Today may seem like just another average day, but for the Greek America Foundation’s volunteers, who are on the Greek island of Chios serving unaccompanied refugee minors — it’s more than that. While some volunteers are at a school — operated by our partner charity METAdrasi — offering basic education to the children… Others have […]
Service Learning 2019
Summer 2019 With METAdrasi in Chios
Our 2019 program follows 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. Our goal in 2019 is to support refugee children on the island of Chios through recreational and educational activities during the month of July.
Sixteen scholarships have been offered to young people to participate in this program; scholarships cover lodging, program expenses including excursions, transportation within Chios and partial meals. See below for the full program details.
PLEASE NOTE: THE APPLICATION PERIOD FOR THIS PROGRAM HAS ENDED
Partners & Location
In 2019 our partners are METAdrasi: METAdrasi – Action for Migration and Development is a Greek NGO founded in 2010 that helps facilitate the reception and integration of refugees and immigrants in Greece. It is focused on services not covered by the Public Authorities or other NGOs in Greece. METAdrasi operates mainly in the following two sectors: interpretation services and the protection of unaccompanied children. Read more about the important work of METAdrasi.
Our volunteer group will work at the METAdrasi facilities on the island of Chios. In Chios METAdrasi operates non-formal educational activities for children inside the refugee camps and those living in METAdrasi shelters. The Greek America Foundation team will assist the METAdrasi teachers, caregivers and psychologists in organizing recreational and educational activities for the refugee children under METAdrasi’s care.
Program Dates & Description
- The 2019 Service Learning Program will commence on Chios island on July 1, 2019 with an informal arrival and registration, and check in at the hotel. Program participants MUST be on Chios island on July 1, 2019 without exception. The program will conclude on July 31, 2019. Participants should plan to depart Chios on July 31, 2019.
- Our program will begin with an orientation on July 2. Participants will learn about the current state of the refugee crisis in Greece; the detention, asylum and integration conditions for refugees in Greece and Europe; the day-to-day reality of refugees in Greece; the particular needs of refugee children; and best practices for working with refugee children. Over the course of the program, we will also learn about the history of Chios.
- Volunteers will work closely with METAdrasi staff and under their supervision. Our volunteer locations will be METAdrasi’s educational, recreational and unaccompanied minor shelter facilities in Chios town as well as public recreational and cultural facilities (beaches, parks, sports fields, museums and cultural sites). We will also make several supervised visits to the VIAL refugee camp.
- Ordinarily, volunteers will work weekdays for 4-6 hours per day with the children and the METAdrasi staff. Our volunteers will provide education, enrichment and friendship through arts, cultural, recreational and skills-based activities. Volunteers may also be asked to support the METAdrasi team with basic administrative and maintenance projects such as meal planning and preparation, cleaning and beautification of common spaces and routine child care needs.
- We have planned weekend excursions to the beaches, villages, museums and sites of Chios, as well as an excursion to Smyrna in Turkey, where participants will have the opportunity to experience and learn the rich history of this city.
- Our group will be led by an experienced team from the Greek America Foundation (see below for program leader bio). There will be group activities such as meals, weekly and daily team meetings and social gatherings.
- College credit for participation is available for an extra fee and is granted thanks to our partnership with the Hellenic American University (see below).
- We seek volunteers ages 18-25. Volunteers do not need to be currently enrolled in college, nor in possession of a college degree.
- Airfare to Chios from the U.S. or Canada is not included. Participants have been asked to cover their own transportation to Chios. Our staff can help with international and domestic travel arrangements, as well as domestic air or ferry details.
- Lodging in Chios is provided from July 1, 2019 (check in) to July 31, 2019 (check out) in shared rooms at the Chios City Inn. This small, family-run inn is steps away from METAdrasi’s facilities and all the amenities of Chios town. Rooms include daily breakfast and some rooms will have small kitchenettes. Laundry facilities will be available on site at an additional cost.
- Breakfast is included daily, as are many shared meals throughout the program. Participants should budget about 80 Euros per week for extra meals. Chios City Inn has an affiliated restaurant where our program participants will receive a discounted rate on meals.
- Transportation on the island of Chios to and from volunteer locations is included. Transportation will be provided for non-walkable volunteer locations and excursions.
- All excursions on weekends and other special activities in Chios and Smyrna are included.
