Just over one year ago, I decided to volunteer abroad in Greece with one of my best friends. Before this trip I had little to no volunteer experience aside from the occasional youth group community service projects I was involved in, so this was a huge step for me and i really wasn’t sure what to expect or if i could even do what was being asked of me. We chose to volunteer with the Syrian Refugee Crisis because a mutual friend of ours was already heavily involved with the project and asked us if we wanted to help out as well. It turned out to be better than I had ever imagined, i made so many new lovely kind friends, and saw and experienced so many dazzling, brilliant, wonderful things I will never forget. I made dozens of beautiful memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Since we booked separately, my friend and I each had to travel alone to Europe, though i cannot speak for her, I can say without a doubt that this was slightly nerve wracking for me! I had traveled a fair amount on my own flying domestically, but never out of the country. I was too excited to be worried for too long, and far too distracted by the hustle and bustle, multitude of languages, and all the different things to see just inside the airport!
When I finally arrived in Greece, I got to experience my first ever taxi ride! Ultimately we did end up lost and had to ask for directions and my cab driver didn’t speak much English and I spoke no Greek, but I made it to our airbnb for the night, ready for a shower and a good nights sleep after almost two whole days of travel!
When we finally made it to Piraeus, we were ready to take on any jobs they were willing to give us! They started us out with basic tasks like handing out shampoo, food and other supplies. The people in our camp quickly became our friends, we helped them with their English as they shared stories and experiences with us and we shared many hugs and kind words with them as well. They are some of the kindest and strongest people I have ever met in my life! I began making friends with the children, and was then pulled to help out with the children. We taught them as much English as they taught us Arabic! It was amazing seeing them grow and develop in such harsh circumstances! They drew us pictures, taught us new games, and sang songs with us. We finally were able to get them a soccer ball and they made up teams and we all played or cheered on the teams. I had finally found my niche I woke up every day and couldn’t wait to go back and see all of my new friends! Even though they were going through hardships I couldn’t even imagine, they never ceased to bring a smile to my face when I walked in every morning.
While we were volunteering, we did have a few days off for some sight seeing! I have never seen so many ancient ruins in my life and as someone who finds history fascinating, i loved every one of them! Greece is a country so full of rich history it would have been impossible to have visited every thing in one trip. We went to as many museums and land marks as possible in the limited time we had. I saw so many amazing things that I had read about in history classes but had never dreamed i’d be able to see in real life.
When our last day in Greece finally came, I was heart broken. I was going to be leaving the people I had grown to love over the past month and come to think of as dear friends. The children drew me pictures that I have kept and cherish and always will, the adults gave me hugs and wished me luck. Greece was an amazing experience I will forever be truly grateful for.