Laura, Chiara, and Alphonse joined ESC voluntarism project in Ioannina, at our organisation Youth Center of Epirus. 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 asylum seeker integration related themes. Below, you can read her testimony and see photos of her experience in Ioannina!
The activity is part of the project "Agios Athanasios" which is supported by the European Commission and is under the European Solidarity Corps programme.
In March, I participated in an ESC Volunteering project called “Agios Athanasios Asylum Seeker Accommodation Facility”, which was implemented in Ioannina, Greece.
The main objectives of this project revolved around the well-being and integration of unaccompanied asylum seekers. One part of the activities was focused on planning and performing non-formal educational activities for the hosts of the facility, while the second part consisted in creating digital content on the issue of migration.
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.
I and the other volunteers planned non-formal educational activities: the main idea was to create activities that could help them develop a skill by doing something engaging as a group game, making bracelets or even playing football.
It was also important to me to give a strong contribution to their integration into European society, so I developed an activity that would teach them how to recognise traffic road signs and rules.
I also had a wonderful experience with the host country: Greece. Coming from the South of Italy, I felt there was little to no difference in how Italians and Greeks experience life and culture. At the same time, I was able to appreciate the countless influences coming from Eastern and Middle Eastern culture: especially the food!
Even thought my experience was brief, I appreciated the time spent there, because I was able to hone my English and Arabic-speaking skills and learn how to plan and perform educational activities and games. Finally, I continued to develop intercultural communication abilities and I reinforced my interest for the topic of migration and the difficulties experienced by asylum seekers when entering the European Union.
When I decided to participate in this program with the European Solidarity Corps, I had no expectations of how my life would be in the following months. I just wanted to challenge myself by doing something new, with the hope of making a small contribution to a good cause.
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.
So many things happened in these 5 months, but at every moment, I felt the support of the other volunteers and all the staff at the Youth Center. I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity and for the people I met, who I will always carry in my heart.
I will truly miss the life in Ioannina, the mornings starting with a Freddo espresso and ending with a tsipouro, the funny characters of the city, the conversations about life sitting by the lake, the road trips and many more other things.
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.
I arrived in Ioannina after a long day of travel. As soon as I arrived I was integrated into the volunteer team but also in the office where George and Marta made me feel at home and also safe.
The city of Ioannina is a lovely city, not big enough to get lost in but there is always something happening there. I personally enjoyed the concerts.
Being from Belgium, I felt here directly on vacation with the culture shock. Greece is a great country especially for food and landscapes. I stayed in Ioannina for less than 2 months so I didn't have time to get bored. For example, I was on the island of Ioannina, cycled around the lake and we went with Georges to the beach with the other volunteers.
The atmosphere was quite nice and calm between the volunteers and I had the chance to learn a lot with them about their cultures and their life experiences. It was quite enriching for me as a young adult to meet different people at all levels. I think this experience is also enriching because it brings together young volunteers from different countries.
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.
I will never forget the people I met here and the many nights out in the bars of Ioannina.
Efcharistó pára pára polý
This project was co-funded by the European Commission.