This summer GEAI sent two volunteers to sunny Xylokastro, Greece, through the European Solidarity Corps Programme (ESC). The ESC is a fantastic opportunity entirely funded by the European Union that allows young people to volunteer for a short or long period of time abroad. It is the perfect chance to do something good for the community and, at the same time, live in a foreign country and meet new people.
To have this beautiful experience, this year, were Huck and Tanisha, two youngsters from Co. Leitrim. Xylokastro is a lively town on the Greek coast, 100 km from Athens. The hosting organisation is Orfeas, which has hosted ESC volunteers for over 15 years and is one of GEAI’s Partners for the ESC Programme. The volunteers took care of the local environment, cleaning the forest, the beach and the local park. Tanisha and Huck had the time of their life there. Let’s look at what they said in their own words. Let me introduce them to you.
“I had an amazing time as a volunteer in Greece. I had many new experiences and opportunities to learn Greek and about life there ‘Σιγά σιγά’ (siga siga) which means “slowly slowly”.
As soon as we arrived there, we were greeted straight away by the other volunteers who showed us around the town of Ξυλόκαστρο (Xylokastro) and to the apartment where we would stay. I was very happy to meet everyone straight away though it took a little while to remember everyone’s name. After seeing our apartment, we were taken straight to the beach to go for a swim.”
(…) We had to keep the forest, streets and beaches clean of rubbish and leaves. And sometimes in the evenings before sunset when it had cooled down Νίκος (Nikos) our supervisor brought us to plant flowers in the squares or around the churches. He was a very funny guy and very nice to work with he always had positive energy when he greeted everyone every morning with “καλημέρα τι κάνεις? (Good morning, how are you?)”.
(…) We took Greek classes while we were there and I quickly learned how to ask for food and drinks in the bars and ταβέρνας (tavern) and Γιανιαπολους (the take away downstairs) I bought so many pitas downstairs and I would go back to Greece again just for the pita gyros without a doubt.
We were given a holiday in August which we took with the longterm volunteers staying there to go on a road trip through Central Greece. We went to Δελφοι (Delphi), Ιουνιανα, Μέτσοβο (Metsovo), Μετεωρα (Meteora) and Θεσσαλονίκη (Thessaloniki) the second biggest city in Greece. (…) It was a great experience, the mountain towns were beautiful and the scenery on the hikes looked so much like something out of the hobbit or Lord of the Rings.
It was an amazing experience I had in Xylokastro and I have already recommended it to so many people since coming back.”
“My time as a volunteer in Greece has been an experience and a half! There were definitely many ups and only a couple of downs that I can think of! It really made me appreciate being a European citizen by being granted the right to be there!
First thought when I arrived in Greece was how beautiful the sea is. And how hot the air was! It was a complete 360 from being in Ireland. I was very tired from all the traveling so I was just waiting to wake up from this amazing dream!
(…) Living in a flat with two others was strange but cool. (…) We had a new lifestyle in the flat, we adapted some of the Greek “siga siga” culture but we also had to abide by the French eating habits.
While working, we also took part in Greek classes. I really enjoyed these classes as they made living in Greece a lot easier. Because Xylokastro is a small rural city, it’s common for the locals not to know English but between the broken English and the broken Greek, we always found a solution (Thanks google translate!!).
Nearly every day we went to the beach and swam in the sea with the fish. Every evening I would go for a walk and watch the sunset and appreciate the beautiful blue waters.
Eliana and Eva (from Orfeas Organisation) are two amazing women who I respect and admire very much. The way they approach certain situations and the fact that you always know they’re there for you is extremely reassuring. The long-term volunteers are such an amazing bunch of people I’m very happy to call my friends. I learned so much and also took some of their ways home with me. I was taught many new card games including 7’s, Calcutta, train … We also held regular dinners and BBQs and learned how to cook Greek food. Many delicious pittas were eaten during our stay!
I’d honestly recommend this experience to everyone. Especially those who want to make a difference in their lives. You need to have the mindset that when you are required to work, you work, but apart from that, it’s like a holiday! People need to realise that there’s more to life than school – college – work – 2 week holiday once a year. It was and is a privilege to be a part of this programme.”
The last day
On the last day of their volunteering, Orfeas organised an event to promote the ESC Programme to the local community , through the experience of the same volunteers.
Author: Simona Fondate