Alan: To EVS as an Archelon volunteer
I didn’t come to Archelon as an EVS volunteer, I instead came to EVS as an Archelon volunteer. For this reason, I feel that I have not exactly had the “typical” EVS experience. I first heard about Archelon in 2013. It was suggested to me by a friend working in the conservation sector, as she knew that one of my major life goals was to someday work with sea turtles. It didn’t take long before I had filled in the application and gotten my acceptance e-mail from our volunteer coordinator, Theoni.
At this time, I had only signed up for one month as a normal volunteer. However, I soon realized that a month would simply not be enough. Turtles that I had just met were still far from release, and this didn’t sit well with me. Although I trusted that the staff and other volunteers at the Rescue Centre would see to it that these turtles got the required treatments, I just wanted to see it for myself. Following progress online was helpful, but I still knew that I was missing out on the tiny exciting moments that occurred every day, such as finding out that a recent arrival has started to take solid food, or that one of the longer-term residents has started to dive for their food unassisted. I knew that I needed to come back, and for a longer time. But I couldn’t afford to do this by myself.
In 2013, two of my friends at the RC, Tuuli and Martina, were both receiving EVS funding to allow them to spend 6 months volunteering with a small amount of financial support. As contradictory as it seemed, getting paid to volunteer sounded like an ideal option, as I could never have funding this myself. So, as soon as I got home, I started to research how I could do an EVS project with Archelon… it was no time before I had found my sending organization in Ireland, Agape Adventure. Of course, Archelon would be my host organization.
I waited some time before applying, but when I did, I soon got accepted, and I found out that I would be returning to Archelon for 6 months, just 18 months after first hearing about them.
I am now 4 months in, and I regret nothing (other than procrastinating over writing this article!). The turtle work was not new to me, but there are new challenges every day. However, being at Archelon is as much about working with people as it is about working with turtles... and I am lucky to have the people that I have. Everybody here has a different background and skill set to bring to the project, and this is what makes it work. Over the past months I have worked with far more people than I had imagined. Short term volunteers, other EVS volunteers, daily Greek volunteers (Many of whom, aren’t actually Greek!), members of the public, groups of scouts, school kids from all around the world, and just generally very interesting and fun people.
Being on the EVS scheme has also given me a chance to do something which I have never considered before... to learn a language. Having been born carrying the burden of having English as my first language, international communication has never required me to put effort into learning another language. So for me, this has been one of the most fun parts of my stay in Greece. Gradually improving and starting to understand small parts of conversations that are happening around me is very exciting. It has also helped me in communicating with the locals, despite everybody in the local area having almost perfect English, there are some very rare situations where the Greek person doesn’t know the English word, but I know the Greek word. This is always an exciting moment. I really feel that I have learned more Greek in 4 months, than I learned French in an entire 5 years at school. This is because the entire time I have been learning from Greeks in Greece, which is an experience that you could not put a price on.
To sum it up, there is nothing that I would change about my EVS experience. I am living out a childhood dream that I had always thought would remain just a dream, and I am getting to experience life in one of the words most historically significant cities. I am ever grateful for this.