Alumni volunteer Sapna Srivastava and sons Shaan (10) and Rowhan (13) Daly volunteered over the boys’ spring break – serving the children in Maleviziou, Crete. It’s become a family tradition to serve together. Rowhan participated on his first Global Volunteers service program with Sapna in Montana in 2013. Shaan soon joined them when they served the next year in Quito, Ecuador and then St. Lucia in 2016. In a conversation with Social Media Manager Sam Pinakoulaki, Sapna shares her reasons for encouraging her boys to serve, and reflects on what they gain from each experience.

What appealed to you about a service-oriented spring break for the boys?

Having the opportunity to learn, contribute and have fun, which was important, and I think great for the kids. It helped them understand the community in a different way rather than just traveling for pleasure. It really gave us the opportunity to engage with, and learn from and about the community we served. We got to, both appreciate the opportunities and challenges of the local people, which otherwise we would not have experienced. It also allowed the boys (and me) to really interact and form relationships with the community members, and other volunteers, which we really cherish.

“Today was yet another one of those fabulous days in Crete when you wonder why you would ever want to go home. At school, we taught a group of 10-year-olds. We dictated several sentences and let them write them down. They were learning about contractions. After they finished their test, they started asking questions about us. After teaching the 10-year-olds all about New York and trying to find every picture of the skyline we could, we sat down with Maria, a lady. She had been learning for 2 months, but was almost proficient! We were amazed by her ability to grasp concepts so quickly. Our lesson quickly turned into a casual conversation with occasional teaching moments thrown in. She loved telling stories about Greek culture, and much to our delight, she even taught us the Greek alphabet! The linguistic border seemed to dissipate as our conversation continued. In the background, we could hear Tenia, angry with her students who were talking. Even though we were thousands of miles away from home, and in a completely different culture, some things are certainly universal.”

– Journal excerpt by Rowhan Daly

Were your boys enthusiastic about this option?  What was their response?

Both Rowhan and Shaan were really enthusiastic. They have loved every trip that they have done so far (with Global Volunteers) and were really looking forward to doing another one. They fought over which locations they wanted to go to, but they both returned from the service  program completely loving Greece and thinking it was the best decision made.

How did you choose Greece for this opportunity?

We wanted to go to a place that we had not been to before; had local children in the volunteer program that we could work with; and that would fit in the spring break weeks the boys had off from school. Greece fit all the criteria.

What was the most valuable experience during this service program?

Working with the kids (especially the teenagers) and an older lady (at Tenia’s English Language School) was the most valuable experience. It really gave us a window into what the kids have to do in this part of Greece to prepare for jobs and University. Also, their interaction with each other really showed us that kids are the same everywhere – it’s really only the opportunities in life that differ. It was also great working with the adult student – as she taught the boys the Greek alphabet during the program. Rowhan has been taking his science notes using the Greek alphabet to keep himself up to date.

“It was our third day of teaching and a glamorous day we found that we were to teach a slightly different roster today. We were also delighted to see our fellow volunteer, Gloria. To start, we taught two linguistically minded girls who were almost fluent. Then for the third day in the row, we were happy to see two other girls we had been interacting deeply with, and one of them calls me her “husband” because she finds me so CUTE! To end it, we taught a woman looking to improve her resume. During this time, our sweet teacher Tenia gave us delicious treats. Another great day of learning about Greek culture in “Kreta.”

– Journal excerpt by Shaan

Why is international travel and service important for youth?

Arriving at Athens airport, we noticed a sign which basically said:   “Life is like a book and if you have not travelled, you have not read beyond the first page!” This really summarizes why we think it is important to travel. Adding the service component makes it especially valuable, as we have found it to really add to the richness of going to a different country. We get to be a part of the lives of a very different community, which hopefully leads to greater mutual understanding. Our hope is that it teaches our boys to both learn and give back to the community as they grow. 

What keeps you returning to Global Volunteers to volunteer abroad?

 I have really appreciated the opportunity to be able to travel with my two children in very diverse places such as Montana, Quito, St. Lucia and now Crete, and volunteer alongside with them. It gives us a shared experience and perspective which, I find invaluable. Global Volunteers staff have been great right from the beginning, helping us pick the perfect locations. We have had great experiences each time, which makes it easy for us to come back. Sam and the program in Greece was especially great! Sam was really good at getting the best out of kids and they loved her. We will have to ensure the next location can certainly meet that bar!!!“Even though you don’t speak the same language, you can still have fun together.”

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

– Pericles, ancient Greek Philosopher.

Scenes from the family’s previous Global Volunteers service programs:

And, consider this:

Global Volunteers’ Summer English Language School in Crete is also a great student and family service opportunity. The program runs in June, July and August each year. Learn about how to volunteer in Greece here.

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Family of four serve and explore Greece.

Three generations volunteer in Crete!

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