The background of the refugee crisis

Critics have pointed fingers at the Greek government and the European Union for failing to come up with a coordinated approach to the crisis and for not offering enough assistance in the camps. Greek authorities have toughened their position on immigration since a center-right administration was elected there in July 2019, which has made it more challenging for nonprofits.

How tourism meets volunteering

However, a different type of volunteer is also making its way to Greece: young, inexperienced westerners unintentionally making the issues they are trying to solve worse. Untrained volunteers have assisted in medical treatments that were outside their scope of training in several parts of the world. Constant volunteer turnover in schools has caused children to experience attachment problems. 

a Volunteer organization’s veting procedure

If you know the correct questions to ask, vetting an organization is not too difficult. Start with these eight straightforward, logical inquiries. Follow your instinct I f you encounter any obstacles or warning signs. If an NGO has nothing to hide from you, they will be open with you.

How long has the NGO been providing short-term volunteer trips and working in Greece?

Check the mission statement of the organization. Do they place a greater emphasis on your effect or the impact you have on the individuals you serve?

Do you engage in activities that you can finish or improve upon? Will you have to embark on a project that might never be finished in order to assist others?

Do kids play a part? What regulations apply to interactions between children?

What guidelines apply to posting photos to social media while working? What limitations apply? Do they send you to where you are most needed or to where you “look the best” in pictures?

Volunteer work that may be required of you

Volunteering is not an fancy job. It’s not about you when you provide for the basic necessities of others. What the other person needs is important. You might not get to give baby kisses all day long.  You might be washing floors and cleaning toilets without ever coming across a refugee.

You must be willing to do it if doing so will enable an organization to continue operating and provide assistance to refugees in Athens. Here is a brief example of some of the things you might be doing when helping refugees.

Maintaining a building

Occupy bored and out-of-school children.

Fold clothing

Provide clothing and diapers.

Cooking meals

Distributing food


Floor sweeping and mopping

Cleaning toilets

Helping refugees in Athens through volunteering

Working as a volunteer is crucial. Additionally, it might be personally satisfying. When you volunteer, it’s acceptable to feel good, but that shouldn’t be your only goal. You might want to rethink that trip if your primary motivation for volunteering is to “rescue” people from their hardships. Both you and they won’t benefit from your actions. Before deciding to volunteer in Athens, give it a lot of thought.

Get an in-depth, on-the-ground experience with our Understanding the Refugee Crisis walk. You’ll have the chance to learn about the challenges and experiences of refugees in Greece through firsthand research.