This article has been written by our volunteer Federico Tonin.
The passivity of the international system, the lack of concreteness from the European Union, the awareness of the injustices that flow rapidly, the desire to do something about it, and the will to change things. For many of us, these are the main reasons for choosing a volunteering path. The desire to do, to act, and to provide our own contribution is great, although the tools available are often too few. Despite this, there are many needs just as many are the paths that can be taken to start being part of the solution.
For these reasons, in October 2022, I decided to start my experience with Open Cultural Center, an NGO that provides support to people residing in the refugee reception center of Nea Kavala, in Greece, a few kilometers from the border with North Macedonia. As often happens, my doubts were varied. Will I really be able to be useful to others? Will I be able to deal with such a complex context in an environment in which I am not used to working? Above all, could my small contribution have some positive implications for people who have been left on their own for years by the international community? Loaded with uncertainties, I threw myself into this experience with a mixture of restlessness and hope that dominated my state of mind.
Now, 3 months after departure, I can solidly state that never choice was more appropriate. The opportunity to work closely with the community residing in the Nea Kavala refugee camp and to live with people who believed in similar ideals as mine has not only made me more aware as a student but also and above all as a human being.
From the English lessons for adults to those for teenagers, from the bicycle rental service to the football matches, from the time spent in the cafeteria chatting to the trips on the bus to the camp, every moment has stimulated and enriched me like nothing else before. The mixture of residents from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and many other countries, joined by volunteers from Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, and other European and non-European nations created a unique sharing opportunity.
A learning experience like this one has a fundamental value for young people who, like me, have just or are about to finish their studies and are going to choose in which area to focus their efforts and future work. Gaining experience in the field is essential to deconstruct one’s preconceptions and prejudices as fundamental to improving and enriching one’s political and non-political thinking.
To conclude, I wish for everyone an opportunity of this kind: enriching, stimulating, and capable of providing you with a different perspective of the world, from below, raw, real, and concrete. A lot of work and a lot of empathy are required in the field of humanitarian cooperation and, even if it may seem obvious to repeat, the contribution of each of us is essential for the change.
This project is funded by the European Union through Eramsus+.