Martha, in the frame of European Voluntary Service program (EVS) offered 6 months of volunteering work at ELIX during our project “EN.SU.RE. Inclusion - Enhanced Support for Refugee Inclusion” with the financial support of the European Commission.
“Athens in (my) world,
It’s August and I am about to leave this beautiful country soon, but not before having plenty of Greece vacation this month, that Greek people flee the cities to fill up their vitamin D storage on any island.
One year ago, I came to Athens after graduating from highschool to do a voluntary service that I had been looking forward to during every study session of the last months.
Coming to Greece for me was not a coincidence; I had chosen it specifically because my grandmother was born on a Greek island and I had always blamed my mother for not getting me in touch with the culture and language. So I decided it was time to start this mission myself. But this was not where my journey with ELIX began; for the first six months I had served another voluntary service in a Greek school. Soon it was February and I was supposed to go home, and the only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to go home. This couldn't finish here, I was not yet ready.
More spontaneous than anything I found out about ELIX and asked if they had any possibility to host me as a volunteer. And I was the luckiest girl when they told me, after meeting me, that in fact they did have a free spot. Dear potential volunteer reading this, please don’t think this is the regular way to become a volunteer. It was head over heels and I had an immense stroke of luck (so, if you have the chance, come for a whole year, trust my experience ;)).
In March, my life changed seemingly little and actually a lot. I was still living in the same area, just 50m away from my previous room but with different flatmates and I was still a volunteer, just in a different project.
I assisted in the non-formal English classes for students with refugee backgrounds, that were taught in one of ELIX’s projects; the „Learning for the integration Project“ supported by UNICEF and funded by the European Commission (DG ECHO). This means that the lessons often revolve around a certain topic like human rights or maybe something as simple as clothing. They always involve intercultural learning and exchange and always, without exception, they are fun and teachers and students laugh together. Here, the lessons are something to enjoy.
I spend a lot of time the youth center that ELIX has created, the „P^2 multispace“ that offers and organizes intercultural activities like kickboxing, capoeira, computer, photography or music classes. Here, I gained an insight of the organization and communication that makes a welcoming space like this possible. And, more importantly, it is where I got in touch with the students outside of the class.
As part of my personal projects, I created the outline for „teaching sustainability“ project, that I had the chance to present to the ELIX teachers and saw its first implementations. I was very glad that I could work on a topic as relevant as sustainability, especially in Greece where I found little awareness towards climate change in general.
Another part of my experiences in ELIX was when I became a camp leader in a summer work camp with disabled children. Being a campleader means being responsible for the volunteers arriving from all over the world. The mornings were spent with the children and the afternoons and weekends were dedicated to getting to know all the other volunteers, cooking, relaxing, doing trips and exploring the area together. The work camp was a very intense experience for me, both thanks to the children and the leading position that I had never been in before.
Not everything always felt happy or light or easy for any matter. But I was always grateful.
I got to know a country that I love and it's annoying parts too. I got to know my two lovely flatmates who were soon to become good friends. I got to know the people behind ELIX; teachers, social workers, translators and managers, all of who put 100% of their energy and personality in their work with the constant aspiration to teach, to create, to assist, to companion. I got to know the students who have been more to me than I could have imagined. I got to know a system and Greece’s role in it and the enormous importance of non-governmental-organisations like ELIX.
I learned things from all the different topics of life and about myself and these are things that I am convinced without a doubt that will continue to shape and guide me, now that I finally say goodbye and when I sit at home studying again and for the rest of whatever might come.
["The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein."]