Monday, December 16, 2013

5 of December, The International Volunteer Day

By: Amaia

Last week, on the 5th of December, we celebrated the International Volunteer Day. The Youth Center of Kalamata organized an exhibition in collaboration with volunteers located in different parts of the world.

Volunteering is an activity that involves the conviction that small acts can generate change.  Volunteers believe that unity is strength. We believe that by sharing with others and committing to the community can set the foundations to make a difference in our surroundings. Like a ballet company or a philharmonic orchestra were the coordination of a team generates emotions and impacts in its audience.

As a volunteer you let yourself to be moved by what you believe to make it visible with your hands
Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.  ~Elizabeth Andrew

Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.  ~Edwin Hubbel Chapin

Monday, December 9, 2013


By: Danáe

 - 5 days with 38 volunteers, coming from 16 countries, working in 15 different non-profit organizations. Somewhere in between there was us, the 4 EVS volunteers who arrived to Kalamata in October and now got to go to the on-arrival seminar. The seminar took place in a hotel in Omonia, which first scared me a little bit, since I’ve heard the stories of the other volunteers who went there in September already. Surprisingly I didn’t see anything threatening just a lot of policeman, which also made sense, since we were living right next to a police station. The hotel was nice, especially since we had 5 days without cooking or cleaning ahead of us ;). At 6:30 pm the seminar started off with a short welcoming and we got to see the other volunteers, as well as our 4 trainers for the first time. We also played some games to get to know all the names, which was impossible in only one hour.  Everyone seemed very nice and you could feel everybody’s excitement for the upcoming days. After dinner we went out to Eksarxeia for one or two drinks.
The next day’s motto was “My EVS”. We all took a closer look at our own project in creating a poster about it. Later on everyone introduced the project to the other volunteers. It was very interesting to see and to hear what the other volunteers are doing and also nice to exchange our experiences concerning our projects. The second night we climbed up on a little hill close to the acropolis, where we had an amazing view not only at the lit up acropolis but also at huge Athens. Greece also won the important soccer game against Rumania that evening so there were fireworks, which made everything even more beautiful.
On Wednesday it was time to learn some Greek. Our challenge was to create a TV commercial for a gadget that would be useful for the everyday life of an EVS volunteer… in GREEK! We came up with the idea pretty fast but spent a loooong time to translate everything into Greek. My group for example invented the EVS volunteer GPS -“Συσκευη Ευρεση Εθελοντων”, an application for your mobile phone, which helps you to find other EVS volunteers in Greece. The same day we also found out about the origin and the background of the EVS program and we learned more about the rights and the responsibilities of an EVS volunteer. After dinner we had a little pyjama party at the hotel and after watching two movies most of us went straight to bed.
The next morning we got up with a lot of motivation, since we were going to explore Athens. We were divided into 5 groups with different themes (1. gastronomy and cuisine 2. crisis 3. tourism, sports and entertainment 4. social movements and NGOs 5. interpersonal relations) in order to learn more about city, culture, language and people. Every group had to do tasks around the city interacting also many times with people from the street. In the end of the day we presented the results of our rallies to the others. It was a very fun and interesting day but also stressful, since we only had a certain amount of time to finish everything. The evening most of us went out -even though it was raining cats and dogs- again to enjoy the colorful nightlife of Athens.

Soon it already was Friday and also the last day of the seminar. So for a last time we gathered together in the big seminar room to learn about the youth pass we will create ourselves in the end of the project to have a summary about our development and our achievements during the program. Afterwards we did an evaluation of the whole seminar. Everyone was very happy with the days we spend together in Athens and also a little bit sad that it was already over. During those days we made new friends and now know other volunteers all over Greece. The seminar did not only motivate us for our projects, inform us about important things connected with our EVS but also helped us to create a big network. So in the following months we hope to visit each other and see other nice places of Greece. Since most of us only left the hotel the next day after breakfast we had another night together and we planned our farewell party in a club in Kerameikos. Even two of our trainers joined us. The party was the perfect ending to 5 Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious days!

