A Day with Rana
17 May 2022 | by Rana Sabreen
As part of my Erasmus Mundus master’s program, I began my internship at CHEERing in November 2020. With the second Corona wave and the resulting travel and movement constraints, joining the organization was challenging at that time.
After a one-week quarantine, I started my training with Alexandra, a passionate volunteer who explained to me the activities and tasks and the NGOs with whom we are collaborating. Even though I have a broad background in disaster response and health promotion, working at CHEERing exposed me to entirely new dimensions of the sector. Working with children and newborns daily brought me unexpected pleasure, and within a short time, those babies became a part of my world. Not to mention the new knowledge I gained about reproduction, lactation, and sexual health.
As a pharmacist, I was able to assist in the management of medical stock at the ELNA Maternity Center, including attempting to identify medical needs, separating expired products, coordinating donations, and developing a system to ensure that the medical stock was correctly managed by the different volunteers.
The greatest part of joining CHEERing was the organization’s international atmosphere, the people I met and their various stories, and the new friends I gained. I’m thankful for the chance to work with CHEERing and the modest differences we were able to make in people’s lives.
A Day with Mike
2 February 2022 | by Mike Madoff
We pulled up to an empty Orthodox summer camp. I got out of the car with our head coach and approached the groundskeeper, who was sweeping in front of a locked gate—just beyond it, we could see a perfect, lush soccer field. Equipped with one week of Duolingo Greek, I attempted to translate, “football, koritsi” pointing through the gate at the field. The groundskeeper stared blankly as we mimed kicking a ball, then shook his head and turned away. No luck here. We laughed it off and got back in the car to scout the next field on the map.
I joined CHEERing in fall 2021 with the goal to understand the realities of the refugee crisis. My main duty was to be a driver, ferrying volunteers to Malakasa and Eleonas refugee camps, as well as to deliver supplies, from baby scales to soccer nets. I also filled in in an assortment of other roles, including memorable days as a junior soccer coach. Despite a couple of decades separating me from my own soccer career, it was a delight to get involved in coaching the girls. It was incredible to see in just the span of a few weeks how much they learned, not just about soccer, but also about how to communicate and work together as a team.
The highlight of my experience was the CHEERing community, a mix of local and international volunteers alongside refugee families. Over dinner, we heard stories about the treacherous crossing to Europe, and shared in the celebration of birthdays and graduations. The global refugee crisis is set to accelerate in the coming decade, driven by climate change, political instability, and other forces that can feel far beyond our control. I am grateful to have had the opportunity through CHEERing to be able to make a small difference in a few lives, and also to take these real human stories forward into my own.
A Day at Football
10 January 2022 | by Athená Davis
I spent 3 months volunteering with CHEERing beginning in August of 2021. I arrived while forest fires were still raging outside of Athens which meant there was a lot of work to be done.
Working mostly at our Grow Clinics, I was excited to do hands-on work and interact with our beneficiaries every day. Everyone we met was so kind and welcoming and I will never forget the joy on a mother’s face when she learned how well her baby was doing. I was absolutely in awe of the incredible amount of dedication and support the peer counselors gave to CHEERing and the volunteers. Their kindness and generosity were fundamental to my time in Athens.
While I was initially drawn in by CHEERing’s work doing Grow Clinics at refugee camps and shelters, I was also given the opportunity to work with the CHEERing girls’ football team in Malakasa camp which turned out to be one of my favorite parts of working at CHEERing. Each week we’d host 2-3 training sessions with over 30 girls whose excitement seemed to grow bigger each week. Lucky for me, my birthday happened to fall on a day where we had a football session. When the girls found out it was my birthday, they sang to me in 3 different languages and a few of the girls even made up a special birthday dance for me.
A day with CHEERing is a day full of generosity and care, and if you’re lucky, maybe even a special dance.
A Day with Marina
3 January 2022 | by Marina Menchini
I started my internship with CHEERing in February 2021. Athens was in full lockdown and I was quarantined for a week, during which the storm Medea raged through the city, bringing some unexpected snow on the balcony of the sixth-floor office.
Our work was mainly divided between Eleonas Camp and Elna Maternity Center. After almost a year of social distancing, I remember being momentarily shocked by the liveliness of the camp. So many people living together and going on with their everyday lives. There was work to be done, problems to be solved, children to be fed. A reminder that life must be protected and cherished as it is unstoppable, no matter the circumstances.
My job as a nutritionist intern involved direct counselling to the mothers, as well as creating tools and materials for nutritional evaluation. I also managed the office and supplies with my collegue Rana, an incredible pharmacist who taught me how just about anything can be solved with the correct use of an Excel sheet.
My favourite part of working with CHEERing was the people. Every person I met had a story to tell, had lived a unique journey I felt so incredibly priviliged to be a small part of.
Working with CHEERing means making an immediate difference in the lives of refugee mothers and children living in Athens.
A Day at Malakasa Camp
7 December 2021 | by Charlie Fisher
I came to Athens, Greece to work with CHEERing for the summer. Originally from northern Wisconsin, the 40+ Celsius/100+ Fahrenheit heat wave was enough for some of the older children in the refugee camp to nickname me “ice cream cone” when they came to visit our CHEERing table each week… because each week, I was consistently melting under the Athenian sun.
Despite all the jokes about my red face in the heat, I remember those hot days with only a smile now. I remember how the peer counselors would sneakily fill my water bottle up with ice-cold water that they had frozen overnight, after I had told them to keep it for themselves. But instead, these amazing women always chose to share, to take care of every member of the CHEERing team, even with limited resources themselves.
I remember how one day in the refugee camp, we saw an Arabic baby and did the best we could to communicate with the family without an Arabic translator present. After the family left, they returned with a plate full of falafel for us. A family living in these conditions, with no food to spare, would not take no for an answer when they found a way to share what they had with us.
I will never forget that generosity, and the hope it filled me with. To spend one day with CHEERing is to spend one day learning from the most resilient and inspiring people from across the world.