Bahaa from Jordan joined a ESC voluntarism program in Ioannina, at our organisation, Youth Center of Epirus. His main activities were to help to run the youth center, offer montly activities to young adults (18 - 30 years old), plan and manage small scale events (discussion topics, workshops etc) and work on online content creation especially related to the people and culture of the city and region of Epirus. Below, you can read some of his testimonies and see photos of his experience in Ioannina!


Returning to Ioannina for the second time felt like coming home. I was back at the Youth Center of Epirus, a place that had already given me so many unforgettable memories. This time, I was determined to dive even deeper into the experience, armed with the familiarity of the town, the faces, and the rhythms of life here.


From the moment I arrived, Ioannina welcomed me with its usual charm. The narrow cobbled streets, the serene lake, and the imposing castle walls all seemed to whisper, "Welcome back." But it wasn’t long before I encountered the first of many amusing situations. I decided to impress the locals with my newly learned Greek phrases. Armed with confidence, I walked into a café and ordered a Freddo Espresso Sketo in Greek. I also said "without sugar" in English.


My time in Ioannina was filled with deep, emotional connections. One of the most touching experiences was participating in the "Meet Our Neighbors" event. This gathering brought together people from diverse backgrounds to share stories, food, and traditions. Listening to the heartfelt stories of others and sharing my own journey created a profound sense of unity and understanding. It was a powerful reminder of our shared humanity and the bonds we can form despite our differences.


Working at the Youth Center, I found myself taking on more responsibilities and challenges. Organizing events like the "Green Corners" initiative and "Cleanup Day" gave me a sense of purpose. There was something incredibly fulfilling about seeing the tangible impact of our efforts on the community. One memorable day involved cleaning up a local park. Armed with gloves, trash bags, and an unbreakable spirit, our team worked tirelessly. The transformation was incredible, and the gratitude from the locals was heartwarming.


Of course, no adventure is complete without its share of misadventures. During a hike to Smolikas (the second highest mountain in Greece), I confidently started the hike with a group of fellow volunteers, armed with what I thought was a good knowledge of hiking and camping. By midday, it became apparent that my hiking skills were somewhat lacking. I got super tired in the middle of the mountain, with no energy left. But instead of panic, laughter ensued, and the volunteers cheered me up to make it to the top. We went to a river afterward and spent the afternoon swimming and sharing stories. It was an unexpected detour that became one of the most memorable parts of my stay. Sharing the apartment with these people was amazing and really fun. We shared a lot of food, drinks, sweets, stories, and many inside jokes. Everyone was really easygoing and kind-hearted. I want to sincerely thank them from the bottom of my heart for all the moments we shared and for making my stay more interesting.


Coming every day to the Youth Center of Epirus was really fun and full of laughter. I want to take a moment to thank them so much for the support they showed and the confidence they put in me because they already knew me. They gave me another chance to enjoy three months in this great environment. I really want to thank them one by one for the effort they made and for supporting us with everything during our stay. Everyone in the YC Epirus was super helpful and supportive.


As my almost three months in Ioannina drew to a close, I was filled with a mix of emotions. Leaving behind the friends I had made, the places that had become so familiar, and the routines that had shaped my days was difficult. But I also felt a profound sense of gratitude. This second journey had deepened my connection to Ioannina and its people, and it had taught me so much about resilience, community, and the joy of unexpected adventures. Leaving Ioannina, I carried with me not just memories but lessons that would stay with me forever. I had laughed, I had learned, and most importantly, I had grown. As I’m leaving in one week, I know that this isn’t a final goodbye. Ioannina had become a part of me, and I would carry its spirit with me wherever I went. And who knows? Perhaps a third visit awaits, filled with even more laughter, learning, and love.

This project was co-funded by the European Commission.