- The Greek America Foundation will purchase travel medical insurance to cover emergency and routine medical needs only for the dates of the service learning. Please make sure to hold your own health insurance policy as well and check whether coverage is available abroad.
- On-site staff will be available 24-7 to support volunteers.
Scholarships and Program Fees
Scholarships covering all program fees have been offered to approximately 16 students. Airfare to Greece is not covered by scholarship funds.
Desired Qualities in a Volunteer
Our volunteer work with METAdrasi is rewarding in the best sense — you give of yourself and get more back than you gave. Confronting the systemic effects of global conflict, inequality and displacement by looking into the eyes of a refugee child is a difficult and sobering experience. Being able to offer that child friendship, support, joy and visibility is exhilarating.
The Greek America Foundation seeks volunteers who are able to handle quickly changing environments, encountering people from different cultures and sharing viewpoints and the emotional ups and downs that come with working in challenging conditions. Moreover, our volunteer work will frequently be physically demanding: temperatures in Greece in July can reach 100 degrees and we will be outside at times and engaging in physical activity. (We will always be mindful of putting everyone’s health first during hot weather).
Staff from the Greek America Foundation and METAdrasi will be on hand to provide emotional support and encouragement. We encourage all volunteers to take down time, practice self-care and use their own coping strategies while engaged in this work. Having strong boundaries, knowing your limits and when to take a break are important skills while volunteering.
Participants have the option to accrue college credit that can be applied to their studies at their home institution via our partnership with the Hellenic American University, a U.S.-accredited institution of higher education in Athens. Students are responsible for checking with their home institutions about transfer of credits. See the course curriculum here.
The program is led by Jennifer R. Kellogg, PhD. Jennifer has brought dozens of college students to Greece for internship and volunteer programs over the past decades in her work with Harvard University and the Greek America Foundation. Jennifer speaks fluent Greek and is trained to support our volunteers.
Jennifer will be joined by Darden Livesay and Paul Grosso, two former volunteers who participated in the 2017 program with The HOME Project in Athens, Greece.
Darden and Paul have prior experience with such programs, as well as particular skillsets which they offer. Darden offers administrative and logistics expertise from his work in 2017, while Paul offers skills in teaching music lessons, as he is currently studying for a university degree in music therapy. We are excited to have these former volunteers now acting as staff members.
We thank George and Kristin Strompolos for their generous support of this program that has 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.
Why Service Learning? Testimonials from Past Volunteers
Getting to know these kids on a personal level and building such close friendships with them right off the bat super easily has been an amazing experience… I’m very privileged and honored to have had this experience for sure, and I’m super grateful — beyond grateful. I don’t think ‘grateful’ can put into words how much of an honor it is to have done this.
I learned a lot from these kids. I learned that you can have nothing and still be very happy. I learned that not all is bad in this life, even coming from war-torn countries and countries with civil war you can still be happy and live a fulfilling life.
I think I learned from each individual that was here with us… just each person I’ve encountered here in Greece I’ve learned something from them — whether it’s about patience, just smiling at random strangers, kindness, just how to love people better in general.
This program was instrumental in my personal growth and transformation. The support network of the Greek America Foundation staff and my peers was essential. I will always be indebted to them.
The beginning was tough at first because we were just getting started, but once we started to get connections with these kids it was so amazing. I’ve gained lifelong connections with them. They’re not even really kids — they’re teenagers. Especially the past day where we had to leave them, it was one of the hardest things that I’ve had to do.
To see these kids go through these hardships and to see them with their head up and positive is a really nice positive reinforcement, and I’m just so happy to be involved with this program and I’m going to come back and try to help again.
I wanted to work with these kids in order to help them feel as though they do have agency, they do have a self, and most importantly they do have a voice, and their voice matters and what they say matters. [I wanted] to remind them that there is someone somewhere in the world who cares about them and cares what they have to say.
I find fulfillment in making connections with kids. I think the Service Learning program is very special. I’m Greek, my dad is from Greece and I’m very interested in understanding both native Greeks’ and refugees’ perspectives and experiences together in this crisis.
My experience with the kids has been life-changing. I’ve formed bonds with these kids through the weekend activities and seeing them every day. Frankly, I feel like these kids are my equals and friends. I will never forget this experience.
I’m really grateful for this experience and I think that it’s helped guide me closer to what I might want to do going forward in my life.
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