The Last Visit to the Wonderful world of smells

The Last Visit to the Wonderful world of smells

By: Amaia

In this time only a few of us were lucky to visit the factory and Athanasius and to know the history of the family business.
Pantelis Athanasiou , who many people in Kalamata still remember, began making cakes at home since 1938 . The
 beginnings were selling cakes in the streets of Kalamata, schools and in all the places where many people  goes to enjoy, such as football stadiums etc, and always using his bicycle from one place to another.
Later, his descendants using a small and family laboratory o bakery, continued the trade of selling cakes to small shops, getting to create their own chain of stores with time. 
They opened their first store in 1992 and today they have stores in different parts of the world, such as  USA (Boston), Panama... and always with a good business planning  to make sure, before opening a new shop, that the above could be maintained. So, they are very strict particularly with  the quality and with the Greek origin of the products, and all made with olive oil. They produce sweet and bitter flavours, and even some other products such as some delicious chocolates which we were lucky enough  to taste.

 These last two years,  due to the economic situation that has been happening in most of Europe, they  found  great difficulties, but even so, they  still keep betting and risking to undertake new business outside of the country. Is a way of maintain a level of business, something like a business insurance just in case the economic situation goes worst in Greece. In that plan,  more than 100 employees are also included. Right now, they are producing 350 different products to be sold daily and, always fresh and with a very high quality. 
Finally, and after the visit to the factory , and fascinated by the wonderful world of smells that I could appreciate there, we had the great fortune to taste some of the delicious things they offered to us, having at the same time a  nice chat about the interesting story of the founder.
The next step for Athanasius, is to go for growth at the local level by opening a shop with coffee and delicious snacks, breakfast sandwiches etc, near the

Monday, December 2, 2013

Messinian Messages

 Messinian Messages

These last few weeks have been very interesting for us volunteers here at the youth centre. We were treated to surprise matchmaking visits to several local companies at their factories, located between 5 and 8 km outside of Kalamata. The purposes of our participation in this EU matchmaking program was to learn more about the function of the local economy here in Kalamata in the wake of the global economic crisis, to gain an insight into their operations, to introduce the companies and the participants to each other for potential future collaboration and to promote these companies in our home countries.
            So, day 1 and the first place on the list was a brick and roof-tile manufacturing company. We were greeted at the entrance by the friendly owner and he showed us around the understandably loud and warm factory of his family business. He explained to us the process of turning the raw mud into bricks and tiles. Basically the get the wet mud, shape it into bricks and, in a parallel production line into tiles, dry them, stack them together, fire them together in the furnace (the heat from here is also used in the drying stage), cool them, pack them and send them out. We all left with a better understanding of the entire process and some of us even brought home a brick for ourselves!
     The next place we visited directly after was a wine factory, BioVin, in operation since 2006. Here we were shown how they make wine. They source the grapes from local, organic farmers and extract the juice. After this, for red wine, they let the colour of the skins of the red grapes soak into the juice, for rose they do it for a much shorter time and for white not at all. Then they ferment it, filter it, bottle it and sell it. They also explained to us that the reason some red wines are more expensive, such as the reserve wines is that they have to factor in the rental and/or operational costs of the reserves themselves, the price of the aging barrels and the cost incurred from the losses of product due to the aging process itself, both due to the ‘Angel’s share’ and accidental loss.
     Last on the list of places to visit for this day was a company called Κουλιέρης Α.Ε. . This is a local logistics company serving supermarkets and hotels with Greek and international food and cosmetics products. They also have their own brand called ‘Navarino’ which produces orange juice, olive oil and frozen foods. They have been in operation since 1986 and have recently been awarded with a certificate naming them as one of the strongest companies in Greece. The owner showed us around his factory, explained to us what they do, gave us a presentation of the company and also fed us! A good thing too because it was nearing lunchtime and we were all really hungry!!

