Hi we are Magali and Salome, we have spent some weeks volunteering with Anemos Ananeosis in Athens, in July and August 2021
A rich and memorable experience, that’s how I would describe the 7 weeks I spent volunteering with Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal in the Welcommon Hostel.
Being a volunteer in the ESC project “Green Social Innovation for Young Persons” has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Volunteering with Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal here, in this inclusive hostel – Welcommon Hostel, implies doing so many different activities, discovering and learning a wide range of things. I did not expect to learn so much.
Therefore, it is a tough task for me to summarize these 7 weeks that have been so rich and fulfilling.
First, I would say that I have learnt so much from spending time with the refugees leaving within the hostel. I spent most of my time with them. Nearby the reception, there are artistic works made by Fatima and her class, they use this beautiful phrase to refer about refugees “brave travellers”. This phrase summarize perfectly my thoughts. I spent most of my time with the families, and I had never seen in my life so brave and generous people. They considered me as a member of their family, offered me food, and spent so many time talking, sharing and laughing in spite of the language barrier.
They trusted me, enough to take care of their children, to bring me with them during their family activities (birthdays, Sundays at the beach, afternoon at the park, restaurants, circumcision party…) but also to share with me their deeply moving stories.
I also spent a lot of time with the kids. First during the kid activities we organised; salt dough, masks, pizza, cake activities, but also going to the park every day or even spending time in the kids’ room. Of course, taking care of kids who used to live under the bombing or/and in a camp is pretty challenging. Each of them requires a special attention and dedication. But they are, on top of everything, full of love to give and receive.
Then, I also spent a lot of time with my students giving and preparing the languages lessons. Once again, this ‘task’ was pretty challenging as I had to teach to a great variety of people. They were all very different: due to their age, stories, levels in languages…. and therefore needed special attention and caring as well. Indeed, some of them could read but not speak, speak but not read, sometimes even in their own language. On top of that, due to their situation, they could not attend to class everyday: some would come one day, and then come back two weeks later for example. But step by step, weeks after weeks, I got more and more comfortable and I hope that I have pass on a bit of my knowledge to them.
But the sharing was not a one way sharing. They taught me a lot, certainly more than I did. They taught me a few words in Farsi or Arabic, they shared with me their stories, they also did oral presentations where they could talk about subjects that mattered to them and that they wanted to share. During these presentations, they talked about environment, feminisms, the situation in Afghanistan…. I am very grateful for this.
Moreover, I learnt a lot from the 3 receptionists: Mehran, Sajad and Thomas. They are dedicated to their tasks and would always give a hand when it is necessary. I was also impressed by their kindness and generosity. We also discussed about the situation in their countries (especially during the last days of my trip the Tabilans were to take Kabul) they taught me a lot about the history of this decades-long conflict.
At first, when I arrived we were only two volunteers: Salomé and I. The 3 receptionists helped us so much. Being alone and not knowing what to do was extremely challenging. But they helped us and so did Idriss, one of the refugees here.
With Salomé, we have known each other for 3 years now, but I have got to know her in a different way and learnt so much from her. She is so generous and open to others. She showed me how to bond with people.
During the last weeks, I have also had the chance to meet other volunteers. Some of the previous ones like Thomas, and some new ones like Bente, Lilian, Andrea and Andra. The experience was totally different from what I had experience before. Sharing this experience with other volunteers made the experience completely. I actually enjoyed the few weeks I spent with them and wish I had spent more time with them.
Finally, this experience reinforced my desire to work as a humanitarian worker. It also showed me that I have still a lot to learn if I want to help people, and especially refugees.
Lastly, I would say that the only negative point about this experience in the Welcommon Hostel would be the logistic. This place has such a great potential and the idea is great. But, on the other hand, the lack of funds and organisation make it even harder for the volunteers. As far as I am concerned I think we could find a way to organise the continuation between volunteers. It is so challenging to enter a place without knowing what you have to do. For example, creating different poles to explain precisely what is the project: kids, teaching, socialising…
THANK YOU FOR THIS GREAT JOURNEY !
I am Salomé
I spent six weeks in Athens participating in the volunteering project “Green Social Innovation”, an ESC’s project implemented by Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal in the Welcommon Hostel. My everyday life is mainly organised depending on the classes I gave. From Monday to Thursday, I did 3 classes with refugees: one French class for beginners and two English classes (beginner and intermediate).
At the beginning, it was difficult for me to teach because some of my students (refugees from different countries) could neither read nor write. Also, new students joined the class everyday: especially in the beginner English class. But over time it was easier for me to teach, I felt more comfortable. Indeed, I knew my students better and I knew their rhythm. I loved my French class. My students were really thirst for learning. I taught them everyday words, words and verbs that they can use if they manage to go to a French-speaking country.
Moreover, from Monday to Friday at 6:00 pm, I used to go to the park with the kids. When we were only two volunteers, it was quite difficult to go to the park with the children because there were many of them (24 maximum). Fortunately, parents and single men were helping us. When we had time, we organized kid activities: painting, twister, Venetian masks, modelling clay; or even cooking activities with the older ones (Soeid, Amir, Elia, Anoar). We baked pizzas and cakes.
Taking care of children has brought us closer to them, but also to their parents. Indeed, many of them invited us to dinner after the park. Usually, it was kind of an excuse to hang out with us and tell us their stories. We also took part in Ahmad’s 10th birthday and Ahmad’s circumcision. I was able to create real bonds with the children but also with the parents. So, regularly, I would go to the beach or to the theme park with one of the families.
For my departure I received a wave of love from all the refugees.
It was an amazing experience. I learnt many things: new cultures, languages…