Travel + Dwell

To Greece We Go | Celebrating 10 Years of Friendship With Volunteerism

by | Jun 21, 2017


This July marks the ten-year anniversary of meeting my best friend Stacey. Earlier this year, we tossed around a few party ideas on how to best celebrate such an occasion. A weekend in Big Sur? Wine tasting? We decided to brainstorm for a while, to get it right. 

All of this was of course set against the tumultuous recent political backdrop. Every news alert on my phone, every scroll through social media reminding us that in many ways, things were getting worse, and we weren’t doing much about it.

An organization I volunteered for years ago, Cross Cultural Solutions, sent me an email amidst our party planning. Call it destiny. They were getting ready to launch a new program in Greece to assist local nonprofits inside a Syrian refugee camp just outside of Athens. This was it. The program launched in July, and it was perfect for Stacey and I. Big Sur and wine tasting went out the window. We would celebrate our friendship giving to others and trying in some small way to help those affected by the worst refugee crisis in modern times.

We will be part of the first wave of volunteers through this new program and will spend most of July working in the Ritsona refugee camp. There are many such camps throughout Greece, but this one in particular has approximately 800 residents, half of which are children. Children who are in limbo, their lives and childhood uprooted and on hold. Local nonprofit organizations are helping how they can, trying to create normalcy through education and play. Cross Cultural Solutions is a leader in the field of international volunteering, operating for 20 years. They believe the best approach to international volunteering is one designed by the immediate and local community. In every community in which they work (Asia, Central America, South America, Africa and Europe), they have long-standing relationships with local organizations who communicate real-time needs and objectives to the CCS team. 

Stacey and I are still waiting for our exact job description, as they are placing us with an organization that best matches our skills and experiences. Volunteers are needed to teach children, work with the disabled population in the camp, provide education, and healthcare to the more than 20 pregnant women currently in the camp, cultivate female friendly spaces, improve infrastructure, and beautify the camp to hopefully be something more. I look forward to sharing about this experience upon our return. Perhaps you’ll soon be joining a camp and sharing about your time there.

***Op-ed by Allyson Joy

Allyson Joy is a Wolf Pack member and reader who reached out to us to share this story with the whole global Pack. She is a 29-year-old SoCal native and a newly married cat mom with a true crime obsession. She has always been invested in community service and volunteerism, working for the American Red Cross for five years and still volunteering with them regularly. Her primary focus is youth development and disaster response, and she currently works at a local university doing emergency response planning for the campus police department. Allyson reads a lot of Stephen King and paints and draws in her spare time. Her specialty is portraiture, and she almost entirely paints portraits of women.