The voluntary program in which I participated was an environmental program and was a collaboration between two excellent organizations, YEU Cyprus and the Orpheus Organization of Greece. When I saw the post on social media and made the request, I didn’t think it would be me, one of the two lucky ones, who would live this unique experience. So, when I was approved and started my trip to Xylokastro, I was quite anxious but at the same time an inexplicable sense of joy. Shortly before the trip and during the trip I was in constant communication with other volunteers, who were already in Xylokastro, for different volunteer programs, who were guiding me on how to get there.
The first day I was quite anxious, especially about whether I could communicate with the other guys, as I didn’t know English well and was afraid to speak. From the first moment of our acquaintance, however, this feeling began to fade and I soon realized that I had started making new friends, with whom I could communicate. So, for the first few days, I was constantly with my cell phone in my hand and Google Translate was constantly open, to be ready when I don’t know something to translate it. The guys knew that I didn’t know English well, but we had several discussions, as a result of which they pushed me to forget my fear of the language and to leave the translator aside…
Another fear I had was living in a house with so many people, as we started living in a house with 6 people and at some point, we became 9. Before this experience, when asked “if I could live with another person” the answer was always “of course not”. So, staying home with people who had a different culture was quite interesting, as we were constantly learning elements from other cultures and at the same time learning our own culture. For example, during our stay at home, we learned several traditional dishes from other countries such as France, Turkey and Spain.
In addition, our cooperation with the municipality of Xylokastro was very good and quite interesting. Through it, we had the opportunity to meet and work with City Hall employees and learn more about that area. Some of our obligations at work were to maintain the cleanliness of the forest and the coastline of Xylokastro and Sykia as well as the care of the new plants, which will then be used for reforestation. In addition, we participated in the cleaning of the city, in the collection of waste but also in the collection (pruning) of grass. Our collaboration with so many people has helped us work as a team and enrich our knowledge. In addition, it gave us more self-esteem, responsibility and developed several skills, such as communication and creativity.
Our free time was enough, but it passed quickly and beautifully. We had met the volunteers from other programs, and we met them every day. We all played games together, watched movies and had several discussions on various topics. In addition, we organized barbecues, parties and cultural evenings, where we made traditional food or drinks of our countries. In addition, we went on several excursions such as in Patras, Athens and Kalamata, collecting beautiful memories. Through all this, I learned that you can have a wonderful time everywhere and overcome many obstacles that come in your way. The only thing you need is to have good people next to you, with whom you can communicate, regardless of whether you have the same tastes.
At the end of our program, the pandemic (coronavirus) came, as the result that we cannot return to our homes. This caused us a lot of stress, but it didn’t beat us. Soon, with the help of our organizations, we found something to do, so that the days passed fairly quickly. During that time, I think I was “lucky” in a way, because I spent the quarantine with several people at home, which made me not feel alone. In addition, one gave courage to the other and it was a period that brought us even closer.
Overall, my personal experience in this volunteer program was unique and memorable. I understand that through volunteering you have the opportunity to give things, but in fact you get more than you give. I met remarkable people with whom we still communicate. It also helped me get to know another aspect of myself that I might never have found without volunteering. Finally, I would love to repeat a similar volunteering program and live similar experiences. It is something unique that is definitely worth living!