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Metadrasi - METAdrasi volunteer Roula

Volunteer Roula: Transforming the Greek language course into a “stepping stone” to integration for refugees and migrants

Metadrasi - METAdrasi volunteer Roula 1

Volunteer teacher, Roula, talks about her experience.

What made you decide to volunteer?
My co-operation with METAdrasi started about a year ago as part of my internship for the Master’s program “Language Education for Refugees and Migrants”. METAdrasi was on the list of cooperating Civil Society Organizations and was one of the first that I contacted, as it was one of the few whose presence and work in the field of migration I knew well. The response was immediate, the communication very positive and humane, and that’s how I started teaching the Greek language to a class of beginner adults with a refugee and migrant background. I continue teaching these courses as a volunteer to this day, as part of the educational activities of METAdrasi. The very good cooperation and communication with the Education department and not only, as well as my love for the specific field are the two main reasons why I continued the specific courses after my internship.

What are the activities included in your volunteering?
As I mentioned above, I give Greek language lessons to adult refugees and migrants. These courses are held remotely via the internet and so far, I have taught three classes of adults. The main goal of these classes is, since we are talking about beginners, the acquisition of basic language communication skills that will contribute to their smooth integration into Greek society. Of course, the ultimate goal is the Greek language certification exams of the Greek Language Center.

What do you believe you have gained from volunteering?
My participation in METAdrasi’s educational activities is a really valuable experience for me, professionally and not only. I was given the opportunity to teach these three classes, to communicate and interact with people from very different cultures in ways quite different from what I was used to, as there are often times when there is no common language of communication. At the same time, the feeling of giving and the emotions one experiences in this context are difficult to describe. For these people, everyday life is often a real struggle and their lives present particularities and difficulties that have nothing to do with what we call Greek reality. So when someone treats these people humanely and equally and helps as much as possible in some of their daily difficulties, what they usually receive is a feeling of inestimable value. After all, this is one of the main reasons why I continue to teach these courses as a volunteer.

Would you like to share with us some thoughts or emotions related to your volunteering?
The truth is that when I started this journey I could not imagine what I would see, what I would hear and in general what I would experience. There are difficult moments, there are very delicate balances to be held and an effort that does not allow for complacency nor for providing just a basic knowledge. Special flexibility, adaptation and revision of the educational approach based on the different needs of each student, as well as the creation of teams that collaborate creatively despite their differences, are all elements required. I strongly believe in teamwork and the positive results it brings. And in every team, everyone has their role and everyone works towards achieving the common goals. In our case there are students who take on the role of the teacher at times, others who have the role of an interpreter and others whose behavior strengthens the bonds of the team. Finally, the creation of such a kind of community is a very important process for people with a refugee or migrant background, as they experience a situation in which their previous life has collapsed and they need to rebuild it again from scratch in a new country. Therefore, for them to feel that they belong to a community that respects them, accepts them and helps them to become independent is very important for their smooth integration into Greek society.

Is there a particular experience which you will never forget?
There are many experiences that I cannot forget and most of them have to do mainly with the moments when the students share experiences from their lives and open their hearts. A particularly powerful experience was when a student from Somalia started to describe to us some moments from his daily life in the city where he lived before coming to Greece. The words he used were very gentle but the tone of his voice and some of the descriptions made you shudder at the hard reality lying underneath.

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