This is Catherine who has been volunteering for two months with Action for Education on Samos.
Action for Education has a youth centre on the Island of Samos called “Banana House” because of the huge beautiful banana trees outside it! In Autumn she will start her studies to become a social cultural animator. It is her first time volunteering abroad and we interview her about it.
What do you do at Action for Education?
So my job has many jobs to it! Action for Education is a youth centre that is open for people from 18 – 23 years old. I teach English and German classes and organise extra activities outside of classes like games, art and construction. I also organise our Sundays which is a women and children only day – this always turns into a big party!
How have you found your experience?
It has been incredible! It is hard to explain as there are so many aspects to volunteering. So first of all I really like working in a team where everybody is working for free and everyone is giving all their energy into it. To be in a team like this is just so energising. I have never felt as energised before coming to Samos.
Secondly, it has been very interesting getting to know all the people I met in the youth centre, especially my students, hearing about their stories and having the challenge of making their day a little bit better when coming to our youth centre.
What challenges do you face as a volunteer?
I love creating a safe space for people who at the moment have so many difficulties. It is challenging as there are many people meeting up with a range of emotions to deal with. Sometimes anger, sometimes sadness. However the challenge of trying to make it a calm and structured atmosphere is a good challenge for me.
What I also find difficult is facing people who are struggling so hard in life and you can only help them by making their day a little bit more normal to a certain point. But you can not change their situation. You meet so many beautiful, amazing people that find themselves in such a horrible situation and not being able to change it can be really hard. On the other hand there are plenty of small things you can do just by being there that can improve someones day.
How do you feel supported in challenges like this?
The team is very supportive and we speak about these type of situations in order to help deal with it. We all live together and therefore it is easy to speak to each other about challenging situations also outside the youth centre.
What advice would you give to a volunteer coming to Samos?
Firstly be flexible, spontaneous and adaptable. Of course there are a lot of things you can’t foresee but being able to recognise issues on the spot and find solutions for it is the best way you can help. Therefore it is also good to be open to new experiences.
Secondly I think it is important to be emotionally stable in yourself. As a team we really look after each other and if we see that somebody needs support we try to help each other. However we can only do this up to a certain point as our focus is the situation on Samos and the busiest of our days takes over. So it is important to feel ready before coming.
Thirdly, do your research. Read up on all the projects that are on the island, so you know where to direct people when you are here.
Do you feel like this experience will help your future career as a social worker?
It has helped me because I can actually see myself in the job. Many times you imagine your studies but can not gain experience in the area before starting it. It has been really nice to be able to work in the job I wish to do and realise that it is the right fit for me.
Volunteering with Action for Education has also helped me in my personal development as I have got to know myself in a new way. There are times and situations that are difficult as sometimes you get to know your own personal limits. I think it is in these situations you learn the most of and gain experiences for you whole life. My work with Action for Education has made me feel confident and strong.
Find out more about Action for Education HERE!