            So day 2 and we set off for two fig factories and an olive oil company. The first fig factory was called Goumas and here we were shown the process of how they produce figs. The bring in the raw, dried figs and they wash them in how water. Then they have to fumigate them for two days in phosphine to kill any bacteria and eggs that may be on them or in them (useful tip: whenever you eat figs, it is wise to pull it open by hand first and then eat it, as is customary in Greece), then they wash them again and pack them by hand. One of our volunteers even got the opportunity to do this themselves! These figs are exported all over the world, with little under 10% being sold in in Greece. In Canada and America they prefer big figs (insert appropriate cultural stereotype here…!) and in Europe they prefer small figs, according to market research. Before we left they treated us to a box of Kalamata figs each, nice ;) .
      The second fig factory was much the same in terms of processing and packaging, though it was a larger factory owned by a co-operative, but here we also gained some insight into how the crisis has affected the companies and the wages in Greece.
 The other factory we visited on day two was the olive oil producing company, Ενωση Μεσσήνιας. Here they test the oil they receive and package it. They produce olive oil and olives with a PDO certificate, which stands for Protected Designation of Origin. This is the same idea as in France with Champagne and also with Feta cheese.
The olive oil they produce is extra virgin. In the lab we were shown how they test this oil and what exactly makes it extra virgin. Their limits for extra virgin olive oil is 0.45g oleic acid per 100 grams of olive oil, which means the oil is not very acidic. Also here before we left they gave us a small bottle of olive oil and a jar of olives, both Kalamata PDO of course!

            So, day three and our last outing, and we were certainly the most excited about this one as were were to visit a distillery and a winery!

     The first was the distillery where they make spirits of all shapes and sizes (literally!). The produce rum, vodka, whiskey, ouzo, tsipouro, rakomelo (tsipouro/wine with honey, usually served hot) and a whole cacophony of other spirits. We were shown around this factory, to the distillery and to the bottling part of the factory. After a brief Q and A section we were gifted with a small bottle of rakomelo for our enthusiasm!

   Last but by no means least we visited another winery, much bigger than the previous one called Οινομεσσηνιακή (or Inomessiniaki), a Messinian winery. Here again we were briefed on the details of the process of making wine, with the bottling phase of production in full operation. We were taken around outside the plant and shown, up close, various facets of the large scale production of wine. Afterwards we were taken inside and shown the bottling process as well as the cellar. We were then taken to the storage warehouse where there was already some wine aging there for a few years. After a few group photos next to a mountain of Messinian wine we received a most generous gift from our gracious yet insanely busy host: two cases of wine! After we exchanged our many sincere thank-you’s we set off for home with light in our hearts and wine in our arms!
            These trips were great fun and very informative. Even though all these places seem to be doing well, you can tell that the crisis has affected them, and this was a small shapshot of the larger situation in Greece, the peripheral countries in the EU and in companies across the globe.

     A lot of these companies have relatively few employees considering the size of the factories and/or have had to reduce them. They have also had to reduce production and pay more attention to seasonal work as well as reduced wages. One company told us that in the years following the crisis they have had to reduce the wages from €55 per 7 hour day to €40. Also, one company told us that before the crisis there was a 60-day grace period for payment of goods which doesn’t happen anymore, and of course this has an effect on business.  Competition is also an important factor in a contracting marketplace. If one country overproduced it can afford to offer contracts at a lower cost and price other countries out of the market easier, PDO or not. Because of this companies struggle to make themselves stand out from the crowd in a crowded market. Others have to enlarge their vision of their companies either by expanding their purpose and services or by expanding their market and changing their operations accordingly. Even though a place like Kalamata, famous for figs, olives, olive oil and wine, all with PDO status, it’s companies still feel the strain of the crisis. For some other of it’s companies that do not have such a marketable status for their products they feel it much more, and their lives are understandably more difficult.
     Innovation has to come from somewhere, and as with solidarity it tends to appear in sink or swim situations. These companies are all in contact with the locality and the people in the region, supporting each other either directly by trading goods and services or indirectly by word of mouth.

