Why did you choose this program?
My husband Dave and I worked with infants and children in Barlad, Romania 🇷🇴 in the psychiatric unit of a hospital 🏥 with Global Volunteers in May of 2017 before we received an email about the possibility of working with infants and children in a new orphanage, House of Angels, which was to be built in Heraklion, Crete, Greece. House of Angels has, apparently, since been built in Heraklion, but it may be a long while before infants and children can be transported to House of Angels. However, we decided to go to Heraklion, Crete this year in 2023 and serve teaching children conversational English. My husband was interested in going on a trip back in 2017, and we agreed that going on an adventure-in-service mission trip would be an even better idea!
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Providers through Global Volunteers scheduled mission work, meals, transportation, accommodations, and country leaders from both Barlad, Romania 🇷🇴 and from Heraklion, Crete, Greece 🇬🇷 also immersed participants in the language.
We were required to take care of our own airlines tickets to and from our destinations, laundry 🧺, and any meals, sightseeing and transportation that were not connected with our service team. However, in Barlad, Romania, laundry service was provided at the time.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I would highly recommend Crete for most anyone! The meals were delicious and nutritious; people were super hospitable; and serving children by teaching conversational English was at the heart ❤️ of the service mission in Heraklion, Crete, Greece!
The Heraklion Archeological Museum, the Historical Museum of Crete, the Natural History Museum of Crete, the and the Heraklion Heirloom Exhibit at St. Mark’s Basilica, if it’s available are all worthwhile places to visit! Also, once you’ve seen the Heraklion Archeological Museum, then you’ll better understand the Palace of Knossos and where some items had been placed in palace or palatial buildings.
Next to the Natural History Museum of Crete is a delicious restaurant called Mare’s. In Lyon’s Square are located many restaurants, including places where boughatsa is served. Boughatsa was a delicious recipe carried with Turkish immigrants who were of Greek descent arriving back in Crete during the 1923 Treaty of Lusanne. You can find out more through the Heraklion Heirloom Exhibit, but if you don’t speak Greek, be sure and load a text to translate application on your iphone, so that you can read the Heirloom Exhibit as you go.
Also, be sure and stop in the many churches, if you’re able to, and light a candle 🕯️ for any prayer intentions, particularly in the Church of St. Titus Chapel in Heraklion. There are a variety of transportation methods, including the On/Off bus, city bus and taxi 🚕 to get around. Finally, there’s one golf course, the Crete Golf Club, which is mountainous, but there are deep gorges, so please watch your step, so that you don’t fall in! The Cretaquarium was a family-friendly place to visit!
Additionally, the waves 🌊 can be two-three feet high, especially in April when the weather is still cool, and the drop off is fast in front of Heaven restaurant in Amoudara, Crete, so I would not recommend swimming in the Aegean unless the waves are calm. The size of the waves remind us that God is bigger than any of us can imagine, even if you see people swimming in the big waves, or even if you’re told that the ocean is safe to swim in, use your own judgement.
Also, please be sure and watch your step walking in both Athens, Greece 🇬🇷 and in Heraklion, Crete, Greece 🇬🇷 because the sidewalks are nominal to non-existent, and streets are narrow and sometimes with holes in them. If you have any health issues and have difficulty walking, you may want to bring a walking stick, cane or especially a walker.
Also, if you stay at Anna’s Place in Amaudarra, then you will not have laundry services, so you will either need to take your laundry by public transit to a nearby laundromat or rent a hotel room and do your laundry somewhere else. Anna serves a delicious, healthy breakfast daily though, and you will have your needs met. The shower stalls in Anna’s Place are floor installations with movable shower nosels which can get the bathroom floor wet if you don’t aim the shower nosel right.
If you have extra time on the weekends, you may rent a car and go sightseeing, beach hopping, along the northwest coast, you can drive to Rethymno, Chania, and Platanos. There are hotels to stay in or vrbos to rent, including some with washing facilities if needed.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Daily, we would wake up between 6:00-6:30 a.m. and arrive downstairs at Anna’s Place for breakfast by 7:30 a.m. Someone was responsible for each day’s inspirational message while another party was responsible for recording a journal from the previous day. Team members were responsible for a day or two during the week or two weeks.
Then, we would leave by taxi around 8:15 a.m. to serve in the soup kitchen at Agios Konstantinos Greek Orthodox Church in Heraklion, beginning at about 8:30-9:00 a.m. where we would sort bread, as well as peel and slice carrots 🥕, onions 🧅 , and potatoes 🥔 or cut tomatoes and grind lemons 🍋. If the kitchen work was finished, we would sweep, dust and mop the church.
When our work was done at the church between 10:30-11:30 a.m., we would notify Kalliopi, our Country Team Lead, who would call a cab 🚕 for us. We would arrive back at Anna’s Place to either rest, sightsee, or walk to to the beach until we would meet our teammates for lunch around 2:30 p.m. Our teammates had to leave by 3:30 p.m, for their school to teach English while we (my husband and I) caught a city bus in Heraklion by 4:55 p.m., in order to arrive at Tenya’s to teach conversational English from about 5:30-8:55 p.m. each night. A taxi would be waiting for us outside of Tenya’s by 8:55 p.m, at which time Kalliopi would meet our team back at Anna’s for a late-night supper and discussion about how the day went. Kalliopi would bring us meat pies, gyros, and fruit for 9:00 p.m. supper before we would go to bed for the night.
This was not a relaxing vacation. It was a service trip, and we chose it. Volunteers can agree to serve in one or both opportunities.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear of going abroad was navigating the airports and getting lost, however usually, there were employees to speak with in the airports. And when we got lost in Athens, my husband asked a young business owner on the sidewalk about how to find the streets we needed, in order to return to the Philio Boutique Hotel. We found Google Maps worked well, however iPhone directions did not sync up right away, and we ended up lost for awhile once in Athens.
What can we expect serving at the Agios Konstantinos Church?
You can expect a warm, welcoming reception from kitchen staff, Stavroula and Fr. Pitsikaki who treated us each day to coffee and goodies, as well as sent us away with wine, Greek olive 🫒 oil, treats, and a book about Greek burial customs!
What could we expect teaching conversational English with Tenya’s students?
You could expect students whom were eager to learn about how living in the United States is. Greek students, including many of whom were of Albanian descent, were respectful, polite, thoughtful young people who made our service trip enjoyable! We played Uno for fun in between conversational English when students completed their work two of the evenings in the two weeks we were there! It’s compulsory for Greek students to pass an English exam prior to entering a college or university someday. Also, nine months of military service is compulsory for young men at age 18 or when they graduate from a list-secondary school. Learning English fluently will help young people thrive someday in places where there is work. Where there is work available, English is typically spoken.