My name is Margaux Mace and I lived an unforgettable experience in Greece as part of the European Voluntary Service. It all started in Polykastro, a small village located in the north of the country. This is where the organisation Open Cultural Center (OCC) is located, for which I volunteered for two months.
OCC supports migrants and the refugee community living in Polykastro, Aixioupoli and in the camp of Nea Kavala. The OCC team works towards their inclusion through educational and cultural activities. English and Greek classes are offered for adults every morning, and the afternoon is dedicated to children. I was in charge of the English class for adults at a beginner level. I was also in charge, with two other volunteers, of the Eagles group (kids aged between 9 and 13 years old), with whom we did 1 hour of English in separate groups, and then 1 hour of activity with the full group.
I remember that when I first arrived, it was difficult to interact with others because of my level of English. As such, when I was told that I was going to have to teach English to others, I was really in panic! I had no teaching background and very little command of the language. I was able to rely on the volunteers to help, guide and support me. When I look back on my experience in Greece, my classes are among my best memories. The responsibility of teaching and their motivation to learn was very stimulating and pushed me to improve my English level very quickly. It was as much a challenge for them as it was for me, and it was great to feel that we helped each other grow.
The team of volunteers is made up of young Europeans: Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Italian, Greek, German and French. But what, in my opinion, makes the team rich are the ‘resident’ volunteers: they are young asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Iraq. Their role is very important as they facilitate communication between the volunteers and the students. They allow us to understand the difficulties faced by migrants and refugees living in Greece.
This experience was full of sharing, meeting and learning. I lived two months surrounded by international volunteers, students from Africa and Asia and all this in a foreign country, Greece. I feel like I have been around the world!
Thank you to all the OCC team for the opportunity!