Student Volunteers Of The ACT Learn Life Lessons

  • by XpatAthens
  • Thursday, 29 October 2015
Student Volunteers Of The ACT Learn Life Lessons Andrew woke up on a recent Friday morning, had a quick breakfast and headed to the Church of Aghia Varvara. Once there, he uncovered the baskets of bread and started slicing the loaves. He had to be ready on time because a large crowd was expected to gather soon in the courtyard for the daily food handout, one of the biggest in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.

The American College of Thessaloniki, a postgraduate, nonprofit institution run by Anatolia College, offers high-caliber education, but for 18-year-old Andrew it is the experience of giving food to the needy every Friday morning that he finds riveting – a real lesson, in every sense of the word.

“I have worked as a volunteer back home – but nothing as enlightening as this. For a lot of us who come from privileged backgrounds, this really puts everything into perspective. It is one thing to watch it on the news and entirely another to see people in front you who can’t afford food. The refugee crisis is different on the screen than it is when you see huge groups of people,” he says.

Andrew Croy from Massachusetts is one of 300 students who made the trip in September to Thessaloniki to attend the fall semester at ACT as part of the study abroad program. The students come from some of the finest educational institutions in the US, such as Brown, Rutgers and the universities of Illinois and Mississippi. Volunteer work is part of the curriculum and they will be completing a total of 7,000 hours at places such as the Aghios Dimitrios Physical Rehabilitation Center for Children, the Arsis center and hostel for homeless minors, the Smile of the Child charity, various churches, and the Friends of People with Disabilities, among others.

Theoretically, the volunteers could also work on large group campaigns but ACT decided to individualize the program by splitting the students into small groups so they could gain a more in-depth knowledge of what they are doing and the society they have become a part of.

The cost of managing the program is high, but so are the rewards.

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