GETTING TO KNOW REFUGEE CAMPS IN GREECE
Welcome to Greece – the birthplace of democracy and the Olympic Games! Mainland Greece is a mountainous land almost completely surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Greece has more than 1400 islands; this vibrant country is filled with history and cultural diversity. The Greeks are known to always be up for a celebration!
Learn About Greece
From the eighth century BC, colonisation had taken Greek-speakers all over the Mediterranean, from the Black Sea, Turkey, to North Africa, Italy France and Spain. Ancient Greece derived famous personalities, Olympic Games, flags, archaeological sites, historical monuments, and mythology. The Greek language spread throughout the Mediterranean. Greek was heard in Rome probably more often than Latin. Athens sites include many pillars of Western history, from the Acropolis to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, as well as treasures in the National Archaeological Museum. Greece developed governments and organized their citizens according to some sort of constitution or set of laws. And every one of these city-states were said to be protected by a particular god or goddess, to whom the citizens of the polis owed a great deal of reverence, respect and sacrifice. If you’re a history buff, learn even more. about Greece’s rich history.
Today, Greece remains a destination to become immersed in its ancient history and culture. Traditions, religion, music, language, food and wines are the major composites of the culture in Greece and constitute the base for those who wish to visit and understand today's country. Greece has faced an economic turmoil during 2007 global recession, to date continues to struggle with its debt crisis. Jobs are increasingly difficult to come by in Greece - especially for the young. While a quarter of the population are out of work, youth unemployment is running much higher. Half of those under 25 are out of work. In some regions of western Greece, the youth unemployment rate is well above 60%. The Greek government and non profit organizations are working to develop programs for its youth and create careers.
Despite the economic crisis Greece has experienced; the Greek community has opened their hearts to several thousand Syrian Refugees. The Greek community has come together to support and assist in providing the basic needs of many refugees who arrived via boat.
From the sunset on the black sands of Santorini to the largest temples like Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Palace of Knossos in Crete and of course the Acropolis in Athens, Greece does not disappoint. It has much to offer like traveling the Greek Islands and tasting the fresh olives and feta cheese. Spending your down time in Greece will be a moment in life not forgotten.
Chalkida is one of the largest islands in Greece, the centre of the island built on both sides of Evripos straits. It is a popular destination among Athenians to get away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Much like the rest of Greece Chalika’s history of conquests still stand. Of the eleven mosques that used to dot the city only one on Kotsou Street remains. The Emir Zade mosque was built in the first years following the Turkish conquest. An engraved inscription in Arabic can be seen at the entrance and inside see a collection of Byzantine mosaics and ceramics.
Chalkida is particularly famous for the tidal phenomenon that takes place in Evripos, the swift change of water direction every six hours, created by the Moon’s pull. During each change of direction the water stops moving for about eight minutes. An ideal place to watch this unique phenomenon is the sliding Negroponte Bridge. Chalkida’s lively seaside invites you to walk amongst fishermen, wandering artists and itinerant sellers. A favorite for the locals is the waterfront; a charming pedestrian street lined with elegant cafes and restaurants buzzing with life day and night!
Cultural Do’s and Don’ts in Chalkida
Entering a new culture is an exciting and challenging experience. And just as you bring your own culture to share, it’s important to be open and respectful to the culture of those you’ll meet during your travels. You’ll often find that you have a much more positive experience if you are aware of and take into account cultural norms when meeting new people and getting to know your new community.
Cross-Cultural Solutions began working in refugee camps in Greece in 2017 in response to a growing crisis that is felt around the world, but disproportionately in lower income countries surrounding unrest and violence. Working with refugees, many of whom have lost loved ones and all of whom have walked away from everything they know, is not an easy task. A lot of camps are struggling with over-population, lack of resources, and with little help from the outside world. Situations in the camps change frequently, as do needs, and so it is extremely important for volunteers to be flexible so that we can adapt quickly in order to best serve this community. This experience will be physically and emotionally challenging, but it will also be extremely rewarding and we hope that everyone will throw themselves into their assignments with all of the love, compassion, and kindness that they can muster, no matter what our work is.
Cultural Do’s and Don’ts in the Refugee Camps
The culture in the camps are separate and unique to that of Chalkida and Greece. The refugee community come from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries that forced their departure. Remember that refugees follow the Islamic culture and being aware of cultural norms is essential to your presence at the camps.
Picture this: You’re living in a country far from home. You can’t understand the language, and you’re trying to order food, but everything seems to be moving so slowly! Why can’t it just be like in your home country: fast and efficient?
Sometimes, these and other frustrations can build up, and you may even become angry or annoyed at with this new and unfamiliar place, its cultural norms, and its people. If this happens to you, you might be experiencing culture shock.
Culture shock can be a normal part of traveling to a new country, but it might surprise you that you can also encounter reverse culture shock when you return home. While everyone experiences some degree of culture shock, the impact that it has on your experience depends on how well prepared you are to handle its different phases. Here are some tips and tricks to get you assimilated (and re-assimilated once you’re back home) so you can enjoy every moment of your journey.
- Have a sense humor.
Try to see something of value in every new experience you have. While it can be challenging in the moment, try to keep it all in perspective. The ability to laugh and go with the flow are two key tools to coping with initial culture shock.
- Expect differences.
In any new culture, there will be some differences. If you’re prepared for there to be challenges and differences before you arrive in-country, it can make a world of difference in how you adjust.
- ...but look for what’s the same.
You will likely encounter differences in cultures, but you might not immediately realize the similarities. Take a moment to appreciate those attributes that make us more alike than different.
- Keep learning.
Immersing yourself in a new culture is a constant education. So continue making an effort to learn and understand what you’re experiencing.
Living and working within your new community is a great way to learn the local language. Here are a few important phrases to learn before you depart for your volunteer program. Even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect (yet), give it a try! Within the Refugee Camp, Arabic is the central and most useful language. Your attempts to connect with new friends in the local language will always be appreciated. And here's a few essentials in Greek to help you in your free time!
Recommended Reading and Films
We believe that travel and firsthand encounters are the BEST education. But there are also plenty of resources to help you learn more about the history, culture, and situation at the refugee camps, so you can begin to immerse yourself even before you arrive. Here are just a few of our favorites to get you started: