Alex, ACT Volunteeer in Thessaloniki, Greece

1 – Before starting this experience you probably had expectations and wishes. Now that you have been volunteering for a quite a while, were the expectations and the wishes met? If so, can you provide an example or an experience during which these expectations and wishes were met?

I’ve gotten to work directly for refugees in both a shelter for unaccompanied minors and at the day centre for immigrants and refugees living in the city. This has been a really excellent experience as I hoped it would be and I can really see the difference I’m making to some of the people I work with.

I also anticipated living with other volunteers and this has also been great. I’ve made so many friends from all over the world and learned so much about the world as I hoped I would.

2 – Volunteering also means making a positive change in somebody’s life. Do you feel your participation in the ACT project has made an impact? If so, can you briefly describe a situation in which you felt you were changing somebody’s life? 

A few days before writing this, I was at the shelter teaching one of the boys there English. He’s already a capable English speaker but enjoys the lesson as a chance to get better. After the lesson we were talking quite casually and he told me that he was very happy to be doing these lessons as they’ve shown him how much he enjoys writing. He thanked me for making him realise that he would like to be a writer when he grows up. This was very moving.

3 – Choose three words to describe your experience as an ACT volunteer.

  1. Busy
  2. Fascinating
  3. Fun

4 – Another goal of an international volunteering project is to make volunteers from different countries meet and share experiences. How is your relationship with the other volunteers? Did you learn something new from them? 

I love all the volunteers here. I could write pages about each of them. Some of them are my best friends and will be for as long as humanly possible. I plan to visit them in their countries or on their next volunteering projects as they plan to do for me. I would describe my relationship as closer than family and I will miss them more than anything when I leave.

5 – Do you think this experience as ACT volunteer has been important for you? What is the most important thing that you have learnt?

The most important thing I learned here was how to get involved and take initiative to build up relationships with an organisation. This has come from us having to work towards making and keeping our placements. This is something that I imagine will be very useful for my future career, regardless of what it is.

6 – Volunteering with migrants, in a country that it is not yours, and with people you do not know, might have been hard sometimes. What are the challenges you have found and how did you overcome them? (Or, how are you trying to overcome them…)

There have been many errors in communication but the majority can be worked around although it does still pose a challenge. The other issue would be that a substantial number of people here fear or dislike migrants and refugees. This has caused some commotion from people at presentations we have done.

7 – Migration is a very sensitive and very important topic. What did this experience teach you and what should other people, who do not work with migrants, know about this topic?

They should know that nothing is as simple as it appears in the media, regardless of what side is being portrayed. It is important to be open minded with this topic but it is also possible to be too trusting and both of these things cause problems.

9 – Anything you want to add?

Just that this has been an amazing experience and I plan to do this kind of project again as soon as I can. Thank you so much for the experience, it has been absolutely incredible and I will never forget it.

%d bloggers like this: