Mihali is a seven-year-old boy living in Malevizi on the island of Crete. Global Volunteers supports summer camps each year in Malevizi, from June through August, to help improve students’ conversational English.

Volunteers first met Mihali in 2014. Some noticed that during classroom activities and play time, Mihali reacted to the smallest of conflicts with anger and aggression and spent much of his time alone and withdrawn. Those volunteers brought the issue to Sam, Global Volunteers’ Country Manager and trusted Team Leader. Sam spoke with his grandmother, his primary care-taker, to learn more about Mihali and figure out if there was a way that the volunteers might be able to help him. Sam learned that both of Mihali’s parents had been killed in a car accident several years prior and as a result, his behavior changed.

Walking through the grapevines to Summer Camp on the Isle of Crete

Sam kept her eye on Mihali and urged the volunteers to pay special attention to him as well. One day, Mihali’s grandmother approached Sam to ask for the volunteers’ help in urging Mihali to try something new. He was in the habit of wearing the same clothes to school every day, and his grandmother hoped that the volunteers might be able to help find a way to help Mihali break this habit on his own. The volunteers put their heads together and decided to ask the summer school class to focus on a certain color every day. One day would be blue, one day would be red, and so on. The kids came to class dressed in the color of the day and then made presentations to the class about that color as they practiced their English. The fun was contagious and slowly but surely, Mihali joined in and after a few days actually started changing his clothes as well. 

One of the volunteers noticed that Mihali was struggling with his penmanship.  For the next 10 days, that volunteer spent 30 minutes each day teaching him how to hold his pencil and worked closely with him as he wrote his “ABC’s.” With the extra support from his new volunteer ally, not only did Mihali’s penmanship improve but his behavior and ability to handle stress in class began to shift.

Hugs, smiles, and gratitude on the last day of Summer English Camp.

Now, nearly 5 years later, Mihali’s grandmother reports that there has been a huge change in his school work. He is excelling in English, where previously, he had so much trouble! And, when it comes time to enroll in summer school, Mihali is always the first student on the list.

Mihali’s name was changed to protect his anonymity. Special thanks to Sam Pinakoulaki who helped write this story.

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