By: Lynn Lotkowictz, Special to the Hellenic News of America
So I’m heading to Crete today for my third Global Volunteers trip in four years. Same program, same location. Why?
The country, though economically struggling with continued high unemployment, remains peaceful with a beautiful landscape and welcoming culture.
One of the Greek students I’ve stayed in touch with messaged me today to ask if her mom and she could pick me up from the airport. Now, of course, Global Volunteers provides transportation service and I will travel with my team, but this is an example of the genuine and very real friendships I have made by returning to the same service program. I plan to build on these relationships even more over the next two weeks.
I’m eager to try different Global Volunteers service programs like Portugal, Poland and Italy. However, I’m drawn to Crete because I’ve seen many of the students grow and flourish, and I’ve made a real friend with Matina, the teacher and owner of Morfosi School in Gazi, Crete. She invites me for coffee with her friends who also teach English. And I’m a Facebook friend and text often with her teenage daughter, Nefeli, who tells me that she appreciates my encouraging words as she pursues her goal of a career in art.
A Magical Island
Crete is home to Knossos, the capital city of Minoan culture, and it is considered Europe’s oldest city. The sky on most days is a cobalt blue. The rugged mountains surround us.
Our hotel is two blocks from the sea and a short bus ride to many archeological sites, museums, trendy Greek coffee shops and wonderful fresh, local dining options. There is a warmth and camaraderie with the hotel staff.
Sam, the Global Volunteers country manager, and the other volunteers make it a joy to be together for the same purpose, doing good. The students are energetic young people who are eager to learn, and the parents deeply appreciate the volunteers giving time for their children.
I guess if I had to sum up why I’ve returned to Crete three times it would be the warm culture, friendships, beauty of the island and authenticity of the whole experience.