Descripción de la organización:
Lechaina is a state institution that hosts 47 children and adults with disabilities. They have moderate to heavy physical and mental disabilities. Most are abandoned by their parents and have little contact with their family. Nurses take care of their physical needs (washing, feeding, medication) but there is a lot to be done for the psychological, social and educational needs of the children and youngsters. Its alarming conditions have been regularly risen concern, even in international press. Despite financial difficulties, Lechaina is trying to become more modern, to improve services and to integrate the children into society, through a collaboration with the Institute of Child Health (http://www.ich.gr/en/) and LUMOS (https://wearelumos.org/). Just recently the Greek government announced that it will be allocating money over the next three years to make a model Deinstitutionalisation Project! However, changing mentality and way of working is a slow and difficult process and a lot remains to be done. Even today, most children still receive very little stimulation and are heavily institutionalised. Volunteers offer extra care and attention to the children and act as a bridge between the institution and the outside world.
Lechaina is a fairly quiet, small town (2.600 inhabitants). There are two relatively larger towns in close range , Amaliada and Pyrgos, and Patras – the third biggest city of Greece- is 60 km away. Transportation to and from these towns via bus is possible, although there are not many itineraries through the day. Lechaina and the area around it (notably Kyllini) attracts many tourists during the summer due to its famous beaches.
Duración del proyecto:
Long-term project (1 year duration):
Starting in August 2018.
Every volunteer has a different programme depending on the people s/he is working with and the personal capacities and interests of the volunteer. However, all volunteers share the following tasks:
✓ 2 hours per day lifting people into wheelchairs
✓ 1 1/2 hour per day keeping company to children with heavy disabilities (walks, music, massage, simple games)
✓ 2 times a week leisure/educational activities
✓ 2 times a week outings
Besides that, we organize and carry out the following activities:
✓ Stimulation and Intensive Interraction
✓ Individual learning project for specific children (e.g. practicing self-help skills, learning the alphabet, learning how to use money, Cooking lessons, tc)
✓ Other leisure activities (Physical education or sports, Beauty group, Artistic expression: ex. painting, handicraft, singing, dance, etc)
✓ Social integration (visit to a supermarket, to a bank, a museum or a post office etc)
✓ Entertainment (organising parties, Outings, going to the movies or to a festival, Excursions etc).
✓ Informing the local community about disabilities and trying to involve Greek people to volunteer in the institution
✓ Fund-raising to sponsor activities with the children
✓ Any other activity depending on the abilities, interests and the needs or desires of the people involved.
In short, we are responsible for helping the children and adults spend their time in a constructive and enjoyable way.
Volunteers work 7 hours per day, 5 days a week (a total of 35 hours per week). Language lessons and meetings (1-2 hours per week) are included in the working hours. All volunteers have different time and day schedules depending on the needs of the children and their personal wishes. There are two days free per week (usually but not always weekends) and two more days free per month.
Volunteers in this project are motivated and encouraged to organise themselves under the supervision and the guidance of the coordinator who is present in the project on an almost a daily basis. There is a coordinator who supports the volunteers and mediates between the volunteers and the institution. S/he also takes care of paper work, pocket money and other practical issues. S/he will help you with residence permits, hospitals and whatever you need until you manage to do things by yourself. There are some fixed activities, but most other activities depend on the volunteers’ own initiative. In meetings (which are weekly) we discuss all issues regarding work, community life, free time activities etc. Volunteers contribute with ideas and opinions in the meetings and all have equal right to decide and to disagree. Our aim is to help the personal development of the volunteer in order for him/her to feel comfortable in the project.
What does all this mean? In short, it means that each of our volunteers is encouraged to take initiative, to contribute with ideas and suggestions and to realise that he/she is personally responsible for the happiness of the children and adults and the success of the project.
Volunteers will be living in a rented appartement. They will most likely have to share their bedroom with one more person as well as the kitchen, living area and bathroom. There will be 7 volunteers in total. Volunteers all live, cook, eat and work together all the time so be prepared for a very intense experience in community living! Also, we have to support each other quite a lot as some of us may have difficulties to adjust at the beginning.
