Balkan Hot Spot Infinity – Marleen Muts – 11 Months Volunteering in Thessaloniki – Greece
Last year I had an idea stuck in my head that I want to go for EVS after I finish my degree and no matter what, I will do it. I didn’t really care so much about the place or the topic of my project, the only thing I wanted was that my project would NOT be connected with my profession. I had some interviews and when I got the notification about being accepted to Greece, Thessaloniki for 10 months I felt indescribable happiness.
So, I arrived to Greece in the middle of September 2019. Oh my god it was hot! My first moments were very intense. I realized I will really live in the same big house with 30 people, not remembering any names, had my first room sharing moments and at the same time tried to get used to the new city. But I realized that all the people around me are or have been in the exact same situation and all went very well and I got used to my new life.
My tasks connected to work were in human rights area. Our project had a blog, magazine, youtube channel, radio and social media platforms to promote topics important for youth and the world. We were always between 10 to 15 volunteers in my project everyone with their own specific task in their team (magazine, blog, radio, video and social media team), also from time to time having some short term volunteers. My task in the project was to be the editor of our magazine called Balkan Beats. We published it after
every two months and all our volunteers were writing at least one article for every edition. I really liked my tasks because I had to always be conscious about the things happening around me, in the world. Also, everyone always wrote posts for blog, participated in the radio from time to time if they wanted and made videos. It really was very open and free to choose what you want to do and what you liked the
most. Our group was spread in teams so everyone had their main tasks but also were able to do everything else.
We also organized many events, promotions about important topics and workshops, for example beach cleanings, exhibitions about eliminating gender based violence, safe sex or events like human chain and picnic against racism or movie nights about ecolife, plastic, racism or else. Every month we had a football event to integrate minorities – Football For All and every week a language exchange event Tandem. Also, we were able to volunteer in all kinds of festivals and events happening in Thessaloniki or elsewhere too. For example, on my first weekend in Thessaloniki I was volunteering in Greenwave Festival. Then I volunteered in a Thessaloniki Goal Ball Tournament – a sport for blind people that I really enjoyed and had an amazing opportunity to be a part of their community for a moment. I also volunteered for Thessaloniki Pride Festival which was an amazing experience to be part of. We also had opportunities to be part of Thessaloniki Film Festival and Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.
Additionally I volunteered to give English classes to a Syrian refugee. I did that twice a week and it was a very good experience for me because I got to know a person with a totally different background and also his family. I was able to participate in their family Ramadan dinner and get to know them. In our project, people were also volunteering to help out in a refugee center with clothes and food distribution.
Next to all that, I still had a lot of time to do all the things I wanted and liked in life. To go for yoga classes, that in Thessaloniki there are many social centers that give them for free (great for a volunteer), climbing, hiking, going to parties, for beach and of course I had time to travel around Greece and outside of Greece. During my 10 months in Greece, I travelled to Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Jordania. In Greece I travelled around in mainland a lot, climbed Mount Olympus, visited Meteora, Athens, Patras, Halkidiki, visited islands Thassos and Samothraki and many other places. I camped in the beaches, slept under the stars, spent nights sleepless, hitchhiked, swam time in hot springs and also in cold waterfalls and much more. I mean, I have so many amazing
Greece as a country has a lot to offer to every taste of adventurer or traveller and I will definitely miss the dinners in Taverna with delicious Greek food. The time in Greece gave me a lot of new knowledge, I feel I know also myself much better thanks to that experience and I have many good friends all over Europe. And that already opened a new door for me in life – I am writing this letter already from Portugal.
If the EVS idea is in your mind already, go, because you have nothing to lose, only to gain!
This Project was financed by European Commission’s Erasmus + Programme