Septuagenarian Maggie Caison is a retired middle school teacher who, since retiring, finds herself busier than ever. Apart from volunteering internationally with Global Volunteers, she also volunteers with several organizations in her home town of Lenexa, Kansas. “I feel it’s an honor to give a little of what I can. I love teaching and volunteering in my retirement,” said Maggie, on her 2nd service program to Crete, last month. Here, in an interview with Greece Country Manager Sam Pinakoulaki, she reflects on her service and encourages others to volunteer internationally.
What did this teaching opportunity mean to you, Maggie?
“It meant that I could do the three things I love to do. I love to teach, I love to travel and I love to volunteer, so this was a perfect match for me. I learned that I am a teacher from the core, both in and out of the classroom. My passion is teaching, volunteering and sharing my experiences. It seems to be a win/win situation for me. Being in Crete is always a pleasure – the people, the food, the culture, and of course, the history. It’s certainly well worth a visit.”
Was this program everything you had anticipated?
“Yes definitely! This was my 2nd time serving in Crete. The first time back in March 2016, I came with a friend and we worked on a variety of projects. We sorted and packed items for the Syrian refugee’s, painted a shelter for abused women and children (a couple of mornings), but our main project was teaching conversational English during the evenings. This time I traveled solo to teach Conversational English at the Global Volunteers summer school. It was, however wonderful to be able to experience the two different projects available in Greece, the differences between serving in Crete during the spring or fall, and the summer school program. Whatever time of the year you choose to serve, one thing remains the same, there are special people in Crete. Sam, being one of them of course! The program flourishes because of her.”
What was your primary service assignment?
“I taught conversational English to elementary school students. The first week, I taught the 3rd & 4th graders. It was a small class of 10 students, however after the one-week volunteers left, I also taught the 5th & 6thgraders. The class was full of 18 eager young students committed to learning English. It was so much fun!”
While you were teaching, were you able to create relationships with any of your students?
“Sure I did. I formed many relationships with the students – Nikoleta, Soula, Maria, Mariza and not forgetting George, to name just a few. I realized that the children who take part in the summer school are passionate and determined in learning English. They show up and just accept that they will be changing teachers, changing vocabulary techniques, changing classroom structure, every few weeks as different teams come and go. Yet, they still grow, learn, work, and have pleasure learning English. I am in awe of how adaptable they truly are!”
How do you think your service in Greece advances understanding between cultures?
“Greece has remained in my heart since I served back in 2016 and Crete is a very special place for me. The people are unique, they have a proud, difficult history, yet they are so open and giving. This time I came alone and felt safe wandering through small villages , high up in the mountains, stopping and talking to the local people in shops, cafes, and taverns. Whatever I did in Crete was SO appreciated, be it teaching the students or visiting with the local people. I felt fully accepted and gained so much. I have great respect for the Cretan people. We could all take a lesson from the Greeks, their hospitality! It’s next to none.”
“Enjoy the little things in life, one day you’ll look back & realize they were the big things.”Kurt Vonnegutt
What do you think are the personal benefits of giving back through volunteering?
“Volunteering adds dimension to your life. You get to meet people from diverse cultures, situations and all walks of life. Lives and the world are changed through one-on-one service. It gives you the chance to work with all ages, families, single people, couples and groups. You become part of a team, and I want to be part of that.”
What advice would you give to anyone who is considering volunteering with Global Volunteers?
“Everyone needs to experience the richness of international volunteering. Volunteers can be of any age, any race, and any nationality. Global Volunteers is a great organization that allows a group of strangers to come together, become a team, and make a difference, in another part of the world, helping communities accomplish what they ask you to do. It takes just a willing heart to walk beside another. I have truly been enriched teaching and volunteering with Global Volunteers, and, I believe in their philosophy of service, as well as the organization’s core vision and mission. “Just do it!”