A friendship that includes a shared dedication to service is one that is sure to last. Californians Linn Joanis and Melody Covay have volunteered on four service programs together since 2015, and they have no intention of stopping. They first served together in the Cook Islands, and then went on to serve in Greece in 2016, in Cuba in 2017, and then returned to Greece together in 2019. They have also served on their own and with other friends. During the pandemic, they both truly missed being able to participate in international service. Here, both Linn and Melody describe their eagerness to return to service in May 2022 in Greece and why they feel that it’s more important now than ever to serve.
Packing My Bags and Volunteering Again as Soon as Possible
by Linn Joanis, 7-time Global Volunteer
Since I retired in 2015, I planned to do at least one Global Volunteers program a year. The global pandemic upended that plan in 2020 and 2021. I really missed traveling and volunteering and decided when it was safe to do so, I would be packing my bags and volunteering again.
For me, getting back to volunteering abroad gives me a sense of my life being back to normal. I think that the places we volunteer will also experience that things are getting back to normal when they see us return. The pandemic affected everyone and everywhere—we all shared experiences and now we will share the experience of going back to what we used to do.
I think it is safe to travel and volunteer. I think we all have to take responsibility for staying informed, keeping up with vaccinations, wearing masks, and having test kits.
“Since I retired in 2015, I planned to do at least one Global Volunteers program a year. The global pandemic upended that plan in 2020 and 2021. I really missed traveling and volunteering and decided when it was safe to do so, I would be packing my bags and volunteering again.”– Linn Joanis
I really love volunteering in Greece. For two years I volunteered for the May program, which focused on preparing young adults for their English competency test. The last two years (before the pandemic – 2018 and 2019), I volunteered with the summer program and worked with the five to seven-year -old children on learning conversational English. It was great fun to play games to teach English. This year I am returning to the May program so that I can volunteer with friends.
I talk about Global Volunteers all the time. I got a tattoo on my wrist when I volunteered in the Cook Islands because I was so captivated by the Māori culture. People ask me about it all the time, which opens up the conversation about volunteering. For folks that like to travel and volunteer, this is simply a great option to accomplish both while making a difference.
I think volunteering, especially with Global Volunteers approach, changes the dynamic of traveling. The country managers have a vested interest in volunteers impacting their community. Being part of a team — with folks from different backgrounds and life experiences —enhances the volunteer experience.
“I think volunteering, especially with Global Volunteers approach, changes the dynamic of traveling. The country managers have a vested interest in volunteers impacting their community. Being part of a team — with folks from different backgrounds and life experiences —enhances the volunteer experience.”– Linn Joanis
My Love for and Yearly Return to Crete
by Melody Covay, 5-time Global Volunteer
Every year I look forward to my service program in Crete, Greece. I was very sad when I could not serve in 2020 or 2021. I feel very comfortable serving in Greece this year because Global Volunteers did an extensive survey about our comfort level and what would cause me to return in the context of the pandemic. For me, it is all about everyone being vaccinated (Global Volunteers staff and fellow volunteers). Also, if the situation warranted, that we would wear masks and practice good Covid protocol.
This year especially, with Greece depending so much on tourism, any dollars and support we can bring to the community is even more important. That’s why I want to do this. Also, the impact on them for not having their usual amounts of Russian tourists will surely be felt. I feel very comfortable in Greece and feel completely safe walking, including in the evening, and using public transportation.
I have loved this program and the Greece Country Manager, Sam, since my first time in Greece in 2016. Most of the work I have done there has been working with students who are about to take a test on their English competency at many levels, which occurs late in May. However, in my first year, we also packed donations for Syrian refugees, whom Greece did an outstanding job of supporting.
It is such a delight to interact with the local people and know you are helping them further their education or career goals. We work with the teachers and help the students with speaking and writing while growing so fond of all of them. I wait each year just like the teachers to see if my students passed their exams. English fluency is so important to them because the job market is very tough in Greece. I get to spend my time in conversations learning about them as they also get to learn about me. I stay in contact with many students and teachers and feel truly connected to them.
I absolutely love volunteer travel because you spend time with the local people and see and do things you would never do as a tourist. It is completely different than vacation travel where you go to see things and maybe if you are lucky, you have some interaction with local people. I have restaurants I love in Crete and what can I say about Greek food but yum! I have had the privilege of being invited to local people’s homes and am looking forward to seeing several people when I return this spring.
“It is such a delight to interact with the local people and know you are helping them further their education or career goals. We work with the teachers and help the students with speaking and writing while growing so fond of all of them. I wait each year just like the teachers to see if my students passed their exams.”– Melody Covay
Also, through the years I have gotten to watch Sam’s children grow up and feel I have shared some great times with her. She has done a great job of helping us assimilate into the culture. It is always fun in Crete!
I have been very fortunate and have done a lot of traveling both volunteering and for pleasure. I have worked with the elephants, rhinos, and leatherback turtles volunteering, but my favorite interaction with people and cultures is absolutely Greece. I have received way more in return than I could have ever done for them.
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