Service Learning Program

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Metadrasi slideshow

What is Service Learning?

Service Learning is an initiative of the Greek America Foundation that aims to engage North American college students and young professionals in volunteer programs in Greece. Our program fulfills a dual purpose: students are immersed into contemporary Greek life while they simultaneously volunteer their time for important humanitarian causes and make a lasting impact. The inaugural program took place during the summer of 2017 in Athens, Greece. Click here to read more about the 2017 program.

Summer 2019 with Refugee Children in Greece

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. 16 scholarships will be 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.

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 by clicking here.

Our volunteer group will be working 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.

Chios is the fifth-largest Greek island and is located close to the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea. With a population of around 50,000 people, Chios is known for its unique agricultural products, especially those made from mastic gum. There are around 2,000 refugees currently residing in Chios.  

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.

Program Specifics

  • Airfare to Chios from the U.S. or Canada is not included. Participants will be 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 will be offered to approximately 16 students. Airfare to Greece is not covered by scholarship funds. If applying for a scholarship, please mention this in your cover letter and include whether you would be able to participate in the program without a scholarship.

If you are selected for the program and do not need a scholarship, the cost for participation is $2999 plus airfare to Greece.

Please note: Thanks to a generous donor, two scholarships are earmarked for students raised in the state of Colorado. Please indicate in your cover letter if you are applying for this scholarship.

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.

College Credit

Thanks to a partnership with the Hellenic American University, we are able to grant 3 college credits for participation in our service learning program for an extra fee of $360 total. Hellenic American University is accredited through the New England Commission on Higher Education and these credits are recognized by U.S. institutions of higher learning. Students are responsible for checking with their home institutions about transfer of credits.

Staff

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 two former volunteers who participated in the 2017 program and have extensive experience with such programs. We are excited to have these former volunteers now acting as staff members.

Frequently Asked Questions

(Q) I’d like to attend another program/conference/family celebration. Can I join the program late or leave on a weekend?

(A) Participants are expected to be present for the duration of the program as detailed above and not attend other events.

(Q) Can I have visitors during my month of volunteering in Chios?

(A) Visitors are permitted but may not participate in the official volunteer program or excursions, which are exclusively reserved for volunteers. If a friend or family members would like to visit, such visits must take place on evenings and/or during non-volunteer hours.

(Q) What’s a typical day like?

9:30 to 10:00am: Travel to the day’s volunteer site

10:00am to 3:00 or 4:00pm: Volunteer activities with a lunch break

4:00pm: Return to the Hotel

Evening free — Group meetings and activities may be scheduled or participants may explore the town on their own.

(Q) Is it safe to be in Chios?

(A) The Greek America Foundation vets all volunteer locations for safety and suitability for our volunteers. Likewise, NGO partners are also vetted for accountability and ability to handle our volunteer group. Chios town and the island are generally quite safe locations in Greece. Reasonable precautions will be taken to ensure safety at all times. Volunteers will receive safety training and guidance on behavior best practices for a variety of contexts. Our group will only visit the VIAL refugee camp under supervision and when safe to do so.

(Q) Do I need to speak Greek to be a participant?

(A) English and Greek will be the main languages spoken in the volunteer program. Knowledge of Greek is not required. The children we are working with come from many different countries and backgrounds and most speak some English, however the main languages spoken by the refugees are Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and French. Knowledge of these languages is a definite plus for our volunteers, but not necessary. Interpreters will be available at times.

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.

Vasiliki, 21, Chicago, IL

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.

Stefanos, 23, Houston, TX

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.

Maria, 21, Columbus, OH

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.

Constantine, 23, Chicago, IL

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.

Zoe, 19, Phoenix, AZ

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.

Paul, 24, Chicago, IL

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.

Evgenia, 20, Queens, NY

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.

Daniel, 21, Detroit, MI

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.

Katerina, 18, Toronto, CA

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.

Darden, 20, Wilton, CT
Our volunteers organized numerous activities for the refugee children, including art and music classes.
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Our volunteers organized beach excursions for the refugee children
Livesay pictured in 2nd row, 3rd to the right.

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