This article has been written by our volunteer Anouk Pernot.

When I arrived in Polykastro, I honestly didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t sure if I should prepare myself for a potential psychological shock and if I would get along with the people in the camp, or even if I would be able to communicate with them. Although I had my doubts, after two months, I can confidently say this was one of the most enriching and meaningful experiences I’ve ever had.

I forged strong bonds with the members of this community. They have taught me much more than I could have ever taught them. Spending time with people, conversing with them, and understanding the situation of the people in the camp, made me realise how fortunate we are to not have to leave everything and everyone behind just to find safety.

Throughout my volunteering, I’ve witnessed people arriving at the camp, and I’ve seen people receiving their papers and leaving. I’ve come to understand what saying goodbye truly means, and then I had the opportunity to experience it myself, learning how difficult a goodbye really is. OCC was a part of the people in the camp’s home, and it became mine for two months as well, brimming with life, laughter, and tears. 

Now I understand the transformative power of a school. It’s not just a place to learn, but also a sanctuary meant to provide a sense of security. It’s where new people meet and temporarily escape their day-to-day reality. OCC’s cafeteria was precisely that: a space to converse, play music, and share moments. It was a place where I spent quality time with the people living in the camp, as they educated me about their country, language, and culture.

Returning to France is going to be more challenging than I initially thought. I’ll bid farewell to my OCC family, the people living in the camp with whom I formed strong bonds and my incredible co-volunteers who have become family to me. 

I’m leaving with my wrists covered in bracelets and a determination to continue doing everything I can to bring about positive change for the future.

Our volunteering program is funded by the European Union through Eramsus+.

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