The crisis affects a lot of people on this planet (some would say 99%) and the practice of co-operation, determination, innovation and solidarity seem to be some of the best ways through it. This for me was the ultimate goal of these trips; to educate and to inform us and as many people as possible about their companies and the difficulties that the crisis presents. But it was also for them to reach out, through the medium of a small but international newsletter, like a message in a bottle.
By:    Fiachra Mac Íomhair

Fiachra Mac Íomhair

Fiachra , with light in his mind  and everything in his hands

A waitress impatient for orders. Haste and unrest among my Arabic friends who were also on their way to Rodonthos for the announced evening of live music. Noise, smoke and restlessness on a cloudless night . Definitely something unusual for this time of the year in the mid of November. But it would not rain on that day, for even the weather paid its respect .
Then more haste. My phone spits out a quite complicit message, and I hear another ringtone not far from me, that demands the attention of its owner. Speed ​​and more speed in the land famous for its " σιγα σιγα. " Anxiety and restlessness are something unusual here in this small town of Peloponnese. And then a man who, counter-balancing the look of his elegant acoustic guitar with his carefree casual style, appears and calms the air.
It was Fiachra Mac Íomhair. Time seemed to stop and suddenly there was no trace of the previous anxiety and hurry that we have all become accustomed to, even here in Greece. The seemingly impossible happened. Everything went quiet and still. Even the clock stopped ticking as the room full of expectation was awaiting to hear the slender Irishman sing. To hear sing the person who was born to do this and nothing else .
It was about eleven o'clock at night and everyone who was not there that night did not know what they were missing. While Fiachra began strumming the Fisherman's Blues by The Waterboys, I closed my eyes and let my body move to the harmonious rhythm of the song.

The song finished, and loud cheers of approval followed immediately along with the first round of ovations from the audience. Yet again, Fiachra has won us over. Many more songs followed as everything flowed slowly, slowly, between one tsípuro ( τσιπουρο ) and another. The poetic verses were caressing our souls.

Today , as I am writing this , I only have room in my heart to say thank you. Thanks for another brilliant night. ΕυχαριστούμεFiachra . The rest of my heart now belongs to your music, your style and some other girl that night was Rodanthos. Time will tell the rest .
                                                                                                                            By: Carmelo Marquéz

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Starting the 6th period of the Youth Centre of Kalamata

Came in September and it is time to open again, for the 6th consecutive year , the Youth Center of Kalamata ! As always , so this year , the team of volunteers KNK will offer a variety of workshops which anyone may attend free.

This year the audience will be able to attend dance workshops ( Latin , folk , hip-hop, RnB, modern ) , music (guitar, bouzouki , folk music and music- therapy and other ) arts ( painting, drawing , design), exchange language skills (English , Spanish , Lithuanian, Serbian , Turkish, German, Slovenian , Arabic, Greek for foreigners etc. ) and Greek Sign Language , Yoga , Creative Employment for children and much more. Classes will begin the last week of September and the first week of October.

More information about the Youth Center of Kalamata one can find in <a href=""></a>.

Registration will begin on September 16 and will be Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 17:00 to 21:00. As everyone knows, the Youth Center is an open social space based solely on volunteering. So the records will be made by volunteers and since the previous year written 2000 members , we ask for and assist the public on the proper functioning of the records. Unfortunately therefore limited space and the nature of the task, can only cover 500 locations in 35 laboratory modules for workshops so that there is more demand, first served basis .

What is the Youth Center of Kalamata ?

Monday, August 19, 2013

On-arrival seminar in the rocky mountain Treehouses

We were invited to join the short-term EVSers for their on-arrival seminar at the treehouses in the mountains and I wasn't sure what to expect as we set off in Filaretos' car. Singing Irish songs to beat the band, we took in ever-more amazing views of Kalamata and the Messinian bay with every wind of the ascending mountain road.

