Jiatian has racked up quite some experience with MOTG, volunteering this summer on Lesvos for a whole three months! We think he's a great person to talk to, to find out about the volunteer experience. We caught up with him while he was finishing a shift in our clothing shop in our Kara Tepe CampUs to ask a few questions.
What made you come all the way to Lesvos from the US to Volunteer?
Because of the lack of attention in the US on the issue of the European migration problem. I think all of attention is given on American politics at the moment, or issues that affect people in the US. I don’t think other issues should be marginalised but we’ve lost our focus on other humanitarian issues too, such as Lesvos, such as Yemen, such as Venezuela. That’s why I’m here.
You’re staying with us for 3 months, that’s your whole summer term, why did you decide to volunteer for so long?
I will be going back to University to finish my final year and after that I’ll be going on to study Medicine or Law. One of the reasons why I came here was also to figure out what I want to go on to do because I want to help people in the future. I wanted to see what was going on here, so I could understand and see where my role would fit in and what it would look like.
Why MOTG then out of all the organisations on Lesvos?
I was looking at the different non-profits on Lesvos and Greece. I chose Movement because of their emphasis on giving people their dignity through things like clothes and through sports.I read about this on the stories section of the Movement website. I think that the dignity of a person is just as important as their bare needs and so that’s why I came to Movement.
What’s been your favourite activity so far?
My favourite activity has been the Ramadan distribution. It’s the first thing that I had to do when I arrived and when the most people get involved, all together at the same time. It’s when a lot of residents come to help out also and you get to meet them all. A lot of the guys who come are in their 20’s and I’m 20 years old, so it just turns into hanging out with people my age – it’s a lot of fun to be with them.
Has the language barrier ever been a problem?
I realise that people here learn languages very fast. So no, not really. I’ve worked in the kitchen and it’s kind of complex all the different technical words you need to talk about stuff, so we just use google translate. Some of the women here don’t know how to write or read so I can’t use google translate with them. But in that case, there’s always someone whose English is better and who is willing to help out.
What’s your favourite part of volunteering?
It’s one thing to say, “Give humanity to the people,” it’s another to see those people’s faces, to see their families. Sometimes Dad’s will come in here [to the clothing shop] and say “I don’t need another pair of shoes for 6 months – give my wife another pair, give my kids something” – it’s very basic but it gives it another human perspective to things. Once you come here you can’t avoid that connection with the people, or a sense of affection for who they are.
Do you have any advice for volunteers?
My biggest advice is - remind yourself daily what your raw motivation was to come here in the first place because that’s what I do every morning, that’s what keeps my spirits up and makes sure I don’t get lost in the work or lost in the motions.
Are you, like Jiatian, interested in volunteering on Lesvos? Check out our How Can I Help section.
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