They say you only know a person when you walk a mile in their shoes, and volunteering in Thessaloniki allowed me to begin to understand what it is like to lose a home, family and identity.
I volunteered in Thessaloniki for 15 days during January. It was a thoroughly humbling experience. It allowed me to start comprehend and realised the extent of the ongoing refugee crisis, it was definitely a reality check. The volunteer teams and individuals who were out there with me were wonderful became family, even after two weeks. Supporting each other when times got tough, emotionally, looking out for one another and working together to ensure we are doing the best we can to help, support and make the change we need in our world.
During my time at Thessaloniki, I got the opportunity to volunteer with various charities with some extraordinary people. I was predominately based in the Help Refugees Warehouse and the Soul Food Kitchen but I also got an opportunity to volunteer at the Alkyone Refugee Centre. The warehouse was where all donations were kept. We were sorting donations from clothes to toiletries which could be sent to those who were in needed of such resources. It was overwhelming to see so many products there, that we would take for granted from toothpaste to shoes to sanitary products. We also got to use some exciting equipment as well as being part of a fantastic team of volunteers all out to do some good.
Soul Food Kitchen was my favourite place to volunteer, it had a great community atmosphere, and can’t beat cooking outside, whilst the sunsets. Most importantly we were preparing food for some incredible individuals who must have been the most grateful people ever and were all so genuinely lovely, caring, and selfless. Most of them were single young men who were forgotten by the system or not even considered. A system which is overworked and struggling to protect those in need since they are deemed not vulnerable enough. Going on day and night distributions was so humbling and fulfilling, the little difference we were making had such an impact on them and their faith in humanity. I find it so comforting that if I were ever to be in a similar situation to them there would be someone peeling potatoes for me so I could eat. I was grateful I had the chance to talk to these men who shared their stories but they just mainly just wanted to chat about their days and the weather. I think that what’s so special about humans we need each other.
The Alkyone Refuge Centre was a centre were refugees, asylum seekers and who are internally displaced were able to shower, wash their clothes and get clothes and other essential and basic items. We were assisting people and their families with their needs, whilst offering support and upholding the friendly community atmosphere which was very much apparent.
I would definitely recommend volunteering in Greece to anyone who just wants to make the world that little bit better. I was only there for two weeks, I wish I could have stayed longer and am now looking to get back out there during springtime. You just need to want to help, and often its hard to know where to start but indiGO does that all for you.
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