Marta from Spain, Aurore from France, Rakos from Germany and Joseph from Denmark joined ESC voluntarism project in Ioannina, at our organisation Youth Center of Epirus. Each of them completed around 7 months of service; their main activities were to implement recreational and non-formal educational activities for asylum seeker children and teenagers, and to work on digital content creation on social issues and cultural themes. Below, you can read some of their testimonies and see photos, video of their experience in Ioannina!
Their activity was part of the project "Volunteering at Youth Center of Epirus" which is supported by the European Commission and is under the European Solidarity Corps programme.
“Hey ! I’m a French volunteer from Aix-en-Provence who decide to do this European Solidarity Corps at the Youth Center of Epirus in Ioannina, my first international volunteering !
2020 was a very difficult year for everyone, but this opportunity came to me…. I was very thankful for this, it was a real relief to travel and discover a new country, a new city and to be useful in an association. So, despite the pandemic I can say that I spend 7 amazing months!
This volunteering was very enriching. I was ready to share, give and help others, and finally I learned a lot about myself and I have now my mind full of happy memories! I learned Greek, I discover the local culture and share it though the contents creation, I visited the region like the Island of Ioannina, some villages around Ioannina like Metsovo, or the amazing mountainous landscape of Zagori, I tried of lot of local food and the local alcohol, I drink the famous Greek coffee and the “Freddo Espresso”, I met wonderful persons among the volunteers, the workers and the locals, and I spend Christmas, New Year and my birthday here!
In the work, we faced many challenges because of the pandemic, the lockdown, the changes and the difficulties in the work, in the daily life… But despite that, we managed very well our missions, working in Agios Athanasios with these teenagers was new for me but a very interesting experience, it was a total mixt of culture! These 7 months taught me a lot of personal and professional skills for the future on several levels, I learned creativity, responsibility, open-mindness, to facilitate an activity, self confidence and so many more skills!
And today I am very happy and proud of what we did there. I will never forget this experience! Bye bye Dora and the team, big kiss!!!!"
"Hi, I'm Theo and I am from Germany. The last 8 months I spent in Ioannina Greece as a volunteer thanks to European Solidarity Corps program. My ESC project was really something very interesting for me. Ioannina is a beautiful city in Greece worth visiting and I can honestly say that my time there was perfect. In my hosting organization everyone was very friendly and constantly trying to find the solution to any difficulties that arise and the apartment we lived in was comfortable and I had everything I needed.
The main activities of the program were planning and facilitating non-formal educational activities for asylum seekers, children and youth, and personal online content creation. As my content creation, I made comedy videos talking about some social issues such as freedom of speech and racism, and a presentation video for the asylum seeker accommodation facility “Agios Athanasios”. I also made videos about traditional food of Epirus.
The whole program was an interesting and useful experience for me, it was something I am happy about. I learned and developed new skills, for example, filming and editing videos, met new and interesting people around the world, and of course it was an extraordinary experience to work with children and young people of asylum seekers. Thank you for giving me this opportunity and I hope you continue this great job that you all are doing!
Below you can see one of the videos filmed and edited by me, about Agios Athanasios facility where I volunteered together with other volunteers."
"Hello, my name is Marta and I am currently doing an EVS in Ioannina, a small town in northern Greece.
Every week the volunteers go to a facility where teenagers who have applied for asylum live temporarily. Every day we carry out various activities to make them enjoy and feel more comfortable during their stay in Greece.
It is being a very good experience, since the atmosphere of the place is very positive, both from the young people and from the workers. The attitude of adolescents is admirable, despite the difficult moments that they have passed and even that they are living in the present, they have the great ability to continue forward. It is something that attracts attention.
Before starting the quarantine in Greece, I had the opportunity to do several excursions to the mountains. Ioannina is surrounded by mountains, making it an ideal place for people who are interested in nature and hiking. I am very grateful to be able to live this experience, I would recommend it to everyone. "
"In a city in a corona-enclosed country, I find myself in the apartment I have lived in for the last 6 months. When I arrived in Ioannina, in northwestern Greece, in late September 2020, I did not think that I would experience a new shutdown in a foreign country. I had had to enjoy the restaurants, meet many people and hike in the mountains that surround this small town, and although my expectations were far from being met, I have enjoyed every month.
I have spent the past six months working primarily in a residential center for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. The residence center is called Agios Athanasios and it is located far from the city, up in the mountains. All of the asylum seekers were boys between the ages of 12 and 17, who most of the time could not go to the school or exit the environment they lived in - the corona restrictions meant that usually they could not get to Ioannina town. Despite this, and despite the fact that we as volunteers at the center were aware of what situation they were in, they never stopped surprising me. They were often happy, cheerful, full of energy and motivation. A desire to learn, play, play and dream like any teenager - refugees or not. My tasks consisted primarily of facilitating non-formal educational activities in topics that included sports, food, culture, dance, language, geography, history, art, communication, nature and planting. Tasks that could be demanding and complicated at times. But it often felt as easy as a game - importantly, we as volunteers could not teach them academic subjects or help the staff at the center. So, if we could contribute to their learning with our activities this was great, but if we could contribute to them having a good day - then you can not wish for more.
My time here in Greece, like any stay abroad - be it a holiday of 2 weeks or a longer stay of several months - has given me the opportunity to experience and get to know a new culture. Get to know a new language and a different way of living and working. But even though there is a lot of "new" - one of the things I'm stunned a lot about is how similar we all are in the end. Whether it's the young Afghan refugee in the mountains, my French colleague, or the old Greek cheese shop owner around the corner.
When I arrived, the new wave of pandemics had already had consequences for the project I was to take part in. Things changed all the time and in the confusion between work, new people, a new language, a new place and the corona, I felt overwhelmed and it quickly turned into a disappointment that it was not at all as I imagined it would be. But it is when you are disappointed and forget the expectations you came with that you can really enjoy what is actually there. I have spent over half a year with ups and downs - but here at the end of this journey I look back on everything I experienced, all the people I have met, and all the things I did. I remember something a stranger told me on the street: Honey is not made from a single flower. He tried to tell me how we all - through everything we do and everyone we meet - collect a bit of "pollen", and here the end of this experience I feel like I have made a sweet honey. All of a sudden, this man, whose name I never got, was able to sum up the half year I spent in Ioannina town. An unforgettable, educational trip to this city, I will probably return one day. Hopefully."
This project was co-funded by the European Commission.