Essential Tips for Volunteering in Greece Refugee Camps
The choice to volunteer in a refugee camp will provide a rich and meaningful experience in many ways. My 2018 started off in Greece, volunteering with Cross-Cultural Solutions at the Ristona Refuge Camp. While I’ve taken many international service trips, the days in Ritsona are forever imprinted in my memory and heart.
As you can imagine, the time can be both heart-warming and heart-breaking given the circumstances of the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Accordingly, these essential tips will help you to prepare and optimize the volunteering time and overall experience.
My five essential tips are: Connection, Information, Respect, Flexibility and Positivity. The details below bring each of these to life.
Stay connected with your volunteer organization, fellow volunteers, family and friends.
Cultivating and maintaining a strong connection with your volunteer staff, volunteer partners, family and friends will help you to feel informed, grounded, supported and loved. This experience can be difficult both physically and emotionally and these bonds will help you to maintain your focus, impact – not to mention make it more enjoyable.
Be informed about the situation, your roles and responsibilities.
With the support of your volunteer staff, learn about the humanitarian crisis, the role your team will play and what to expect during your time in the camp. Do your homework prior to the trip, ask questions and listen. You are there to give and learn.
For context, here are a few facts that helped me to better comprehend the situation in Greece.
- 51% of refugees are under 18
- 62,000 refugees await relocation
- 11 million Syrian refugees currently displaced
- 200 new daily refugee arrivals in Greece
* Source: crossculturalsolutions.org.
Be respectful. Honor culture, religion and dignity always, to everyone.
You will find yourself surrounded by many people who likely have diverse backgrounds, cultures, religions and perspectives. It is essential that you treat everyone with the utmost respect, consideration and dignity. Everyone at the camp is living and working in extraordinary circumstances, therefore this approach is foundational to your contribution at the camp.
Maintain flexibility as changes to your schedule, role and plans will likely happen.
Anyone who has volunteered internationally will tell you this is common due to new developments. Examples causing the need to adjust may be a delayed shipment, unexpected weather, additional arrivals at the camp, etc.… Your ability to be flexible and adapt will make for a much more productive and positive experience for all involved.
Be and stay positive.
While easily said, it sometimes requires effort and determination – however, keeping a positive outlook makes you more productive, approachable and perseverant.I’ve found this energy leads to positive momentum following my trip – fueling passion and drive to share information on the experience and encourage others to support the humanitarian efforts.
In closing, I encourage you to learn more about the volunteering opportunities in Greece and other refugee camps around the world. The experience will be life-changing and meaningful beyond expectations.
Cross-Cultural Solutions Greece
- Website: www.crossculturalsolutions.org/destinations/refugee-program-greece
- Video: CCS Refugee Program: Providing Vital Resources www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoCj7pnQmxs
- Donations: www.crossculturalsolutions.org/make-payment/support-refugees
- 4.1 Miles Documentary https://g.co/kgs/FMsSiV
- OXFAM Refugee Report www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/voices_from_greece_web.pdf
- U.S. Dept. of State: Humanitarian Assistance in Response to the Syrian Crisis www.state.gov/j/prm/releases/factsheets/2017/269469.htm
- UNHCR statistics regarding refugee crises in:
- Greece: https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean/location/5179
- Mediterranean: http://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean?id=83