Annually, volunteers have an option to do an exchange within the institutions of Pikpa and Estia Agios Nikolaos during their ESC or other volunteering projects. With COVID season around, it got more complicated for both of the institutions, but we still managed to find some way to do this and enrich each other’s volunteering experiences.

This spring, one volunteer and me from Tandem NGO had the opportunity to go to the village of Galaxidi where the private institution Estia Agios Nikolaos is located. With beautiful views of both the sea and the mountains around, this place offers a lot of nature and fresh air and different options that we don’t have in our surroundings in Athens.

A 4 hour long bus drive took us straight to Galaxidi’s picturesque square where our friends from Estia picked us up with a car and took us a little bit more up to the hills. There are four big houses for the residents of Estia and for the workers and volunteers.

This “Charitable foundation”, as it’s recognized by the Greek state, provides living space for approximately 20 residents. There are about 7 residents living together in each house. I was placed in the third house, Tritos, for 4 days, to see and experience the living in Estia.

And what was it like?

Every morning we got up a, because at 7:15 all the residents were woken up by the workers and volunteers. They all had a shower with a help of the people if needed, and got dressed. Meanwhile, a cook in the kitchen with some help of some volunteers prepared breakfast for the residents which then they ate all together. After breakfast all residents brushed their teeth and got ready for the morning workshops.

There are 3 workshops in Estia that the residents can rotate in. They can go to the pottery workshop to make cups, plates, bowls and/or other dishes and things. Another option is the jewelry workshop where they can make different kinds of earrings, bracelets, necklaces and decorations for the houses. And finally, there’s gardening which includes not only working in the garden but also baking their own bread and twice a week going for drinkable water to the spring in the mountains as the tapped water from the pipes is not drinkable.

The cornerstone principle of ‘Estia Agios Nikolaos’ is that each person is unique and can be helped to develop his or her unique competences in a nurturing environment via creative work, artistic stimuli and direct interaction with nature. With this principle in mind, the workshops were established, so each person can decide which one is the best fitting choice for him/her/them.

After the workshop around noon, the residents go back to their houses to have lunch and after this, there’s an afternoon nap. For the volunteers, it means free time to rest a bit and walk along with the beautiful nature or go to the village.

They start working again at 4:30 PM when the residents get a snack and then they have different kinds of activities with the volunteers. It can be whatever they like, from playing games and doing puzzles to cooking and baking activities, drawing, going for a walk, music or dancing. These activities go on until 7 or 7:30 PM when they again eat together dinner and after the hygienic necessities, they all sit in the main room to talk about their day, what they liked and which things they felt were successful.

The day at Estia finishes around 9 PM when the residents are getting ready to bed and quiet time sets in. It is kind of a long day but with its community setting and approach, Estia has a lot to offer to its volunteers and workers.

For me, it was an amazing opportunity and I am really thankful I could go and spend some time in this beautiful and inspiring area.