From February 20-27, 2017 I had the pleasure to volunteer in Katerini with the Evangelical Church in Greece’s affiliated refugee-aid non-profit, Perichoresis. I first served with the ECG in Katerini in August 2016 after meeting Alexandra Nikolara, the team leader for refugee aid work there, at a Consultation on Migration hosted by the Reformed Church in Hungary in June 2016. I was moved by the work that her church is doing for people on the move and I knew that I had to get involved with them and see what refugee aid work looks like in a different context. On my first trip to Katerini, in August 2016, Nikolara’s team was six people – on this trip, her team now numbers around fifty. The work used to be done under the umbrella of the local ECG congregation there in Katerini, but the need for their services has continued growing and so they have restructured their work and are now a church-affiliated non-profit.
My week spent with Perichoresis was enlightening in so many ways. During both of my trips I was able to see many different facets of the work being done in Katerini which helped to provide me with a well-rounded picture of the situation. On this trip I spent time in the newly created nursery program, attended English and Greek lessons with children, visited hotels near Thessaloniki that are currently managed by the non-profit, helped the office staff to run errands, and shadowed a caretaker for a day to learn about the housing program in detail.
What stuck out to me the most during my time with the Perichoresis team was how consistent they all were in the mission of the work. No matter who I spoke to, whether it was someone in an administrative position, a driver, a housing caretaker, or a social worker, every single person was on the same page about the work being done in Katerini and their motivation for doing it. Everyone I came into contact with felt a call to help people on the move and Perichoresis does a fantastic job at identifying and maximizing a person’s particular strengths. The team meets each morning so that they are aware of what’s going on in the various facets of the organization, collaborating where it is needed but also giving one another space to breathe and do their own work. That an organization has experienced such tremendous growth in such a short time, and has managed to grow in a sustainable manner and not sacrifice their original mission, is an impressive feat – one that continues to inspire me now that I am back in Budapest.
Over the coming days I will be sharing reflections written during my most recent trip to Katerini to give you a more full picture of what my trip there was like. If you have any questions at all, feel free to leave them in the comments!