Teaching English to the children of Gazi during their summer camp was one of the best experiences of my life. It was so incredible that I went back a second year to do it all over again. The leader of the program, Samantha Pinakoulaki is a gifted and caring leader. She gave us everything we needed to teach the kiddos, provided us outstanding recreational activities (we were on Crete after all), and helped us forge lasting friendships. The children are eager to learn English and the parents and community were not only supportive, but amazingly grateful for our efforts.
Each day the team ate breakfast together and prepared for the day. We were bussed to the school in luxury where frequently the students were waiting for us to arrive. After a brief time of gathering materials, we began with our morning song, and then it was English lessons taught with stories, songs, games, puzzles, conversations, crafts, along with lots of laughter. My co-teacher and I enjoyed the children, and since we are teachers by profession, made our classroom into a bit of an American one. The children responded well and were soon acting just like our usual students. After camp, we returned to our hotel (run by the sweetest man in all of Crete) to plan the next day's adventure. After lunch we were free to explore the island with its amazing history (the ruins of Knossos and Festos; a Byzantine fort, the port of Heraklion, to name just a few) and beautiful beaches and coastline. At the end of our two-week session, we were celebrated with a pot-luck Greek-style, Greek dancing, and presentation of certificates from the mayor and school principal thanking us for our generosity in giving our time to help the children of Gazi.
The children can be challenging. Working with new people has its ups and downs. The heat can be unbelievable. But at the end of the day, those kids are just the cutest thing going; new friends are now closer than some old ones; and nothing can compare to cooling off in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.
If you are looking for a fulfilling experience in a beautiful setting, this is the experience you must have. Efharisto poli, Global Volunteers!