Hi everyone, I am Nicole, the Field Coordinator of refugeeEd.
When I first got offered this position, I took a look at my savings, reflected on my life and without much hesitation, jumped onto the opportunity.
Initially, after being offered the post, the team at refugeeEd and I intended this position to be for potentially a year and I prepared for the visa application. However, a week before I was due to fly, I was informed by the Greek embassy that my visa application was denied and I am only allowed to go on a 90 days Schengen visa. The team was very supportive despite the bad news and readjusted my roles and duties to suit the 3-month duration so that it will be beneficial and fruitful for both the organisation and me at the end of the term – and I am very thankful to them for this.
Now, I am at the end of my three months here. I am sad to leave but nevertheless, optimistic and excited about the trajectory that refugeeEd is on.
Q: What was the most insightful/impactful experiences you had during your time as a Coordinator? What insights has this role brought you?
The most impactful experiences I had during my time as a Coordinator is having met coordinators who still are or used to be refugees themselves. Their resilience and hunger for a normal life awes me: having to endure what they had on their journey here, to have to learn not one but two languages from scratch, scrimping and saving to pay for basic needs and then in a year or two, to unselfishly share what they have learnt through their hardship to help others, turning their lives around and making a contribution back to the community. This is the most impactful experience I had.
Q: What do you see as the greatest education needs in the current context in Greece?
I see the greatest education need in the current context of Greece being the need for qualified volunteer teachers. The beneficiaries that I have had the chance of meeting and interacting have mentioned on several occasions, over and over again, about how appreciative they are of volunteers. However, the standard of teaching that is being delivered to these beneficiaries differs drastically and the short-term nature of the volunteer teachers is also not conducive to the learning. Thus, more often than not, students spend more time trying to adjust to the new teaching style rather than learning about new content. Furthermore, the attitude that some volunteer teachers bring to these classes – that this is something temporary, of no importance and for fun -, is being felt by the students. All these demotivate the students as they, too, have made a commitment to the schedule and duration of the course. Hence, by having volunteer teachers who are trained and know what it is that they are doing, brings a sense of importance and seriousness to these classes a. This in turn will let the students feel valued, worthy and thus, put in more effort in their studies.
Q: What were your biggest achievements and also the challenges you encountered?
There were a lot of ups and downs during my time here: a connection made, a shared contact, providing information to organisations and beneficiaries, a volunteer who fell through, squats evictions, education programmes which were forced to shut down, just to name a few.
Yet, my biggest achievement, I would have to say is to have made the connection with Social Hacker’s Academy and having their students to come up with a pseudo-CRM programme for refugeeEd as part of their coding project. For refugeeEd - an organisation that seeks to improve the quality of education that is being provided to refugees -, to use a tailor-made program that is created from scratch by refugees, this, I felt, epitomises what we are trying to achieve here.
On the other hand, with the decrease of media attention, the situation in Greece is no longer in the forefront of people’s minds and when it comes to volunteering, people are choosing other places to go to rather than in Greece. Thus there are fewer volunteers coming to Greece. As a result, some education organisations are unable to carry out their basic operations (classes, activities, aid etc.) what’s more to say to increase their operations to fill the gap that was left by the government.
Thus, as the Field Coordinator of refugeeEd, the inability to provide qualified and/or experienced teachers due to the lack of sign-ups, has ended up placing me in the dilemma (more than once) of whether I should sacrifice my free time to help teach at these organisations. Having to battle my willingness to forgo my free time with the knowledge of how important protecting my free time is for self-care and hence, preventing burnout is my biggest challenge. And sad (or happy) to say, I’ve lost that battle on a couple of occasions.
Regardless, at the end of the day, I am only one and as the Field Coordinator of refugeeEd, I felt that my time could be better used promoting, refining the programme for volunteers so that there will be more volunteers to effect more help. But oh well, you can’t be logical and rational all the time.