LEARNING ABOUT HOTEL LIFE
Written February 21st
For our first day, my coworker, Dia, and I met Alexandra in the morning and drove to meet a Pentecostal couple in town – the husband is a pastor at the local Pentecostal congregation in Katerini and the wife is an English teacher with over 30 years’ experience in the field. They go two or three days a week to teach English lessons at the hotels that the crew in Katerini manages near Thessaloniki.
These hotels came under the care of the Perichoresis team just this winter when it became too cold for refugees to stay in a camp on nearby Mount Olympus. The people were moved to three nearby hotels and the group from Katerini was put in charge of their management. Meals, laundry, and cleaning services are provided for the people there and the United Nations covers the costs. Staff from Perichoresis is available during working hours to drive people to doctor’s appointments, to take them to UNHCR appointments, to discuss their cases, and to help problem-solve any issues that may arise. Volunteers also come most days to hold English language classes for a wide variety of ages – which is what Dia and I were there to do.
We first sat in on the teen’s class where there were around twelve students, all very well behaved and interested in learning. The next class was made up of around twenty elementary-aged children who were a bit energetic. Lastly, we sat in on a class of adults who were quite clever and kind. It was amazing to meet all of the wonderful language students during our visit there; they were so warm and genuine and eager to learn.
For the people there, these classes are sometimes the only thing they have to do all day. They’re safe and living in the hotels, but they’re located out in the middle of nowhere, they’re not allowed to work, and at times they get a bit antsy about all of this – which is understandable.
We got done around one in the afternoon and drove back to Katerini, talking with the couple about their experiences working with other denominations in Katerini to aid refugees – it seems like there’s a great ecumenical response in the city.
Our first day in Katerini gave us a unique perspective into the work being done there and just how much it’s grown in the six months since I last visited. Seeing the new ways in which the community in Katerini is serving the people around them was heartwarming – they’re really listening to the needs of the people and doing what they can to help them.