As we neared, Filaretos pointed across to the shape of an amphitheatre in the distance. "That's where we're going" he said. The mystery deepened; treehouses and amphitheatres?! Nice one. When we arrived we descended the stairs into a seemingly different world, it was like we were stepping back in time.
We were greeted by our EVSers-in-arms, who were from Croatia and France, and our gracious hosts, had a few chats and settled in.

After a while we got started with the seminar. It was all about EVS, general information and it's practicalities. Although this seminar was primarily for the short-term EVS volunteers, as our 'official' one is on in September in Athens, Fotini and Filaretos felt it would be a good experience for us and I'm glad they did. The first activity was about our fears and expectiations regarding EVS. A straightforward enough concept but very necessary to discuss. After we affixed our post-its to the flipchart Fotini and Filaretos talked about all of them in turn, reassured us and clarified what we were to experience over the next 10 months. The next activity was Mission Impossible. Here we were assigned an number of tasks to be completed in an almost-equal number of minutes! These tasks included: compose a group song, make a poster for the group, find 10 differences and 10 similarities between all the countries represented in the group, gather things from around the camp that began with each letter of the alphabet, make a group dance and make a list of everyone's favourite food, colour and artist. Everything had to be done as a team, no delegation here! Everything went well apart from the song and dance! But the craic was good and loosened us all up a bit! After lunch, the short-term EVS volunteers made shelves for their tents and us long-haulers made bread. LOTS of bread! Sotirios and Panayota made dinner and the food was amazing. Cooked in a homemade oven which sat outside the main house that was built by Sotirios 4 years ago. He's some man for one man! After dinner we watched the sunset beautifully over Kalamata and the Messinian bay. 
After dark the sky was amazing. The view of the Milky Way and the multitude of stars was something I had never seen before. Wished on a few shooting stars and played a dice game where I got my arse horribly kicked! No beginners luck for me. 

On the second day, as I dealt with my incessant sleepiness, others had to deal with mosquito bites on account of their seemingly tasty blood! After breakfast we discussed EVS mentors, what they are and their roles. We were split into two groups and asked our knowledge artistically. Our group did a comic strip featuring an elephant like Dumbo  teaching birds to how to fly. Cheesy, cute and succinct in equal measure! We were then introduced to our rights and responsibilities as EVS volunteers. We were again split into two groups, one rights and the other responsibilities. We were asked to make a dramatic presentation of what our rights and responsibilities are. This was followed by an explanation and a clearing up of a few minor misunderstandings.  
After a tasty lunch prepared by Panayota and Sotirios (with a little help from us!) we discussed the youth pass and the 8 key competences. We were asked to take post-its and put our projects on the relevant competences. After a discussion and a promise to be introduced to the fax machine we chilled and hung out for a bit before leaving. We packed up, bade our goodbyes, exchanged numbers and made our merry way back to Kalamata on a promise to return. And return I certainly shall. 

Welcome to the Hotel Kalamata

Dia dhaoibh! Fiachra McKeever is ainm dom agus είμαι από την Ιρλανδία.

So.... my first days in Kalamata have been fairly intense. From the moment Dorian, Hippolyte and Melina collected me and Lina from the bus station up until now my mind has been flooded with fresh sights, new faces, crippling heat and frappes.

Being from Ireland, where all we talk about is the weather, the first thing that hit me (like a ton of bricks!) was the heat! Although I had mentally prepared as much as one could, my pale skin was in no way ready for the desert highway it was to experience. With any luck, before the end of my tenure here, all my freckles will join together and I'll be bronzing nicely! Once I got over the heat my attention quickly turned to other things. I noticed how friendly and smiley the people here are. Very nice, keen to help in any way and also in possession of a great sense of humour!  

When we got to the apartment, I was pleasantly surprised by the size of it. And the fact that there were balconies! "I could definitely get used to this!" I thought! After Dorian took us for food at M.a.m we went to the youth centre for a going away party for some of the other EVS volunteers who had been here. There I met a whole host of friendly and animated people, all having great craic. We drank beer and Irish whiskey and I went home at some unholy hour in an equally unholy state! Καλώς ήλθατε στην Καλαμάτα o Fiachra!!

