Spring ’20 Volunteer Interviews: Helping Refugee Women and Children with the Melissa Network
Even though the spring ’20 semester ended early due to COVID-19, students still had productive and meaningful volunteer experiences during their time in Athens. CYA has conducted interviews with volunteers from the spring ’20 class, and we will be publishing some of them on the CYA Blog. Ellie Anderson volunteered at the Melissa Network, supporting refugee women and children through childcare and education.
Do you think you gave back to the community and how?
I am obviously disappointed that my time volunteering at the Melissa Network was cut so short, but I am grateful for the time I did have to experience and help with an organization whose mission is so incredible. In a very small way, I was able to support refugee women in Athens by
helping to teach and care for their children at the Melissa Network.
How did volunteering enrich your study abroad experience?
Volunteering made me feel more connected to Athens and my study abroad experience as a whole. It was eye-opening to see how the Melissa Network is supporting migrant and refugee women in many different ways. I was able to tie together what I’ve been learning in my
“Immigrants, Citizenship, & Nationalism” with my volunteering. It was very powerful to have such a hands-on experience.
What was your favorite moment from volunteering? And the most meaningful?
My favorite and one of the most meaningful moments from volunteering happened on my first day. I was nervous meeting everyone at Melissa Network and I was nervous about whether the children would like me or be interested in me. As soon as I walked into the childcare center, a
smiling 7 year old girl sitting at a table looked up at me, asked me what my name was, and asked if I wanted to play a card game with her. The friendliness of this little girl took me by surprise and immediately made me feel comfortable and excited to volunteer there. Spending time with this young girl was also one of the most meaningful experiences for me
because I quickly found out that she spoke at least 3 different languages and was able to help me and the other volunteers communicate with mothers who didn’t speak English or Greek as well. It showed me how smart and important immigrant children are because of their openness
and incredible ability to learn and communicate.
How did you decide to volunteer? How did CYA help you find the best fit for you?
I decided to volunteer because I wanted to take advantage of my more open schedule while in Athens and I really wanted to get involved in an organization helping immigrant and refugee women in Greece. Nadia helped me find and connect with the perfect organization for what I was interested in doing.
How do you feel now that you’ve had to return home? Will you miss volunteering?
I am disappointed that I didn’t get to spend more time with my organization. I felt like I had a lot more to learn from the children and women I was volunteering with. I will miss volunteering in Athens, but I hope to volunteer at home for an organization working for refugee women and children.
Why do you think volunteering is important while studying abroad?
I think it is very important to volunteer while studying abroad because it connects you with the city you are studying in and it enables you to learn from people that you would not have otherwise gotten a chance to meet. It also pushed me out of my comfort zone in Athens and gave me more confidence in myself to get involved in new things.
How has volunteering impacted you personally? Are there lessons or memories that you will carry with you in the future?
Volunteering for a short time at the Melissa Network impacted me because it gave me some clarity as to what I deeply care about and what I may want to pursue as a career in the future. By observing the women and caring for the kids, I was able to see just how resilient and powerful migrant and refugee women and children are. I would like to continue advocating for them in the future.