You're 6 years old, and you are walking home one day from school.
Approaching your home, suddenly you realise that all the homes on your street have been destroyed.
As you panic, you start to cry and run faster towards your home to see if it's ok.
Instead what you come to are ruins and bodies of dead people.
The sudden realisation hits you that you have been violently thrown into a new world of absolute uncertainty and danger - you have no one in the world and you're all alone looking at what used to represent your entire life.
The mother who welcomed you into this world with loving eyes and a warm heart is gone, your big brother who used to play with you and make you laugh is gone, and your dad who played football with you on weekends and who would tell you how great you are even when you kicked the ball and missed, is also dead.
And you are left standing their alone with just your school bag to hold on to.
All you want in the world in this moment is just to be kissed and hugged tightly by your mum and never let go of.
To be told that "everything is ok, everything is going to be ok" and to feel some kind of safety and stability again.
But that isn't going to happen, because now you have nowhere to live and whilst the crazy adults who are running this world can only think about their own greed whilst they ruin the lives of millions, you have to find a way to survive. At 6.
Whilst the above might sound shocking to you the reader, this is a common scenario of what's happening in Syria right now:
But amid the incomprehensible brutality, the people in this corner of Aleppo find a gift. He is barely a year old and called Hussein. He was pulled from the rubble, a simple act of care having saved his life. Hussein's mother, Najah, was breastfeeding him when the rockets struck. Najah was killed by the rubble, but her body sheltered Hussein. He is brought to the hospital, the men cursing Syrian President Bashar al Assad as a "dog" and hoping Hussein will live to see him hanged (Source).
Thankfully there is also good news :)
There is something truly beautiful that all of us can bring to this world - whether it be the simply human, warm feeling of a hug you give to the little orphan girl stuck in a refugee camp that will never again see her parents, the smile of deep heartfelt gratitude on a mother's face, who now can feel safe knowing that her child has something as basic as clean drinking water, or the little Syrian boy on the Greek island of Lesvos, whose heart and eyes light up with hope of the opportunity for a better life from the English lessons you are giving him.
Even something that seems like such a small amount of help to you, can be such a huge sigh of relief for those who aren't used to having anyone care about their plight.
We are so lucky in some parts of the world to be safe.
Having most of our basics covered, we can sometimes forget the suffering in other places.
When we connect our will to our hearts and understanding of what is right, we can really find the inner strength and willpower to make our world a place with less suffering and more opportunities for everyone.
I am a firm believer of this.
Whether your a college student, a teenager, or someone simply looking to do some good in the world, volunteering to help refugee children in Greece or elsewhere can broaden your horizons and bring you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
There are many countries around the world with refugees but I have chosen to focus on Greece in this article as it has the largest refugee population in Europe currently, and the largest group of people that need our help.
Childhood should be a time of joy, love, happiness and feeling safe. No child should have to go through something like this. Here are some free opportunities for you to volunteer and help put the feeling of warmth back in their little hearts and wide smiles back on their faces!
This article is separated into 3 parts:
1) Top 5 Organisations Helping Refugees
2) Volunteer Jobs Database - a central website listing many of the positions available and the skills needed across all of Greece
3) Comprehensive How-To guide to make your experience as a volunteer as easy as possible.
I also want to mention that we have an international traveler & volunteer community group on Facebook, so if you are looking to meet other like minded individuals who are open to travel and volunteering, you're welcome to join us here.
TOP 5 ORGANISATIONS HELPING REFUGEES IN GREECE THAT YOU CAN VOLUNTEER FOR
Earth Refugees is a local NGO that needs volunteers in Camp Sounio (Near the temple of Poseidon, 2 hours by bus from Athens).
Their aim is:
Earth Refugee is about sharing love that will make this part of the journey a little more comfortable for those who were forced to flee.
This is David, he is a volunteer lawyer from Germany who has been accompanying the residents of Lavrio (Sounio) Camp to their interviews with the Asylum Office.
As you see he still finds time to do some heavy lifting and bring a sweet smile to this little girl's face.
Earth Refugee are searching for volunteers to support current projects including:
- Teaching English
- Food preparation
- Swimming lessons
- Dance lessons
- Distribution of aid
- Support for children’s and women’s activities.
A bed in a shared cabin within the camp is provided to all volunteers for the duration of their stay and meals are provided by the Greek Navy three times per day.
You can contact them in the following ways:
Refugee Support aims to help refugee families rebuild their lives and to also help local communities benefit at the same time.
They do this by co-operating with the UNHCR, local volunteers, refugees, and military commanders. By doing so they hope to provide children with education in core subjects, languages, local culture and to enable residents to cook their own nutritious food.
All the residents have come from the trauma of war, loss and a dangerous journey. Most have exhausted all their resources.
Some are still carrying injuries from the conflict. The camp is for Syrian families so over half are children and some are elderly.
When I decided to work in the camp I was scared that seeing all these refugees without anything destroyed the positive vision I have of a lot of things in the world.
It is easy just to stop believing in a peaceful and generous world when you are in front of these people but you make me believe in humanity. Refugee Support make things beautiful, by giving to refugees who lost everything, decent condition of life and even happiness, thanks to all the extra activities you organized.
You don’t help them to survive, you help them to live. Of course I have been sad and angry during this month seeing children, women and men living in these conditions.
I had no idea of this reality, like a lot of people. I am ashamed realizing that my country, our countries which pretend to be the representative of human right just ignore this situation and even worse, treat these people without respect and dignity.
People must be made aware of what is going on to force them to act instead of looking elsewhere. It is too easy to pretend that it is not our fight. That is not refugees’ problem, that is our problem. And working with you made me realize this, and that we can and we must do something.
I think you, all the volunteers and refugees gave me more than I gave during this month and I would like to thank you for that. It changed my view of things and I think it also changed who I am and who I want to be.
Being in contact with people giving everything without expecting anything in return and with people who don’t have anything to offer but who give you what little they have, it could be tea or just a smile, remind me how this world can be beautiful and that we need to take care of it
You can contact Relief Support in the following ways:
Located in Athens, Zaatar NGO provides a safe space for refugees to rest, learn, feel empowered and grow with a particular focus on unaccompanied children and single mothers.
It does this by:
- Finding shelter for vulnerable families
- Education, including in art, languages and computer skills
- Providing opportunities to create balance and relaxation in the body through Yoga lessons
- Providing job training opportunities to help refugees find work and to integrate into Greek and other European societies.
Our Orange House project has residents from Palestine, Syria, Iran living together as one. No judgement on their past, their political affiliations or religion. Accepting is Love. Together we can make a difference.
You can contact Zaatar through the following ways:
METAdrasi is a Greek NGO that was founded in 2010 and has facilities in Lesvos, Samos, and Chios. It focuses on interpretation services (in 33 languages) through which it provides vital information to refugees, legal aid, and certification of victims of torture.
It's second major action is to escort children without parents out of border detention centers and into appropriate accommodation facilities throughout the country including
appropriate foster families in Greece where they can be loved, supported and have a sense of normalcy restored to their lives.
Two small unaccompanied children from Syria, hosted in a local family, prepared surprise thank you cards to Kiki, METAdrasi's social worker, during one of her visits, for the love and care they have offered them.
The Arabic text says: "To my friend Kiki, you are an amazing person, thank you so much for taking care of us... In this amazing family will not forget this care. And now, I thank Greece for the efforts and I thank the Greek family and you."
You can contact METAdrasi through the following ways:
Light House Relief is a Swedish NGO made up of volunteers from all over the world that supports refugees in several camps on mainland Greece and on the island of Lesvos.
They work to provide immediate crisis assistance and long term help for women, children, the elderly and the disabled.
We are there day and night on Lesvos -- from when we first spot the refugee boats at the lighthouse watch point in Korakas, to when the boats land and we assist people in their first critical hours in Europe.
In August, we provided initial relief to 400 people in 14 boats, 25 per cent more than in July. We often encounter people who require medical attention.
During August, among the arrivals were brothers who were paraplegic, and people suffering dehydration, tuberculosis and a collapsed lung.
One woman who was eight months pregnant needed to go to hospital to check that her baby was stable.
This beautiful, tranquil island once again has clean beaches with happy, sunbathing tourists and it’s important we stay to help receive asylum seekers peacefully and clean the shores immediately.
For the people making the dangerous journey, it will be even more critical we are here, finding and assisting them as winter is coming soon with the life threatening risk of hypothermia from the cold sea.
Light House Relief offers two kinds of volunteer opportunities - short term (minimum of 3 weeks) and long term (minimum of 2 months, stipend and accommodation support provided) and are looking for volunteers with the following skills:
Arabic, Kurdish, Farsi, Dari or Greek, Child protection, Gender-based violence protection, Obstetrics, Gynaecology, Midwifery, General medicine, Nursing, Social work, Infant feeding, Construction, Communications and others including in ECO relief.
You can contact them through the following ways:
If none of the above organisations had what you are looking for, why not search the centralised database of all volunteer positions available throughout Greece?
HOW-TO GUIDE FOR
VOLUNTEERING IN GREECE
An incredibly detailed instruction manual put together by volunteers from all over the country.
Thanks to UNICEF for the images above.