Time to be Welcome – AFS volunteers supporting refugees in Paris and Athens

Volunteering in Paris, France by Josephine Billedo Malvar

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.

These words from Marie Curie, have always inspired me and express the reason why I am volunteering for the project Time To Be Welcome in Paris which I would like to share.

The lasts months have been very enriching and I gained many experiences. I have learnt a lot from the association Singa and the movement EEUDF (Eclaireuses et Eclaireurs Unionistes de France) on how to foster the inclusion of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants through simple ideas and various projects. Simple ideas are for example to share diverse types of hobbies like playing football, doing music or sharing typical and traditional dishes by cooking together. These kinds of events organised by us, but launched by locals are open for everyone and for free. They are very popular and easily connect the local community with refugees, migrants or asylum seekers. The approaches illustrate that taking responsibility and supporting people can be done by every individual in an easy manner. I was very fascinated by the participants´ passion and willingness to help and to share experiences.

Besides supporting the interaction between locals and refugees, we commit to the distribution of breakfasts for new arrivals. The breakfasts are mostly donations from local supermarkets or bakeries.

One of my preferred project is L´École de Petits Voisins established by the collective Les Grands Voisins. Les Grands Voisins is a place in which various associations are collaborating to facilitate the coexistence and interaction from different social groups through intercultural activities, multifaceted events and projects. We have the chance to be a part of the improvised school organised by the Petits Voisins that is taking care of about 20 refugee children from 3 to 16 years old. We offer sports activities and teach handcrafts every Saturday with the support of local scouts. The children have a lot of energy and are always eager to learn new things. They already got to know some typical scout games like ´La gamelle´ or ´Chat Perché´ but also foreign games for example ´Kabaddi´ which is an Indian team sport I got to know from children in the Indian State Karnataka.

Trying to improve one´s living condition is definitely improving your personality. At the end of the day it is exhausting for both sides, the volunteers and the refugees, but whenever I see those smiley and laughing faces, I am sure I am doing what makes me happy, too.

TTBW_Josephine1 ???????????????????????????????

 

 

Volunteering in Athens, Greece,  by Clelia Marri

Hello, my name is Clelia and I’m currently volunteering in Athens thanks to the “Time To Be Welcome” project. I got here three months ago and I can’t believe how fast the time flew by!

Athens is a mixture of colours, old and new buildings, activities and people from all over the world. I wasn’t expecting such an intercultural city but this is one of the best parts of living in Athens. Even in this project, we all come from different countries and each one of us brought his own skills in order to give our best.

 

Our aim is to provide non-formal education and take part in the activities delivered in the youth refugee centers.

Teaching English and maths to the kids is one of my favorite activities. The kids are learning so fast and they are loving it. Most of them have never been to school before and this is their first attempt of being in a class, having their own notebook and doing homework in the afternoon. I have to admit that it’s not always easy, sometimes they get distracted or they want to leave the class but at the end of the day all that matters is that they are improving, learning and having fun at the same time.

Another thing that I love to do is going to the farmers’ market to collect vegetables and fruits for the refugee shelters. Seeing the local community gathering together and giving us some food for these people it’s something that made me believe in humanity once again. Giving one kilo of potatoes might seems nothing to a single person but each kilo, each bag of oranges makes a big change in somebody else’s life!

TTBW_Clelia1

Being here in Athens made me realise that we are all humans and that in the end kids are always kids and they love to play, go to the park and they all love pop corn.

Teenagers are always teenagers, they don’t like to go to school, they care about their clothes, and they want to look cool but hate going to the gym and workout.  :-)

The one thing that left me speechless is the strength the refugees have, how resilient they are. They have gone through so much but still have beautiful smiles on their faces. They are fighting for a better future, for being reunited with their families and they are still hoping for the brightest days in their home countries!

For more information about the Time to Be Welcome project please read here.TTBW_Clelia2