Youth Work Without Borders Pilot Project in Athens

Finn Church Aid has been working in Greece providing non-formal education to refugee children since summer 2016 and is still providing support for refugee and local youth in cooperation with local NGOs. While many of the refugee children now participate in public schools many teenagers and young adults spend their days not participating in organised activities for a multitude of reasons including a lack of school places.

That significantly decreases the possibilities to actively participate in society on a larger scale.  Lack of education and vital skills prevent their access to further studies and makes it hard to earn a living. The situation is challenging not only for the refugees. Recession has hit hard on Greece’s economy and especially on the Greek youth. Youth unemployment rate is estimated to be over 50%.

FCA’s country office complex in Athens has turned into a multicultural meeting space for both refugees and locals. On one side of the space is the yoga room where three groups practice yoga daily. Free yoga classes are open for all beginners who like to try out a new sport. Many participants haven’t heard about yoga before. During spring 2018 interested participants can start studying to become yoga instructors themselves. Local partner Elix’s volunteers welcome the yoga practisers from behind their desk and keep company to smaller kids in a kindergarten room while parents participate in classes.


On the other side of the complex youth gather behind the laptops and the teachers reveal the secrets of LibreOffice and HTML. Code + Create is a new project that offers free digital education for Greeks and refugees aged 15-24. After the successful workshop in June 2017 FCA and local partner GFOSS created new longer courses including in coding, web designing, 3D-printing and more. The project started in November 2017 and will last until the end of March 2018.

Youth Work Volunteer

I was selected to be the first volunteer in a new cooperation with Teachers without Borders/FCA and a youth work organisation Allianssi. Allianssi is aiming to create a new volunteer network similar to Teachers Without Borders to take Finnish quality youth work experience to other countries. I’m a Bachelor of Social Services with the background mainly focused in children protective services working with adolescents in a youth home.

This is my first time as a volunteer and I’ve had quite free hands to develop the position as a youth work specialist. Before the classes started running I worked together with a TWB-volunteer to create a training for local IT-teachers. Greek way to teach is still quite traditional but Code + Create aims to break those rules and make learning more interactive.

The training had themes such as working with a multicultural group, students’ psycho-social needs and integration. Project aims to enhance relationships with peers and one theme of the training focused on how to create a welcoming, fun and creative lab where people are encouraged to interact. I will be organising social events for the students outside the classes to also support the relationships and adding the fun-factor.
I am providing psycho-social support for the students and offering the students a possibility to book a counselling sessions. I’m also around if anyone wants to have a chat when they come to the classes. During the spring 2018 I will also take action in promoting and coordinating the classes.

Erika Ojala
Youth Work Specialist Volunteer