Greece suffered greatly during the financial crisis of the millennium, and during this time protests riddled Athens and other cities due to economic budget cuts. Many communities suffered and are still suffering, and often wealth stands directly next to utter poverty, emphasizing the stark contrast between the two. The economic climate has brought the need for international volunteers in Greece, who are capable of bringing English language instruction and investing in conservation of the natural environment, both of which have the potential to reconstruct the nation’s economy and preserve its future.
Those who volunteer in Greece will find that it is a nation of stunning dichotomies: ocean and stone, islands and mainland, bustling city and dusty countryside, ancientness and modernity. Iconic white stone edifices with blue domes and trim spill down the cliff sides of the Cycladic islands, while Byzantine walls and columned architecture trump the mainland. In the home of one of the most ancient civilizations on earth, there is an incredible variety of landscape and culture to take in, from bouzouki bars to monasteries and back. Therefore, volunteering in Greece may also take a variety of forms depending on where volunteers choose to station themselves.
Volunteer programs in Greece are located both in urban epicenters, such as Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as in remote villages, such as Prespes in the north of the mainland near the border of Macedonia. Although community programs may be located in larger cities or remote areas, while environmental conservation projects often take volunteers to more rural areas, islands, or off-the-beaten path locations where they are better able to invest in conservation of the natural environment.
Volunteering Abroad in Greece
Volunteer programs in Greece are most frequently focused on environmental conservation, sustainable community development, teaching, and social empowerment. But regardless of placement, all individual who volunteer in Greece will find themselves aimed at boosting the future of the nation’s land and people.
Environmental Conservation. One of the largest challenges toward environmental conservation in Greece is the lack of policy implementation. Since the mid-1990’s, however, actions are being undertaken to resolve this and to contribute toward the continuation of solid conservation and environmental measures. As Greece proffers miles of sapphire-blue coastal waters, a main consideration within environmental conservation programs is protection and cleanup of the marine landscape, which is heavily touristed. Another consideration is the fact that many areas of Greece are prone to forest fires in the summer, and preventative efforts as well as reforestation efforts for burnt areas are the focus of many conservation volunteer programs in Greece.
Volunteering in Greece in organic farming and on agro-tourism projects is also common, and is an incredible way to contribute to the local farms, better the availability of products in the market, and increase knowledge about organic farming practices. Organic farming volunteers in Greece help lower the cost of organic foods in marketplaces, therefore increasing access to these foods while protecting the environment at the same time.
Community Development, Education, & Empowerment. Environmental programs and community development initiatives go hand in hand in Greece, as environmental preservation is the key to community growth. Those who volunteer in Greece may find themselves promoting awareness campaigns or educating communities about ways to decrease their impact on the environment, and duly support both causes. Teaching English and providing empowerment for both women and youth are common activities for volunteers in Greece.
Costs & Affordability
Greece is a part of the European Union so the nation utilizes the Euro as its currency. The approximate value of 1 Euro is currently about 75 cents. People from the United States often find travel to Europe to be quite expensive; however, when volunteering in Greece individuals will often find themselves placed in rural locations, where a meal can be purchased for a handful of Euro and the local beauty is free.
Accommodations & Visas
Housing is often provided for individuals who volunteer in Greece, especially for those who participate in programs that trade volunteer work (such as work on a family farm) for homestay accommodation. In these circumstances, both housing and meals are offered to volunteers in return for their help on the family farm or tutoring the family’s children.
Visas are not required to volunteer abroad in Greece for individuals from the United States or the EU. However, individuals from other nations who want to volunteer in Greece should contact a Greek embassy or consulate to verify visa policies, or speak directly with their volunteer program provider.
Benefits & Challenges
Language. It can be challenging to volunteer in a nation where many people do not speak English, however this is also a great benefit of volunteering abroad in Greece. Learning to engage and interact internationally with those who speak other languages is an asset, both personally and professionally. As the world becomes more interconnected, through technology and travel, the ability to work cross-culturally and understand the world on a global scale has become essential.
Urban Culture. In urban Greece, and Athens in particular, it may be hard to grasp the sheer poverty that resides alongside wealth.
- Safety. Some areas of the city are dangerous and it is best to travel with caution in the city. Don’t wear flashy items or travel with a large amount of cash, and get good directions before heading out.
- Transportation. Athens is quite large, however the metro system is very comprehensive. Many cab drivers will try to trick you into paying twice the fare by pushing two on their meters instead of one, so be aware of this trick and use the metro in the day for cheap transportation. Cabs are better utilized at night to avoid getting lost in an area in which you may not want to be.
Rural Culture. In remote areas of Greece, cultural conceptions may be very different as well. For example, those with a lot of visual tattoos may be approached as to why they have them by locals in rural locations. It can be difficult to explain things that are common in urban or progressive societies, however this is a part of learning cross-cultural communication. In the same way, you may not understand why certain products are not largely a part of the local economy in a rural location in Greece, or why things are done in a way you are not accustomed to. Part of the adventure of volunteering is coming to understand both the differences and similarities among all people, so try to embrace the differences.