When we got to the apartment, I was pleasantly surprised by the size of it. And the fact that there were balconies! "I could definitely get used to this!" I thought! After Dorian took us for food at M.a.m we went to the youth centre for a going away party for some of the other EVS volunteers who had been here. There I met a whole host of friendly and animated people, all having great craic. We drank beer and Irish whiskey and I went home at some unholy hour in an equally unholy state! Καλώς ήλθατε στην Καλαμάτα o Fiachra!!

For the first few days Dorian, an EVS volunteer from the south of France, showed us the sights and sounds of Kalamata. He lit up a candle and showed us the way to the miles and miles of beach (a good man is Dorian!) as we soaked up the sun. We attended an anti-fascist gathering in the park next to the railroad cars, apparently quashing a Golden Dawn gathering that was supposed to be happening at the same time in the same place, met some nice new people, drank some beer and sampled some fruity ouzo. All in all a really nice, relaxing introduction to Kalamata and a beautiful few days.

But then of course, some 'work' had to be done. We had to go up to the mountains to a beautiful place with treehouses, an amphitheatre, breathtaking views of the city (and at night - the galaxy), nice people, gorgeous home-cooked Greek food and some good craic thrown in for good measure. Woe is me! :P All this was for the on-arrival seminar for the short-term EVS volunteers who were staying at the treehouses, and we were asked to participate also. It was 2 days of non-formal learning on the topic of EVS and it's practicalities. It was a lovely 2 days - see dedicated article!

We were also introduced to the youth centre. The office itself is an inviting place - a glass wall covered in colourful pictures from different events, projects and activities organised by the youth centre. We sat outside, enjoying the vibe of the square, playing guitar before siesta, inhaling iced coffee. Happy days. In the seconf week we were told we need a tour of the city and Bjartur was assigned as our tour guide. He instructed us to be at the youth centre at 10am Greek-time and he'd show us around; all the things we needed to see, and maybe some things we didn't! He showed us the castle, the old revolutionary church - where Greek independence was won, some lovely places for coffee, the bus routes, and other useful places to know like the Greek equivalent to IKEA, the Post Office and the bike shop.

After almost a week and a half in Kalamata I can say that I'm definitely getting used to the weather and am beginning to feel at home here. I've already met some fantastic people and I dread to think of how difficult it will be to leave. But as they say: we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, so I've to enjoy every day here as much as I can. Welcome to the Hotel Kalamata, such a lovely place, such a lovely face. Plenty of room at the Hotel Kalamata, what a nice surprise, come all my alibis! 

Erika's First Days in Kalamata

I come from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. I am 25 years old and am currently in the process of finishing university. In a few months I expect to graduate with a degree in Philosophy and English language, which will enable me to become a teacher of these two subjects in the future. My main interests outside university are art and sustainable development.
One of the reasons why I chose Greece as the country of my EVS long—term exchange is the fact that I am half Greek and  have long had the desire to learn more about the country of my family's origin, experience the life here, and learn to speak the language well.
In my ten months in Kalamata I will do my best to contribute to the local community as much as possible. From September on you will be able to find me facilitating a yoga workshop at the Youth Center as well as offering Slovene and English language lessons. Another project I plan to realize during my stay here is a cycle of socially and politically engaged documentary movie nights as a way to raise awareness regarding neoliberal practises that directly affect European citizens in their every—day lives.
Let the adventure begin!

Den kanei krio stin Ellada 

The first thing I noticed as I descended from the bus at the Kalamata bus station late in the evening was definitely the flush of heavy hot air that at once enveloped me from all sides. My bus arrived almost half an hour too early, which took me by surprise. I looked around, made sure that it was really Kalamata where I was and then texted Fotini, the coordinator of my EVS project, as it had been previously agreed. Then I sat on my suitcase and observed the people slowly leaving the station until a local volunteer from the Youth Center came to pick me up. I immediately recognized him as he was holding a paper with my name on it. After we introduced ourselves, he kindly offered to help me with the suitcases on the way to what was going to be my new home for almost a year. Since the walk took about 20 minutes, there was enough time to exchange some first impressions about the city and a little conversation about ourselves, what we do, the Youth Center and its activities. I was also explained that the reason for the heat is high humidity in the air and that one gets used to it after a while. Albeit slightly skeptical, I decided to believe this to be true. 

