Katia from Ukraine and Arthur and Juliette from France joined ESC voluntarism project in Ioannina, at our organisation Youth Center of Epirus. Each of them stayed for up to 6 months of service; their main activities were to plan, prepare and implement recreational activities and psycho-social monitoring for asylum seeker children and teenagers, to lead weekly cultural and language activities for young local adults, to assist other activities of our organisation and work on their own projects/activities in relation to the aims of our organisation. Below, you can read their testimonies and see photos of their experience in Ioannina!
Their activity was part of the project "Positive impact on community of Ioannina" which is supported by the European Commission and is under the European Solidarity Corps programme.
“I have written lots of motivation letters for volunteering projects. When you answer this motivation question in your head, you start dreaming about a big wonderful trip. You write typical phrases about new friends and experiences, but I would say that you never know what is waiting for you there.
For me it was a beautiful town and all the Greece I could reach. Several people who I could laugh so much with, I learnt their stories and loved them. Every time I think about them I wish we meet again and go to see a sunset or share a meal, play cards or just hug them.
My lovely organization Youth Center of Epirus. Not everything was very accurate there, done in time or done at all sometimes😅. But I realize that most volunteering organizations are like this. Only after meeting volunteers from other organizations I learnt that I am pretty lucky with mine, that it’s actually different from others. These people cared about me and were ready to help always! And that’s what was important for me. From the first moment, volunteers of the Youth Center didn’t let me feel for a minute that I am “alone in a foreign country”. With a great help of my friend and mentor Sotiris of course!
I leant important things there:
- To be initiative. If you want to do something - don’t wait for a push. You should push and act!
- To love myself. Meeting people who loved me, told me that I am a great, hard working, beautiful, special person made me feel much more confident.
- Not to be afraid to ask for help.
- Self reliance. Travelling alone gave me all that confidence to feel that I can stay alone and feel good anywhere. That I will adjust and find how to spend this time nice. That I will find my way out of the situation.
There are many other projects I would prefer to go because I know I could get there more professional skills that I am interested in. But these 6 months brought me to the moment where I am now, made me a person I am now, gave me friends I would never met and, I believe, without this experience I wouldn’t have gotten my dream job that I am at now. I would never change this experience to anything else.”
"My name is Juliette, I spent 6 months in Ioannina as a volunteer for the Youth Center of Epirus. I came to Greece after one call with the organization, knowing almost nothing of Greece, of the greek way of life. I was just an 18 years old girl with a very blurred view of my future. I just knew I wanted to do something different, something that I found useful.
So I took the first flight to Greece, and here I was, in Ioannina, for the next 6 months of my life, spending my time with kids in a "refugee camp". I learned a lot with them. At one point they start telling you what they've been trough and even if I was aware of what was happening in their former countries, it's always hard to imagine what they lived and it actually took me time to realize it. This kids had such an impact on me when I look back on it.
So, I was going to the "camp" almost every afternoon, and I was teaching a French lesson once a week to greek students. I lived in an awesome apartment, we all had a room, it was big, full of light, so warming, but I believe it has something to do with the people living in it, so thanks to all my roomies. We were given 300 euros per month for food and pocket money, so if you manage well, you can travel a lot (if you hitchhike and do couch-surfing).
As a 6 months volunteer I had the chance the participate at two trainings, one “on arrival training” in Volos, and a “mid-term training” in Xanthi, where I could meet many other volunteers based in Greece. These 6 months gave me the opportunity to travel so much in Greece, to visit so many places, to meet so many people, to make dear friends. This was, for now, the best decision I took.
If every experience changes you, makes you grow, some hits more than others….
Thanks to everyone who's been a part of this. "
My name is Arthur, 28 years old, from Pau. I recently carried out a European Solidarity Corps mission in Greece and I would like to share with you my experience.
First of all, thanks to the sending organisation Solidarity tracks based in Pau, I was able to fly to Greece to the hosting organisation of Youth Center of Epirus based in Ioannina in Greece. The duration of my volunteering service lasted 6 months.
My main mission was to design arts, sports and cultural activities for refugee children. It aimed to promote social inclusion, and share moments of recreation and offer them non-formal education so that they can learn, develop and also to express their creativity.
The refugee camp is based in Ioannina, in Agia Eleni and it was managed by an Italian humanitarian NGO Intersos which is responsible for the management of the camp. Intersos is also present in conflict zones and provides protection and humanitarian and health logistics for populations in need, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.
Within the camp, a team of professionals is responsible for monitoring people who stay there, help them in their asylum-seeking procedures and guarantee their security and access to care. The camp welcomes people from populations at risk, like people who have faced wars or have been threatened by the regime of their countries.
My other activities at the host association were French and guitar lessons for local young adults. How did I proceed with the classes? In order for them to be creative and original, we used games and music which was a good way to stimulate listening. Obviously, it was far from simple. Each week was a real challenge.
Sometimes we organised events at the adult youth center, for the people of association, the regular members and more. With the help of the other volunteers, we planned some evening parties like a movie evening or board games evening, greek cultural night, Greek epiphany Vassilopita night and Christmas Party.
This trip has changed me a lot and especially with a new way of looking at the world. It is not a simple project but rather a choice of life, which allowed me to realize myself and exceed my limits. Before leaving, I felt a little lost and I needed to find a cause to defend and it was a good choice, a great experience, which I would gladly recommend to young people wishing to live an adventure full of surprises. Today, I feel more peaceful and more confident and I thank all the actors who allowed me to benefit from this project without which, I could not have changed my condition.
Thank you Pistes-solidaires for this support. Thanks also to the Youth Center of Epirus team who welcomed me.
"In life, you always have to trust your instincts and I am proud of it for having accomplished a great journey that conveyed strong human values"
My opinion on Greece?
A country with architectural and geological heritage, of breathtaking beauty. A country that has survived the ages, conflicts and fought for independence in 1830. Today it is a nation united, warm with the hand on the heart. Obviously, everything is not perfect in Greece, there is a huge delay in everything concerning the ecology because the infrastructures are expensive and Greece does not have the budget of France or Germany. Today, it is going through a new migration crisis, and Europe must act and respond.
During this trip, I was able to learn about the country's culture, customs and even the history of the country which allowed me to understand the evolution of the country. It is a country at the crossroads of the West and the East where several nations have rubbed shoulders. Assessment of positive volunteering with new perspectives, in particular in the search for training or a professional contract allowing me to be able to build social-cultural projects. Today, for me, it is important to support communities and propose solidarity actions.
This project was co-funded by the European Commission.