University student Emmanuelle Dulac was born with the “volunteer bug.” For as long as she can remember, she’s been an active volunteer in her home town of Québec, Canada. But she began looking for more; a chance to help others while experiencing a new culture. An internet search in March, 2022 brought her to the Global Volunteers Greece Service Program webpage – exactly what she was seeking. Excitedly sharing her up-and-coming travel plans with her mom, Marie-Hélène, the trip for one soon became a mother/daughter bonding/service adventure! Greece Country Manager Sam Pinakoulaki interviewed them here about their expected – and unexpected – experience as traveling volunteers.
What did volunteering in Greece mean to you? What relationships did you form?
Emmanuelle: This service program meant several things to me. It allowed me to experience volunteering in the best possible way after COVID and meet people worldwide. These new friendships, laughter, and rich experiences gave me significant “baggage” I will be able to carry with me through my studies and future career. Not only did I help children learn English, but I also got to practice mine, since French is my first language. Finally, it also meant I got to spend some quality time with my mother, whom I don’t get to see very often because of my studies abroad. I formed long-lasting friendships with my team and the children I taught. Not only have I made new friends, but I also got to experience the Greek culture, visit the islands and witness life from a different perspective. In that way, it differed from my other travels – because I combined helping people with learning about a culture, others, and myself.
Marie-Hélène: I agree with Emmanuelle that our two weeks in Greece differed from other trips, since I got to visit the place and experience its people. Helping people along the way is much more gratifying too! Serving with my daughter for two weeks in Crete was a fabulous experience; we had a great time with a great team and a great team leader. We all worked in different locations, so we looked forward to seeing each other at night for dinner- sharing our day’s accomplishments at our evening meetings. We had so much fun at the school we attended. The teachers and students were welcoming, and so happy to meet us – especially Emmanuelle, as she’s 20 years old. We learned a lot about them and their culture, and they asked us many questions to get to know Canadians. We created new friendships!
How do you believe you contributed to the host community? What did you learn about yourself?
Emmanuelle: Our primary assignment was teaching conversational English to children aged 10 to 15 which I greatly enjoyed. I also enjoyed helping out at the women’s shelter, and a refugee project where the women had sewing, Greek and English lessons. All the assignments taught me that I could come out of my comfort zone. It also confirmed my career path, which will be in the health field, where I can look after people.
Marie-Hélène: We taught conversational English to Greek children on Monday through Friday in the evenings. We also helped some of the Women’s Association of Heraklion members clean up the shelter for abused women and children, which had recently flooded. Plus, we spent a morning at the new refugee project, Thalassa of Solidarity, where we helped with psychosocial support: playing with the Syrian refugee children while their mothers took classes in sewing and the Greek language.
How do you describe this experience to your friends? Can you recall a moment or an individual who made an impression on you?
Emmanuelle: The children I taught spoke to me about various Greek traditions and celebrations. I got to eat Greek food daily and speak to many different people from all backgrounds in addition to shopkeepers, waiters, and taxi drivers. I love to share the beautiful pictures and videos from our partner community and classrooms. I think it’s important to share these experiences with your loved ones; it may encourage them to begin a volunteer journey, too, even if it is just once in a lifetime. My fellow team members made me more robust, and Team Leader Sam took me under her wings and guided me through the daily volunteer assignments. I think global volunteering is the best way to wage peace through service alongside helping the community.
Marie-Hélène: A memorable moment for me was at the workshop for immigrant women, where we took care of three kids as their moms were learning sewing. The kids were beautiful in every way. And, even though we didn’t speak the same language, we had a great connection; I’ll never forget them. My experience was superb; I highly recommend the Global Volunteers’ Greece program; the team leader was great, the island was beautiful, the meals were out of this world, and the people were welcoming. Win-win combination!
Emmanuelle: Not only did the program help me reach my full potential, but we enhanced the children’s lives too. We all benefited, and I grew as a person.
Marie-Hélène: All my life, I’ve been fortunate. I know I can make a difference by helping someone less fortunate and sharing my experiences so that more people can do the same.