Offering time and love to people that need it
We are living in a difficult period in which recession has affected millions of people in Greece and around Europe. Things may be a lot more noticeable in Greece, but it’s definitely a global problem that is getting bigger day by day. In these situations, those would can help others in need do it, and those who can do more that are offering assistance as a volunteer.
From what I can personally say about Greece, where I live, since the beginning of the new decade, wherever you can turn your eyes you see people in need. And fortunately there are many people who are willing to sacrifice a little of their spare time in order to offer assistance. These volunteers do not get paid with money, but their services are being paid in the strongest “currency” in the world, which is love. Volunteer work is all about smiles and feelings of gratitude and optimism from those who enjoy the assistance offered by the volunteers.
There are many choices for volunteers. I’ve decided to help an institution for orphan and abused children called “To hamogelo tou paidiou” (Children’s smile) and be a “neighborhood volunteer”, but there are also elderly people living alone with really small pensions or no money at all who require ssistance, companionship and care, there are sick children sick children looking for someone to provide them with care, as their own parents cannot, there are homeless people who are looking for some clean clothes, a place to have a bath, to sleep and have a meal, etc. Unfortunately, there isn’t one volunteer available for every person in need.
My experience as a neighborhood volunteer
There’s really no need to leave the city or the country to work as a volunteer as you can find people in need just around the corner, maybe on the same street, the same block or possible even in the same building. With a few others, 7-8 in number, we started an unofficial program we call “neighborhood volunteers”. We mostly help elderly people in the neighborhood. Everyone practically “adopts” an elder person who either is lonely, who has health problems of his or her children are far away and cannot look aster them.
Many times we pay the bills or make some shopping from the supermarket and also accompany those people to the pharmacy, to the doctor or just go out for a walk or a ride. There are also poor families with children where both parents need to work and cannot take the kids to school and bring them back home. A volunteer who is available at that time does that and even babysits for smaller children who cannot yet go to school.
This saves their families time and money that they are not able to spare. There are some even more extreme situations where there is a single parents or where both are unemployed. These families do not need an extra hand but some money to pay the bills and get something to eat, which is actually taken care of by the volunteers.
From what I am aware of, other “neighborhood volunteer” projects have also started in various places around the country. I know that these programs work very well using an organized system abroad, but when we are talking about the Greek state right now, we cannot expect much, since it is literally collapsing economically and unfortunately cannot offer funds as they used to in the past.
The thing is that while there are many who would be interested to offer their services are volunteers, they have to organize every single detail themselves as we did, since there is no organization or official service to manage such things.
Assisting the elderly and children can tricky
Of course, not everything is rosy. You’re dealing with the elderly and small children, who may also be difficult to meet new people or unpleasant situations. When you are dealing with the elderly and kids, moods change quickly and created several problems, but you need to maintain a positive mood. I feel that the elderly and children I watch as my own people, and when something bad occurs, I run to them, not as an unpleasant obligation, but as I would run for the members of my own family.
Every single one of us can give a bit of himself to someone else, even if it is just a few minutes of the day for a neighbor.