As part of our Greek America Corps summer 2020 volunteer programs, we are leading a group of volunteers to serve on Karpathos and Kasos, two of the most remote islands in the Aegean. Both of these islands are plagued by a persistent animal welfare problem due to overpopulation, lack of a well-designed veterinary care program […]
Greek America Corps 2019
Summer 2019 With METAdrasi in Chios
Our 2019 program on the island of Chios marked the Greek American Foundation’s second Greek America Corps program (formerly known as Service Learning), and it followed the model we began in 2017: a month-long experience volunteering with refugee children in a structured environment and in partnership with a respected Greek non-profit organization.
Sixteen young adult volunteers from the U.S. and Canada had a transformative experience working diligently alongside a dedicated team of professionals from our partners at METAdrasi, who — among numerous other activities — are dedicated to supporting refugee minors who have arrived in Greece alone.
The group offered their time and talents to support METAdrasi and to help bring a bit of humanity to one of the most vulnerable population groups on the planet.
At METAdrasi’s shelter in Chios town, volunteers handled everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, painting and maintenance to make the shelter more of a home. They also engaged the children in lessons and activities on various topics including personal hygiene, computer skills, English language, music, yoga and meditation.
In addition to supporting the shelter, a separate team of volunteers with experience in pedagogy served as teachers at METAdrasi’s education center outside the VIAL refugee camp. Their important work gave young refugees the opportunity to learn Greek, English and other subjects such as mathematics.
Our volunteers also took METAdrasi’s children on numerous excursions throughout Chios island. These excursions included beach days, visits to historic villages, soccer matches and a bowling party, among others.
Such activities formed an important part of the program, as they allowed the volunteers to develop meaningful bonds with the children while encouraging them to be active.
Through their own fundraising campaign and their desire to leave a bit of themselves behind after leaving, the volunteers also raised nearly $2,400 to provide critical supplies for METAdrasi’s shelter.
The supplies included household necessities such as a new refrigerator, shoe cabinets, a large metal storage unit, new wood to fix dressers and three months of frozen pita bread — all of which improve the everyday lives of the children inhabiting the shelter. The funds also provided a €190 gas certificate for METAdrasi’s van — which its staff use to transport children on a daily basis.
Aside from their work, the volunteers had various opportunities to immerse themselves in everyday Greek culture and learn first-hand about contemporary Greece.
They visited the Mastic Museum and medieval villages and attended local “panegyria,” traditional festivals in celebration of Greek Orthodox saints, where they enjoyed Greek food and dance.
One of the highlights of the group’s excursions was the visit to Izmir, Turkey — formerly the thriving Greek city of Smyrna. The trip was life-changing in and of itself for some and provided a unique experience for the volunteers, who were taken on a guided tour throughout the city’s important historical areas from which hundreds of thousands of refugees fled for their lives nearly 100 years ago.
The team was guided by resident and Greek-American expatriate Chrysovalantis Stamelos, a teacher and filmmaker who has made the city his home after his own journey there to discover his ancestral roots. Stamelos was also supported by the Greek America Foundation in 2012 when he completed his documentary film “Hello Anatolia.”
We thank George and Kristin Strompolos for their generous support of this program that funded four volunteer scholarships. We also thank Linda and Jim Reilly of Rochester, NY and the Estate of the late Gerard P. Hendy of North Bend, Ohio for their generous support of this program. We are also grateful to Pro Travel International, our travel partners, for providing flights for our staff.
Harrison, 19, Asheville, NC
This program for me personally was a life-changer. I think it has really defined who I am and what I want to do with the rest of my life. I think the people I worked with are great. They’re phenomenal. Everybody really poured their heart and soul into this project and into the kids.
Ahileas, 24, Philadelphia, PA
I would say that this program has been one of the most important steps I’ve taken in my life… It’s kind of motivated me a little bit more to want to offer my services to the world and to offer help to those who are less fortunate – to those who need it.
Olivia, 21, Louisville, CO
These programs matter because it is so educating for our young people… Sometimes it’s easy to think that I’m the only one that wants to help and wants to do something to change things. But here I am with a group of people my age that all feel the same way and all want to do something to impact those around them.
Bruno, 25, Rochester, NY
I’m immensely grateful for this opportunity. It has exceeded my expectations and therefore I do believe that, in the future, I would like to become a benefactor of this program or something that does similar work because I do believe that — the opportunity that I’m having right now — many others should have… Whatever experiences I’ve had thus far and what I’m taking here are going to make me a more responsible and more accountable citizen of my community, of my country and of the world.
Hayden, 22, Dallas, TX
I’ve always been aware of the privilege of my background. But being aware of it and being motivated to use that privilege to do something are two very different things. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m going to go home and have some level of purpose beyond just being a college kid.
Heather, 23, Southampton, NY
This program has given me an education that simply cannot be taught in a classroom. After five years of attending undergraduate and graduate school, I knew something was still missing… While my path isn’t exactly clear moving forward, this program has allowed me to realize that my passion for helping those in need exists as strongly as ever.
Nicholas, 22, Chandler, AZ
I have zero regrets about taking this kind of leap of faith and joining the program. It’s been just an amazing opportunity, life-changing and extremely humbling and I would encourage anyone who is even remotely thinking about it to go for it.
Paul, 26, Chicago, IL
I think these programs are very, very beneficial to open the eyes of the youth to be able to bring these experiences back to their communities and back to their towns and spread the message of ‘philanthropia,’ and to be a good person and to help — to give to those less fortunate.
Elaina, 20, Ontario, CA
Having the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of volunteers has truly been a life changing experience. Working with volunteers from all backgrounds and personalities with a focus on this united cause to help these kids be kids, even for a moment, allowed our group of volunteers to quickly become a family.
Nicole, 24, Orlando, FL
I think this program teaches you to have empathy and compassion for people who might not be similar to you, who might be coming from a different place and who might have a different background or different ethnicity or religion than you.
Why this program?
Offering young adults in our community the opportunity to transform themselves while serving others — and supporting Greece — is a pivotal ideal of the Greek America Foundation.
Since we launched our first summer volunteer program in 2017, dozens of students and young professionals have had life-changing experiences offering their time and talents to humanitarian causes in Greece
Our goal is to continue this program for years to come in order to ensure that more young people have such life-enriching opportunities — and to continue spreading values of philanthropy, volunteerism and service.
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