1. A small, flexible team.
Amurtel is an international organization, but the team in Athens is very small and led by volunteers. While there are some benefits to working with a large organization, like having lots of funding, I have found small organizations like Amurtel are much more flexible and achieve results faster. The refugee crisis is changing and morphing every day, and with a small team, you can adapt to the changes right away without needing approval from several layers of administration. Also, if you have an idea, you can get it going and see the progress yourself. Within a day of letting them know I had some computer skills, I was the new volunteer coordinator, and when the mothers we work with said they needed underwear, we bought it the next day. It feels like a grassroots movement, it works, and you can watch it work, which is deeply satisfying.
2. Helping the absolutely most vulnerable communities – mothers and babies
If you’re like me, you’ll have acquaintances or family members who might have misconceptions about refugees – for example, thinking that all the people traveling to Europe are men. The reality is that one out of every 10 refugees is pregnant. Pregnant and breastfeeding moms and infants are the absolute most vulnerable refugee population, and there are huge numbers of them. By working with Amurtel, you make a difference to the people who need it most. Many of my acquaintances were shocked to learn I was working with such high numbers of women per day who were pregnant or breastfeeding, and it changes a lot of minds about the actual situation on the ground.
3. All-female environment
When I was younger, I always wanted to be in mixed groups so I had boys to flirt with. I’ll admit that. But as I grew up and worked in predominantly male industries (computers and film-making) I realized that there is a level of competition in male-dominated environments that I didn’t like. Plus, it’s harder to have your voice heard as a woman in a group of men. Amurtel’s all-female group creates a comfortable, supportive, sustainable environment. I made so many close friendships, with midwives, other volunteers, and with the moms themselves (and the babies!). The refugees mainly come from cultures where people are more comfortable around people of their own gender. It’s so nice to be helping a mom wash a baby in a space where she feels safe to take off her hijab, to relax, to laugh, to make herself comfortable and to share her stories with a group of supportive women.
4. The babies
This is by far the most adorable volunteering job you can have. Other people’s babies can seem very fragile, but you quickly get over any worries and enjoy the most hopeful and sweet group within the refugee camps – the babies. They still experience the joy and innocence that they can share with their weary families. They are a continual spring of hope, and their antics transcend language. When a baby splashes you and hugs a rubber ducky, you and the mom will be laughing so hard that it doesn’t matter that you speak different languages and come from different parts of the world. And when you sit with a toddler in your lap feeding them big spoonfuls of porridge, your heart just about bursts.
This will probably embarrass her a lot, but it needs to be said! Being around our program leader, Didi, is in itself an amazing reason to join Amurtel. Didi is the extremely dedicated woman who heads the entire Amurtel Athens project. Trained as a midwife for a previous career, she has now dedicated her life to volunteer work. She works tirelessly and for free, and she is just a huge inspiration to be around. Didi sets the tone for the whole Amurtel project, and she’s the positive energy behind the work.
AMURTEL Greece is currently looking for local volunteers who can give their time on a regular weekly basis over the long-term. If you’re interested, please get in touch to request a volunteer application form.