I’m back! It was a fabulous 3 week adventure in Greece working for Global Volunteers on the island of Crete. My twin sister, Diane, and three other wonderful women from Canada, Kathleen Close; Sandra Close and Sheila Davis made up our volunteer team under the wise leadership of Sam Pinakoulaki, our country host. We called ourselves “Sam’s Chippy Chicks” and what fun we had! The wine was flowing; the food was terrific; the sun was hot; the buses were crowded and the laughs were endless.
Greek Hospitality is the Best!
One of the best parts of the trip was living in the family hotel, Hotel Hankadas, and becoming part of the Greek extended family that gathers there every morning, afternoon and evening to talk, watch the political news, eat, work in the vineyards around the hotel and share a glass of wine with us at the end of the night.
We loved Paul who runs the hotel with his two sisters, Irene & Suzanne and his wife, Catherine. There are also lots of other community people in and out including several traveling salesmen who sell linens out of their trucks up in the villages.
Our Work in Greece – Opening Doors for Future Volunteers
We were the 87th Global Volunteer team (and the first for 2012) to work in this small community, Amoudara, just outside of Heraklion in Crete. Our work assignment changed upon our arrival – from working each day in a local school teaching English to more community outreach and liaison work. As one door closed another opened!
We were honored to be invited to work in a battered women’s safe house planting a garden and cleaning the house for the residents. There are only two battered women’s shelters in the entire country! In addition, we represented Global Volunteers at their monthly Board Meeting meeting networking with many of Heraklion’s most influential women activists – from age 80 to 20. Our hope is that future teams will be allowed to work with the shelter especially in supporting the organization’s future children’s orphanage “House of Angels”.
We also learned that “volunteerism” is a very new concept in Greece. We had a chance to meet with a newly formed group of women volunteers through a special invitation by the Vice-Mayor of Gazi. In the local government chambers we participated in a joint meeting sharing our visions and commitment to volunteerism in all communities. It didn’t matter that we spoke different languages – smiles & laughs communicated all that we need.
Over the next few days, we were invited to participate in a larger women’s meeting at the local Chamber of Commerce and then to visit a local kindergarten for young children of working parents. The weeks ended with a phenomenal trip up to the mountains to visit Saint Spiro’s center for mentally delayed adults (more on that later!).
I have many funny stories and wonderful lessons learned. I’ll share many of those over the next few weeks. And if you see me packing my backpack again you know where I’m going . . . to Hotel Hankadas!