Back in May of this year, Za’atar NGO celebrated its fourth anniversary. Four years through which we learnt and reflected a lot – on humanitarian work, what it means to volunteer, to empower, and more. That is why, on this occasion, we had the idea to share with potential volunteers and fellow NGO workers four lessons we learnt those past four years.
Za’atar Summer Series 2020 – 2/4
Now that you have reflected on your will to help and take action by volunteering, time has come to get ready for the adventure.
As you will have understood it by now, volunteering is not a common experience. Flying abroad to work for an NGO is not like taking a vacation – and it can actually be better! That is why, as any work and any adventure, volunteering requires preparation and planning, curiosity and learning.
Buy a guide, surf the Internet, and ask questions! Get to know the culture of the country and area you are travelling to, memorize a few words of the local language, list the places to visit and sites to discover in order to immerse yourself in this unknown culture.
But do not stop there!
Volunteering with refugee, asylum seeker and migrant people in Greece or Athens does not only mean getting familiar with Greeks’ culture and habits, best dishes and music. Meeting people from all walks and sizes, arriving in Europe from Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia or the Middle-East, implies to be informed on all of this too – their origins, cultures and paths, while always remembering every individual has their own story. Educating yourself on what it means to be a migrant, an asylum seeker or a refugee – in general and, more precisely, the Greek situation ; the countries those people mostly come from and the common motives for their migration, as well as the challenges and hardships they may have been through, is very important before starting to volunteer.
Indeed, ignoring those preparatory steps may lead to some misunderstanding or negative reaction from people whose interaction codes, beliefs and values are different. If discomfort is important and mistakes necessary, learning about people’s backgrounds and making an effort to think differently, look at the world from another perspective, is both a form of respect and an enriching and humbling human experience.
Which is the whole point of the journey, right?