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Volunteering project in Xylokastro, Greece

February-May 2020

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I want to do a short-term volunteering project. Since I’m doing a gap year, I thought this will be a great way to utilize my free time doing something good and special. I finally decided to go to Xylokastro, Greece and take part in the volunteering project “Youth together for the forest of Xylokastro” for 2 months.

At first, I was a little skeptical because I had never lived on my own for such a long period of time, but I had nothing to lose if I gave it a go. So, I did and I’m very glad that I did. The main objective of this project is to understand what “thinking globally, acting locally” means. This means to develop a more positive attitude towards volunteering, solidarity and non-formal education. The main activities of the project contain the protection of the environment of the municipality of Xylokastro and the used languages were English and Greek.

Some of our tasks and training activities were:

● Protection of the forest and the coastline of the municipality of Xylokastro ● Support other environmental activities of the municipality outside of the forest like taking care of parks, playgrounds, the marine etc.

During my stay in Xylokastro, I was living in a flat with volunteers from other countries, I improved my communication skills in English and in Greek. Also, I learned what it means to be living together with international volunteers and I had the opportunity to learn about different cultures from all around Europe. By living independently in a foreign country for the first time, I had to learn how to manage my money by budgeting and being more careful on what I spend them on. Moreover, during this volunteering project, I learned a lot about the life of other young people, habits of their culture and I also learned how to be more flexible by looking at things from a different point of view. Furthermore, I learned about the differences but also the similarities between cultures and lastly, through all this I learned tolerance and acceptance.

This project allowed me to generate my own ideas and set them into practice. I took initiatives and with the help and support of the staff of the organization we evaluated them. During these months in Xylokastro, I learned a lot of things about my own culture but also other cultures, traditions and cultural heritage. All this was accomplished by participating in cultural nights and by various other activities.

Unfortunately, due to Covid19, we had to end our project earlier than planned. Quarantine life in Xylokastro wasn’t really different from normal days. But because of all the free time we had we decided to do some fun projects to utilize that free time creatively. We made some pouches made out of plastic bags. This way we reused unwanted plastic bags instead of throwing them away and polluting our planet. Some other activities we did were puzzles, play games with cards or Jenga and the endless movie nights. Furthermore, we cooked and tasted delicious food and desserts from many different countries. During the week we had cultural nights, pizza nights or our most frequent pita nights!

Despite Covid19 and the bumpy road, at some points I’m so thankful for all the great adventures and beautiful memories with all the amazing people I’ve met over the past 4 months that I now can call friends! I’m super glad I chose this volunteering project to help protect and clean the forest, the beach and Xylokastro in general!