It was a magical weekend for our Greek America Foundation volunteer team. They took the ferry boat from their base on Chios to the island of Samos for a weekend of various service projects.
The excursion to Samos was sponsored by Peter Kalis of Pittsburgh, PA, whose father came from the village of Ambelos.
Our volunteers visited Ambelos and participated in various clean-up projects led by the local priest, Fr. Xristodoulos Kleanthous. They experienced true Greek hospitality as curious villagers emerged from their homes to welcome the “strangers,” offering them local sweets and kind words of encouragement.
One woman even emerged from her window to ask the visitors what they were doing in the village, continuing to share that her siblings had emigrated decades ago to the United States and Australia. At the end of her welcome, she asked the volunteers if they had ever sampled the local Samos Muscat wine, bringing out a dozen glasses before sending them off with greetings of good health.
Our volunteers also spent a day in the kitchen of Maria Makrogianni, also known throughout the word as Mama Maria, who became globally renowned several years ago when she opened her restaurant to thousands of refugees who were arriving on the island during the peak of the refugee crisis.
Makrogianni, who is currently in treatment for cancer, shared stories with our volunteers of her experiences and her desire to help people in need, explaining that her own mother arrived on Samos as a refugee from Smyrna in 1922.
After preparing nearly 100 sandwiches at Makrogianni’s house, our team went outside the nearby refugee camp to offer them to women, children and other people in need who were passing by.
One volunteer, Veronica Perry, 28, from Sacramento, CA, even shared her experience in a personal blog that she wrote.
“We weren’t allowed inside [the refugee camp], so we stood on the side of the road until pregnant women, young children and some men came down from the camp to take food,” Perry wrote. “I’ll never forget their faces.”
“This issue is extremely close to my heart because my great grandmother became a refugee after the Burning of Smyrna in Turkey,” she continued. “Our family lost everything. She lived well into her 90’s and passed when I was 16, but her spirit and resilience live on in me.”
This excursion to Samos was part of our summer 2021 Greek America Corps volunteer program on the island of Chios. Click here for more information about our Greek America Corps volunteer programs in Greece.