Experience in Xylokastro

Hi, how are you? My name is Pilar, and since the beginning of January 2020 I am volunteering in a village in Greece called Xylokastro.

The day of the trip I felt a little nervous because I had not travelled much outside of Spain and I did not know very well what I would find here, but at the airport I met a guy who would share a house with me (although that his project would be different) and that way I felt calmer.

Once we arrived in the village, we realized that this one was not noticeably big, but it had a beach and a big forest nearby, so we thought it was genuinely nice. At the bus station we were greeted by some of the volunteers and this is where our adventure began.

The house was exceptionally large and from February new short-stay volunteers would come (about 2 months) who would stay in another house close to ours, therefore, and given this fact, we could do many activities together.

Our host organization welcomed us with great pleasure and a few days later I started working as a volunteer in a nursery school. The first day was a little weird because I knew almost nothing about Greek, the kids only spoke that language and some of the centre workers barely knew English, but little by little we got along better (I have to say the weekly classes from Greek they were helping me to catch new words and use them in my day to day).

With the kids, strange as it may seem, working with them was quite easy. From the beginning they treated me like one more, no matter my language, and wanted to play with me all the time. Some of the tasks I do are: prepare and clean the tables for breakfast and lunch (me as with them too), help the children wash their hands, help them with fine motor activities (make drawings, make figures with plasticine, etc.).

During our free time, the volunteers cook new recipes, do group activities together (various dynamics), watch movies in English with subtitles, etc. We even created a vegetable garden and now we can see how the plants have grown.

Some weekends we used to travel to some nearby places to get to know a little more about the Greek corners. We have gone, for example, to Nafplio, to some places near the mountains, and so on.

At the end of February, we had our desired On arrival training in Volos. This training lasted almost a week and there we met new volunteers who were in different places in Greece. It was an amazing few day as we stayed in a hotel and did a lot of activities together to learn a little more about the ESC (European Solidarity Corps).

From these dates everything began to change … The first cases of COVID-19 arrived in the country, and from then on they began to close small shops, to suspend events, to close schools, and even it was forbidden to go out on the street without a justifiable cause such as going to the pharmacy or the supermarket.

The school, where I volunteered, also closed and from then on, I had plenty of free time to read, cook, watch movies, etc., because we could not travel either.

All this served to further unite the group of volunteers and make more plans within the home (cultural nights, barbecues, etc.). Some short-stay volunteers who came for two months are still here, as in this situation it is difficult to travel. ‘The positive of this is that at least that way we are more accompanied and have less time to get bored!

Several days ago, we started going about two hours in the morning to polish the old paint on the fences near the forest, and then we started painting them with black paint. This activity helps us to do something different in our daily lives.

There are far fewer positive cases here than in Spain, but to prevent the spread of viruses you had to be at home. Now in May, little by little, everything is returning to normal: they are starting to reopen other stores, people can go out on the street keeping a safe distance, etc., but we have to wear masks for a while if we are going to closed places (for example in supermarkets), and places like museums, theatres, etc. it is still unknown when they will reopen.

For now, we know that kindergartens want to reopen in early June, but it is not certain: it will all depend on how the situation goes. So, we must have a lot of patience and trust that everything will go well. I, if there are no changes, will return to Spain in early July, and although due to COVID-19 the experience is not being as enriching as it could have been if this had not happened, I feel pretty good here and there many moments that would not change for anything in the world. I would recommend living the experience!