Made up of thousands of islands, Greece is a country with both natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage. However, when it comes to visiting this Mediterranean destination, you might want to do a little more than see the black sands of Santorini or the gorgeous blues of Mykonos. Sometimes you want to give back, and volunteering is one of the best ways to do that.
How To Volunteer In Greece
Once you’ve decided Greece is the country in which you want to volunteer, you’ll need to decide what type of volunteering interests you. We’ll explore the options available in more detail below, but it’s worth noting that the type of volunteering you’d like to do will often decide your location for you. The most popular areas in Greece for volunteering are Thessaloniki, Athens and Prespes.
The next step is thinking about how long you want to volunteer for. There’s an abundance of reputable volunteering programmes available, which last for differing periods of time. So whether you’re looking to donate two weeks or two months of your time, you’ll be able to find a volunteering programme that’s suitable for you.
What Volunteer Schemes Are Available
Each island in Greece has its own needs. Which volunteering programme is right for you will depend on your personal skill set and interests, but there are plenty of options available for you to be able to utilise both.
Greece suffered greatly during the financial crisis, but unemployment is slowly dropping and currently sits at a seven-year low. Despite this, the unemployment rate of Greece’s youth (between 15 and 25 years old) remains high, at 39.1 percent.
It’s no secret that tourism has an incredible ability to help economic climates to recover, and because of this, there is a great need for international volunteers in Greece. ‘Voluntourism’ is a great way to inject funds into the local economy. It also provides invaluable skills, such as helping residents learn English, which helps the community and so gives local people the chance to help reconstruct their economy.
It can be difficult to know how you can help when it comes to the world’s refugee crisis. However, in Greece, there are volunteering programmes working specifically to do just that.
As more non-government organisations (NGOs) withdraw from the country, there is a level of uncertainty around what will happen. However, some teams remain in place that are dedicated to ensuring people have the aid and resources they need.
Volunteering programmes in this field are incredibly varied, with help being required in running community centres, education, goods distribution and social support.
Some of the most popular volunteering programmes in Greece are the animal conservation ones. Specifically, there are opportunities relating to the conservation and protection of Loggerhead turtles. Greece needs assistance both on-land at its animal shelters, but also in the depths of the deep blue with their dolphin and turtle conservation efforts.
Lakonikos Bay is an important nesting spot for the loggerhead turtle. The protection of their nests against seawater and predators is crucial to ensure that as many hatchlings as possible make it into the population.
The best time for volunteering for sea turtle conservation programmes is between May and September. You’ll be expected to take part in activities such as recording the turtles’ nesting activity, educating local people and visitors on conservation, and observing the entire process – from the turtles laying their eggs, through to watching the babies hatch.
Things To Consider Before Volunteering
When it comes to volunteering, there are many more things to consider than just your travel arrangements and the choice of volunteering programme.
Your Healthcare And Insurance Requirements
Don’t worry; when it comes to travelling to Greece, your arm won’t require too many pricks from your local practitioner! Having said that, it’s good practice to always ensure that your polio, tetanus, measles, rubella, mumps and hepatitis B vaccinations are up to date.
You should also ensure you have the appropriate travel insurance in place. While the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) covers European Union (EU) citizens for any emergency treatment, it doesn’t cover health care treatment which is a non-emergency, or which involves patients flying back home.
Whether You’re Truly Helping
When it comes to volunteering, many programmes suffer from what is known as the ‘revolving door’ effect. This means that just as a volunteering programme begins to rely on a person’s skill set or expertise, they up and leave, taking those skills with them. This means the volunteering programme is a person down, and creates the additional task of having to train somebody new.
This isn’t a problem for short-term volunteering programmes, such as animal conservation or construction. However, not all volunteering programmes were created equal and sometimes, whilst it might appear that you’re helping, you might actually be doing more harm than good. A good example of this is volunteering to teach children English. Children are at their most formative during their younger years, and a huge part of developing as a person is their ability to create meaningful connections. Teachers changing every few weeks can cause the child’s attention to shift away from their education as they’re constantly focusing on building new relationships. Each time a child forms a bond with somebody and they leave, they have to begin this process again. As a result, the child misses out on forming real relationships which are vital for their growth and education.
The best way to ensure that a volunteering programme can truly benefit from your participation is to research the programme you’re looking into. Once you are sure it’s a reputable programme, it’s important to commit to a set time period so that the organisation knows how long they have your skill set for and can plan accordingly.