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February-May 2020

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I want to do a short-term volunteering project and
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 sceptical 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 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
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.
● Planting new plants and taking care of them
● Participating in activities prepared for and by the local community according to the
seasonal needs
● Helping to clean the open market every Friday
● Greek lessons to the other volunteers

During my stay in Xylokastro, 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 got to know 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 and new
habits in this culture and I also learned how to understand another system and another point
of view of this community. 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 suggest 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 our every other week cultural nights or pizza nights or our 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!
Marilena Theodotou