So let’s ground what exactly it is I have been doing here in Greece.
For the last two weeks I have been situated in Crete, Greece’s largest island. My purpose in being here has to do with my involvement with an organization called Learning Enterprises, and here’s the quick and dirty on them:
They are an international non profit that began in 1992 with a mission that revolved around a commitment to volunteerism and cultural acclimation. Adam Tolnay founded the organization following a stay in Hungary during his Sophomore year at Harvard; he noticed while on his trip a demand for English instruction. As he returned home to the US, he found himself inspired to begin an exchange program of sorts. In the following summer of 92′, he and five of his fellow friends spent six weeks in five Hungarian villages teaching English. As result of this first success, the program expanded in order to include more villages in the western part of Romania and more volunteers. Ten years later, LE had grown to include more than forty volunteers and half a dozen countries including Kyrgyzstan, China, and Mexico.
Fast forward to today, and close to 200 volunteer are traveling to a dozen different countries pulling from university’s across the US (and even other parts of the world). And while in the last twenty five years LE has grown exponentially, they have also maintained their core values in their entirety.
There are no program fees or hidden agendas: they run in the name of volunteerism. The countries we visit aren’t necessarily undeveloped or in need, but they’re beautiful nations with some ignored rural areas that boast of art and history, culture… and a need for English. We house with host families and our villages grow to know our organization and invite us back in the years to come cultivating a mutual, symbiotic relationship.
And for the first time in twenty five years, Learning Enterprises has taken on Greece. Thus why I am here.
This year is LE’s pilot run in Greece. What that essentially means is that this is a trial run in order to gauge interest and success. Rather than traveling for several weeks and with several volunteers, only four of us are here for four weeks. We came in knowing little about our surroundings and have spent the better part of the last few weeks figuring things out, but here’s the deal: we began with a three day orientation in Nippos, which is where our program director is permanently situated for the duration of our trip (she actually attends the same University as me which is v cool!) Following orientation, we were all sent to our different host families located in different villages. I found myself in Kalyves which is a beautiful seaside town. I teach two classes a day, M-F : one at 11AM (with about 13 students) and one in the evening (with about 6 or 7 students). In between classes I am free to wander Kalyves, come home, or travel as I please. On the weekends all of us program girls meet in Nippos and either take day trips or wander the local villages.
And that’s about as quick an explanation as I can make. I will make a separate post on my specific teaching experience/ host family situation/ general program thoughts soon.
LE maintains that our experiences are largely in our own hands and so our days all vary.. but with all of that being said, it has been an incredible experience thus far.