Supporting Underprivileged Youth in Thessaloniki
This is a week-long experience volunteering with underprivileged youth in a structured environment and in partnership with a respected Greek non-profit organization. Our goal is to support disenfranchised children in the greater Thessaloniki area through recreational and educational activities centered around themes such as friendship, companionship and mentorship. The program will run June 28 – July 4, 2020.
Scholarships will be offered for this program for participants with financial need that will cover lodging, program expenses including excursions, transportation within Thessaloniki and some meals.
Alternatively, if no financial need exists, applicants can opt to purchase the package after they have been accepted.
We are seeking no more than eight volunteers. This program is targeted to students and young professionals (i.e. between ages 18-30); however, anyone age 18 and older is eligible to apply. Volunteers do not need to be currently enrolled in college, nor in possession of a college degree. See below for the full program details.
Partner & Location
Our program partner is SOS Children’s Villages, an international non-profit whose Greek branch opened in 1975. This organization focuses on helping families to cultivate a nurturing home environment for their children. SOS not only helps families care for their children but also provides alternative care once the children can no longer live with their own families.
SOS’s specific programs include the Family Strengthening Program, which works directly with families, many of which are single parents looking after children alone. The organization provides family services such as parental counseling as well as material, social and emotional support.
If, despite SOS’s assistance, children can no longer live with their families, the organization offers them a new home in one of its villages.
Program Dates & Description
This program begins on Sunday, June 28, 2020 with an informal arrival, registration and check-in at the hotel. Program participants MUST be in Thessaloniki on June 28 without exception. The program will conclude on Saturday, July 4. Participants should plan to depart Thessaloniki the following morning or make arrangements to stay on their own expense.
The program will begin with an orientation session alongside staff from SOS Children’s Villages. The staff will introduce themselves to volunteers during the session.
Volunteers will work closely with SOS staff and under their supervision. Our volunteer location will be within the city center of Thessaloniki. Ordinarily, volunteers will work weekdays for approximately six hours per day with the children and SOS staff. The team will participate in daily activities and educational projects with children to provide them with friendship, companionship and mentorship. Volunteers will be asked to conceptualize and plan group activities before the program begins. Potential activities may include arts and crafts projects, sports and basic English lessons, among others. Excursions within Thessaloniki will also form a large part of the program. Excursions will include trips to cultural events, museums and other points of interest in the city.
During some evenings, our group will either have free time to explore or attend dinner-inclusive excursions arranged by the Greek America Foundation. Excursions will include local happenings and cultural events taking place in Thessaloniki.
The approximate schedule for the week will be as follows:
Arrival/check-in, welcome dinner, orientation and meeting with representatives of the Greek America Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages.
Monday – Friday
AM – Approximately six hours of volunteer work (including lunch break) with partner charity SOS Villages in Thessaloniki city center.
PM – Volunteers will either have free time to explore or attend a dinner-inclusive excursion arranged by the Greek America Foundation. Excursions will include local happenings and cultural events taking place in Thessaloniki.
Final day of volunteering.
PM – Farewell dinner, final night
Airfare to Greece from the U.S. or Canada is not included. Participants will be asked to cover their own transportation to Thessaloniki. Greek America Foundation staff can help with international and domestic travel arrangements.
Lodging in Thessaloniki is provided from June 28, 2020 (check-in) to July 5, 2020 (check out).
Breakfast is included daily, as are some shared meals throughout the program. Participants should budget about 80 Euros for extra meals.
Transportation within Thessaloniki and to and from volunteer locations is included. Transportation will be provided for non-walkable volunteer locations and excursions.
The Greek America Foundation will purchase travel medical insurance to cover emergency and routine medical needs only for the dates of the program. Please make sure to hold your own health insurance policy as well and check whether coverage is available abroad.
On-site staff will be available 24/7 to support volunteers.
If financial need exists, you may opt for a full scholarship covering all program fees mentioned above. (Airfare to Greece is not covered by scholarship funds). You can also opt to pay for the program if no financial need exists. The cost for participation is $1,299.00 — plus airfare to Greece. This cost includes accommodations, most meals and cultural activities/excursions as mentioned above.
Desired Qualities in a Volunteer
Our volunteer work with SOS Children’s Villages is rewarding in the best sense — you give of yourself and get more back than you gave. Being able to offer underprivileged youth the gifts of friendship, support, joy and visibility is exhilarating.
The Greek America Foundation seeks volunteers who are able to handle quickly changing environments, encountering people from different cultures and sharing viewpoints and the emotional ups and downs that come with working in challenging conditions. Our volunteer work may at times be physically demanding: summer temperatures in Greece can reach 100 degrees and we will be outside at times engaging in physical activity. Please note that we will always be mindful of putting everyone’s health first during hot weather.
Staff from the Greek America Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages will be on hand at all times. We encourage all volunteers to take down time, practice self-care and use their own coping strategies while engaged in this work. Having strong boundaries, knowing your limits and when to take a break are important skills while volunteering.
Frequently Asked Questions
I’d like to attend another program/conference/family celebration. Can I join the program late or leave at any time?
Participants are expected to be present for the duration of the program as detailed above and not attend other events.
Can I have visitors during my week of volunteering in Thessaloniki
Visitors are permitted but may not participate in the official volunteer program or excursions, which are exclusively reserved for volunteers. If a friend or family members would like to visit, such visits must take place on evenings and/or during non-volunteer hours.
What’s a typical day like?
Typical days entail breakfast; approximately six hours of volunteering (with lunch break) at the SOS facility and returning to the hotel in the late afternoon. The team will participate in daily activities and educational projects with children to provide them with friendship, companionship and mentorship. Group meetings will also take place when appropriate. Please note that the schedule may deviate slightly from day-to-day based on the needs and schedule of SOS staff and children. Excursions will also form a large part of the program and will include trips to cultural events, museums and other points of interest in the city. Volunteers will have some evenings free to explore Thessaloniki, but occasional group activities will be scheduled.
Is it safe to be in Thessaloniki?
The Greek America Foundation vets all volunteer locations for safety and suitability for our volunteers. Likewise, NGO partners are also vetted for accountability and ability to handle our volunteer group. Thessaloniki is generally quite a safe location in Greece. Reasonable precautions will be taken to ensure safety at all times. Volunteers will receive safety training and guidance on behavior best practices for a variety of contexts.
Do I need to speak Greek to participate?
English and Greek will be the main languages spoken in the volunteer program. Basic conversational Greek skills are preferred and highly desirable, although not required. Interpreters will be available at times.
DEADLINE: March 7, 2020 @ 11:59 PM EST
Applicants that have been accepted into the program will be notified on a rolling basis beginning on February 14. All applicants will be notified by March 27 at the latest.
Why this program?
Children are the unseen victims of a devastating economic crisis that crippled Greece for more than a decade. Because of their family’s poverty and inability to provide for them fully, thousands of children in Greece lack access to beneficial educational experiences such as summer camps and similar programs.
The situation has worsened due to ongoing economic struggles, as an average of one in four Greek children live in poverty — according to UNICEF. The statistic gives Greece one of the highest child poverty rates in the EU.
Therefore, numerous charities such as SOS Children’s Villages are stepping up to offer such children access to critical educational and recreational services which they could not receive otherwise.
This program will allow volunteers to be in direct contact with some of the most underprivileged children in Greece. Participants will be able not only to make an impact on their lives, but also establish connections with them that transcend the program itself.