For long-term volunteers: Motivation, Enthusiasm, Responsibility and Commitment are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY– please remember that these children are abandoned both by their parents and by Greek society and they depend on you for love and attention. Creativity, patience, initiative, maturity and a good sense of humour are needed as the work can be hard and Greeks are rather chaotic and hot-tempered! Intermediate level of English is useful. Furthermore, you should enjoy living and working with a big group of people. Also, you should be determined to study hard to learn Greek as it is essential for communicating with the staff and the children. In addition, we would like that you inform us about any physical, social or emotional difficulty you may have that may affect your integration in the project and to tell us what we can do about it. We also expect that you commit to stay for the whole duration of the project (if you like the project of course). Finally, neither technical skills nor previous experience are needed but if you have studied something relevant and you want to put your skills in practice, we will be happy to try to help you!
Greek: Greek is necessary for communication because neither the children nor the majority of workers in Lechaina speak English. Of course, nobody here will force you to learn perfect Greek if you don’t want to, but a minimum level is required to participate actively in the project! During the first two months of your stay you can attend an intensive Greek course by a private teacher (about 6 hours per week). After that, you will have 3 hours of Greek lessons per week until two months before your departure. Of course it is possible to change this schedule if volunteers and the teacher agree.
English: We use English in all our meetings and also for communicating with each other, especially at the beginning. If your English is not very good, please attend English lessons before arriving.
Formación y apoyo:
Formación: During the first weeks, volunteers are introduced to the children and shown how to handle them (lifting, pushing a wheelchair, feeding, bathing, etc.). They also learn some basic information about the types of disabilities the children have. They have as a reference person one old volunteer who helps them to integrate smoothly in the project. The volunteers will have the chance to work alongside the therapeutic team appointed by LUMOS and the Institite of Child Health who are actually carrying out a deinstitutionalisation programme. The volunteers will gain invaluable experience and will contribute to shifting the paradigm of medical centred care to a more person centred approach with emphasis on inclusion and community based care.
Apoyo: once per week there is a group meeting on practical matters and information, once per two months there is a meeting about the community where we discuss issues that concern us as a community, two times per month we have a resident’s meeting where we discuss about a specific resident and every 6 months we have a big activity meeting where we make the evaluation of the activities and we plan the new programme for the next 6 months. All volunteers are expected to participate actively in all of the meetings and to contribute ideas and suggestions. You will have bi-monthly evaluations with one of the coordinators where all the issues you wish will be discussed. Finally and most importantly, group members are expected to help one another. We all live together, eat together, work together and often spend our free time together; it is only by caring for each other and by trying to form close relations with all members of the group that we can actually enjoy this experience to the fullest.
Lechaina preparation: the coordinators carry out an online preparation with the new volunteers, explaining more about the project and sending Greek vocabulary. Please take active part in this process and get to learn from before the other volunteers, with whom you will spend one year!
Idioma: it is useful if you learn some Greek before arriving. Knowing the alphabet and some basic expressions will help you communicate more easily with the kids and the personnel. Also, if your English is not good, please try to improve it before coming here, this is very important! Ask your sending organisation to help you arrange English lessons or, if it is not possible, try to study by yourself.
Conocimiento y experiencia: if you have never worked with people with moderate to severe disabilities before, please visit regularly a centre for these people in your country, after being accepted for the project. This way you will become more familiar with the kids and will also get some ideas about what kind of activities you can do with them. It will also help you to browse through the internet or to find some books on animation for young children (disabled or not) and also to find information about the various types of disabilities. Most children in the centre have cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, spina bifida or intellectual disabilities from unknown causes and a few have blindness, deafness or autistic features in addition to Intellectual disabilities.
Vida con los demás: remember that you will live together with a big group of volunteers; this means that you must be prepared to respect the needs and wishes of others as much as your own. It also means being ready to participate actively in all household tasks such as cleaning, tidying up and, of course, cooking! So, if you have lived with your mama and papa until now, maybe you could start experimenting in your own home before you come here. And don’t forget to bring with you a cooking book, especially one with recipes typical of your country!
Cultura: there are many books and internet sites about Greece and Greek culture and history. They may give you a lot of interesting information about your new country and may help you adjust more easily but also remember, not all Greeks drink ouzo and dance the syrtaki! Anyway, prepare yourself for a country where logic and organisation are not the first priorities and where chaos, passion, absurdity and spontaneity reign. If you are flexible and with a good sense of humour, you’ll just love it!
You can learn more by visiting this year’s blog at https://evsinlechaina.wordpress.com
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Nº Acreditación: 2014-1-ES02-KA110-005640
EVS Database: https://europa.eu/youth/vp/organisation/937455337_en
Nº ref 13/2018