Lucile: volunteering during COVID-19 for social green innovation in Athens

By November 1, 2020Actions

I am Lucile, twenty-two years old and I am doing my second year of a master’s degree in international and humanitarian law in France. This summer I wanted to travel and be useful at the same time so I decided to spend 2 months as a volunteer with Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal in Welcommon Hostel! I found the ideal place where I could enjoy a beautiful city, meet great people, and help the refugees with organizing the activities and giving language classes.

I- About the classes
Because of Covid-19, the classes were limited to five students. In the beginning, it was a real challenge to respect the sanitary conditions and to guarantee a good atmosphere. The students had to keep a distance from each other, wear a mask, the most difficult thing was to talk with the mask… It wasn’t easy to teach with these circumstances but it wasn’t impossible either. I can say that, little by little, the volunteers and also the students, we all adapted to the situation.

Thomas, a volunteer, who had been in the project since March, created different level groups : beginner, intermediate, and advanced English speaker. I took care of three groups of “English beginners” and one group of “ french beginners”.

My first class was difficult because there were two families with children from different ages (ten to fifteen years old). Moreover, although they seemed to be all beginners, it turned out that some of them couldn’t read and write at all, the others were able to speak a little bit, and the third group was only able to read and write in english. And they all wanted to be in the same group.

Also, I had a real culture shock, because for the first time in my life I spoke and met people from Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey etc… They were speaking a lot in Farsi together and with the different dialects of farsi which made me a little bit confused at the beginning. In addition, they are not used to learning English.

So, Thomas and I had to find a solution which allows everyone to feel good, and which respects the sanitary conditions. We decided to divide the people into two groups of five : one with the children and one with the adults. Also, during the class, Sajad, one student, who could speak English and Farsi, helped me a lot. He did a translation between Farsi and English, which permitted me to understand much better the students and vice versa. Step by step, we put in place an organisation that worked and the classes became better for me and for my students.

I also taught French with another group of beginners. I was very surprised to discover that teaching your own native language can be sometimes so hard! I thought before that English was more difficult, but actually it’s completely the opposite. I had a group of five students who were very interested in French, so they were motivated and we could see a lot of things in two months! Such a pleasure to be a teacher with students who are interested in your class.

As a first experience, being a teacher was a big advantage for me. Before coming here, I had no idea how to organize a class, or how to teach… I didn’t know what to expect. Thanks to that, it was very easy for me to adapt myself to students’ needs. I was happy to be there, share my knowledge and have fun with my students. At the same time I also improved in english. As we had a lot of autonomy in our activities of how to organize a class, I let my creativity speak!

II- About the activities
Concerning the activities, it was a good opportunity to speak, to share the experiences between volunteers and refugees and to see beautiful places in Athens. For example, we went to Likavitos and Phillopapos. From the hostel, it’s easy to go there, and you don’t need any money. So everyone can go ! Visiting these places was a good opportunity to see the students in another context, out of the class, and discover beautiful views and monuments together. Also, with Tosia (another volunteer), we organised a treasure hunt in the National Garden. This means that students were in the teams of five/six (3 teams in total) and with the map the goal was to accomplish as many activities as possible in one afternoon. It was very fun to play together and experience a good team spirit.

Also, we organised a French and Afghan movie. We only needed a projector, one room, two old posters, pillows, a lot of popcorn and we were ready to watch a movie! It was relaxing and a warm moment that we shared together: with the reception staff, students, and the volunteers.

With some students, we also did game nights and played “Time’s up”, which is a rapidity game. This game is a perfect way to learn english vocabulary and have fun at the same time.

In the hostel, we also organised a “crêpes party” with my French students, in the idea of discovering a little of french culture. We prepared together the pastry, cooked and made them jump in a french way, and after all these efforts, we ate them all together! During this evening, we shared a good meal and played funny games. Such a good moment spent together !

I really enjoyed my stay here, in Welcommun Hostel ! Athens is a beautiful city full of colours and good vibes, and the Welcommon is a warm and welcoming place. The hostel is located close to the city centre, in Exarchia. It’s a beautiful place and it’s easy to go out and find a good beer or a good souvlaki. I met great people from different places with a different culture background. With the reception staff and the other volunteers and staff, I could see a true solidarity between us.

My volunetering was supported by the European Solidarity Corps Erasmus program as part of the project “Social Green Innovation for Youth” implemented by the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal

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