James Pledger

Teach Enrich Empower

Volunteer teaching in Greece

When I arrived in Greece, in September 2018, I was greeted by James and Dan, who drove me to the shared volunteer house in a battered old car. I had successfully applied to volunteer with Second Tree, a small charity that provided education and community building projects for refugees and asylum seekers in Greece.

I’d completed my TEFL course in Manchester where I worked as a teacher, but was looking for a new challenge and a sense of adventure.

The house was shared with volunteers of many nationalities, some fellow TEFL teachers, some working on the Scouts programme that the charity ran, and some administrators.  The work was intense and people were running around everywhere, but it was a brilliant atmosphere and I felt at home immediately.

I taught classes of refugees and asylum seekers from the Katsikas camp, near the city of Ioannina in Northern Greece.  The classes were made up of men and women from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Somalia, with ages ranging from 14-75.  Some students were learning the very basics; some were illiterate in their own languages, whereas many others made incredible progress in a short space of time.  The shared experiences and laughter as we stumbled along, constantly learning about each other’s different cultures and expectations of English class, are something I will always cherish.

“I taught classes of refugees and asylum seekers from the Katsikas camp, near the city of Ioannina in Northern Greece. The classes were made up of men and women from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Somalia, with ages ranging from 14-75.”

My classroom was a wooden shed, a square of about 10 meters each way, which was freezing in the Winter and like an oven in the Summer! It became, during various classroom activities:  a market place, a passport office, a restaurant and finally, as I was departing, a party hall as we shared a communal meal and said our goodbyes.

Later in 2019, I returned to Greece to work on the Youth Education Programme.  We took the students out of their refugee camps and on various excursions, as well as teaching them English and various life skills.  I found the whole experience incredibly valuable, both in terms of learning about myself and broadening my understanding of the refugee crisis in Greece and Southern Europe.  With a degree in Politics/International Relations, I had always struggled to find roles in organisations such as this; but my TEFL qualification through TEFL Academy certainly facilitated a way into the sector I was interested in!

I would recommend the TEFL qualification through the TEFL Academy to anyone! I would also recommend using it in a way that can really make a difference.  I was interrailing through Europe, intending to work in Rome or Madrid when I saw the job in Greece, and it was the best detour that I ever made.  I massively enjoyed living in an authentic Greek town, surrounded by stunning mountains and beaches, and with a lovely, relaxed feel, as well as great local restaurants.  There are lots of opportunities to work with refugees and asylum seekers in Greece after completing the TEFL and Second Tree is always looking for TEFL teachers; it’s well worth the trip!

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