happy without having anything. … In the house I lived with other volunteers from different countries, some of them became part of my family. We cooked together, laughed together, cried together, and spent quality time doing thousands of things together. We also "adopted" street cats in our garden and feed them daily. … The Greek language has been a great challenge for my first few weeks as I had no prior knowledge, but I started to learn and eventually came to know how to strike up a conversation in my everyday life when I was shopping or ordering something in a cafe or restaurants. About Greece I was able to go to many different places and I was fascinated by the beaches, the seas, the islands, the forests, nature, all the animals that I saw in nature, the towns and cities like Athens or ancient Olympia, which make you travel in the time.”
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 approved for funding and supported by the Youth and Lifelong Learning Foundation (I.NE.DI.VI.M.).
This project was co-funded by the European Commission.