Service Learning Program
What is Service Learning?
Service Learning is an initiative of the Greek America Foundation that aims to engage North American college students and young professionals in impactful volunteer programs in Greece, a nation that has been impacted adversely by a crippling financial crisis and the largest international refugee crisis since World War II. Humanitarian relief programs which are unheard of in most Western countries are commonplace in Greece, which has experienced exponential increases in homelessness, child poverty, suicide and other societal problems.
There are three primary aspects to this initiative:
(1) Students are are exposed to the ideals of service and volunteerism, core ideals of the Greek America Foundation’s mission, and experience first-hand their own impact on the causes they are supporting.
(2) At the same time, collectively, our program supports the nation of Greece and her people as they grapple with numerous humanitarian issues.
(3) Finally, our volunteers are exposed to contemporary Greek life and culture.
The inaugural Service Learning Program took place during the summer of 2017 in Athens, Greece when 10 volunteers spent the month of July with The HOME Project, a network of shelters for unaccompanied refugee minors.
Our upcoming program is taking place on the island of Chios during the summer of 2019, where 16 volunteers are supporting the efforts of METAdrasi, a non-profit offering support, education, integration and other services to unaccompanied refugee minors trapped in Greece.
Our program has been supported over the years by companies, institutions and individuals who understand the significance of imparting the ideals of service and volunteerism amongst future leaders of our community.
Donate today to help us sustain this program and continue to instill the values of service and volunteerism in young North Americans — while immersing them in real-world humanitarian challenges.
Our program strives to create human experiences for our volunteers, connecting them with their inner-selves and instilling in them the importance of volunteerism and service by allowing them to experience first-hand the smile on the face of someone they are feeding, supporting or serving.
Desired Qualities in a Volunteer
We seek 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. Having strong boundaries, knowing your limits and when to take a break are important skills while volunteering.
Participants have the option to accrue college credit that can be applied to their studies at their home institution in the United States or Canada via our partnership with the Hellenic American University, a U.S.-accredited institution of higher education in Athens. Students are responsible for checking with their home institutions about transfer of credits and ensuring the transfer of the credits. A counselor at Hellenic American University will be made available to assist, as will a curriculum and coursework.
Our programs are usually a month long and require about 5-6 hours a day of volunteering, four days per week. We do offer an “off-day,” as well as pre-planned weekend excursions to allow for volunteers to have a physical and emotional break for the demanding work they are doing. Excursions involve the immersion into the local culture, with guided visits to cultural and historic sights, beaches, traditional village festivals or other important locations and/or happenings that may be taking place during the program’s duration.
Why Service Learning? Testimonials from Past Volunteers
Getting to know these kids on a personal level and building such close friendships with them right off the bat super easily has been an amazing experience… I’m very privileged and honored to have had this experience for sure, and I’m super grateful — beyond grateful. I don’t think ‘grateful’ can put into words how much of an honor it is to have done this.
I learned a lot from these kids. I learned that you can have nothing and still be very happy. I learned that not all is bad in this life, even coming from war-torn countries and countries with civil war you can still be happy and live a fulfilling life.
I think I learned from each individual that was here with us… just each person I’ve encountered here in Greece I’ve learned something from them — whether it’s about patience, just smiling at random strangers, kindness, just how to love people better in general.
This program was instrumental in my personal growth and transformation. The support network of the Greek America Foundation staff and my peers was essential. I will always be indebted to them.
The beginning was tough at first because we were just getting started, but once we started to get connections with these kids it was so amazing. I’ve gained lifelong connections with them. They’re not even really kids — they’re teenagers. Especially the past day where we had to leave them, it was one of the hardest things that I’ve had to do.
To see these kids go through these hardships and to see them with their head up and positive is a really nice positive reinforcement, and I’m just so happy to be involved with this program and I’m going to come back and try to help again.
I wanted to work with these kids in order to help them feel as though they do have agency, they do have a self, and most importantly they do have a voice, and their voice matters and what they say matters. [I wanted] to remind them that there is someone somewhere in the world who cares about them and cares what they have to say.
I find fulfillment in making connections with kids. I think the Service Learning program is very special. I’m Greek, my dad is from Greece and I’m very interested in understanding both native Greeks’ and refugees’ perspectives and experiences together in this crisis.
My experience with the kids has been life-changing. I’ve formed bonds with these kids through the weekend activities and seeing them every day. Frankly, I feel like these kids are my equals and friends. I will never forget this experience.
I’m really grateful for this experience and I think that it’s helped guide me closer to what I might want to do going forward in my life.
More news about Service Learning
The Greek America Foundation is thrilled to announce that a recent donation from George and Kristin Strompolos will support four scholarships for our summer 2019 Service Learning program. Two of these scholarships are earmarked specifically for young people from Colorado’s Greek American community, where George Strompolos was raised. Service Learning is an initiative of the […]
The Greek America Foundation is proud to partner with METAdrasi on the Greek island of Chios for our 2019 Summer Service Learning Program which aims to engage North American college students and young professionals in volunteer programs in Greece. Our 2019 program includes a month-long experience volunteering with vulnerable groups, including refugee children and unaccompanied […]
This summer, the Greek America Foundation sent ten North American students to spend several weeks in Athens volunteering at shelters of The Home Project, a non-profit organization founded to protect and care for unaccompanied refugee minors — children who have arrived in Greece from various conflict zones throughout the world and who are alone without […]
This summer, 10 North American students were sent by the Greek America Foundation to spend several weeks in Athens, volunteering at shelters of The Home Project, an organization founded to protect and care for unaccompanied refugee minors — children who have arrived in Greece from various conflict zones throughout the world and who are alone […]
The Greek America Foundation’s Service Learning program volunteers visited United States Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 to discuss their work with unaccompanied refugee minors as well as other contemporary issues facing Greece. The nine American and one Canadian students have now spent a week and a half volunteering at shelters […]
Service Learning is a new initiative of the Greek America Foundation aiming to engage North American university students with volunteer programs in Greece. Our program fulfills a dual purpose. First, students are immersed into contemporary Greek life, while simultaneously volunteering for important humanitarian relief programs and helping to make a lasting impact on contemporary problems […]