When we arrived to the house, there were many people there already. They were sitting on the terrace, chatting, listening to the music and preparing dinner. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. Apart from me and Giorgos, the volunteer that brought me from the station, there was also a girl from Lithuania, another girl from Germany, two French guys, and one more from Ireland. I got introduced to everyone and was shown my room, where I left my bags before joining everybody on the balcony. The French were the ones cooking and I must say it was incredibly lovely to be welcomed with a nice French dinner and a glass of cold wine. Everything was still new, yet I was somehow already starting to feel comfortable and homey. 

Although I enjoyed the first evening in my new home, the heat and the tiredness from the long travel were probably the factors that most contributed to the fact that I got almost no sleep the first night. I kept waking up restless and falling back into nervous sleep with the fan next to my bed rhythmically turning from one side to the other, providing steady but sarcastic company. Towards the morning as the day was dawning, I tried to ignore the noise of the garbage collectors outside, and the idea that everybody else in the house except me was sleeping and enjoying a good rest while I was lying awake was making me really frustrated. However, it was just around this time that I finally sunk into a good sleep, the sunbeams gently entering through the window and lighting up both my mood and the room.

My first morning in Kalamata started with a light breakfast and a stroll down to the Youth Center together with two other EVS volunteers from the house. We had a meeting there and were presented the plan for the following days. After the meeting we headed to the beach, which was the highlight of the day. It felt great to be able to finally cool down, be carried by the waves for a while and then relaxing on the sand. There was an anti-fascist gathering organized by some volunteers of the Youth Center taking place later that evening, which we attended to show support and experience the social activity in the city. It was a nice event and we stayed there until about 1 in the morning.

The next two days were spent in an eco village in the mountains that surround Kalamata. We had an on—arrival seminar there, learning about the formalities and theoretical background of EVS. The two days were spent with a group of short—term EVS volunteers, whose project is to build tree houses in the village and learn about environmental sustainability. The seminar was fun and interactive and I especially liked the fact that it was held in the beautiful environment, where we were surrounded by nature. There were fruit trees and herbs everywhere I looked and in the evening we had home—cooked dinner under the most beautiful sky I have ever seen. The stars above us were shining and twinkling like countless diamonds. It was a great start to what is hopefully going to be an unforgettable year.

Melina: My first days in Kalamata! :)

Hi everybody!
My name is Melina, I'm from Germany and I started the EVS programme just two weeks ago. In this time it happend already a lot so this is just a short sum-up of my first days in Kalamata! :)

So the 5th of August 2013 was my arrival date and I arrived at 21:00 at the airport in Kalamata. Expecting to take a taxi or go by  bus I was really surprised to see Fotini and Jelena picking me up. We drove directly to my new flat directly at the beach. There was already a lot going on. My new flatmate Bjatur was celebrating his birthday and  so I already met a lot of new people in my first night! Next to all my new flatmates, I also met other volunteers and some greek locals. They were all very nice and integrated me immediatley in their community!
I was surprised that my flatmates are all male and one of them is german. So there was no traffic in the bathroom and I had a german introduction in Kalamata that made it a little bit easier for me.  
The next day I visited the Youth Center for the first time, were I met the short term volunteers of the street festival.  In the late afternoon we picked two new volunteers up - Fiachra and Lina. In the evening there was a party in the Youth center because some of the short term volunteers were leaving. The next days we spent a lot of time in the city, at the beach or just eating. Then came Erika, the last new volunteer in August.

 At Thursday we already had our first trip. We went to the project of Tree Houses in the mountains. There a lot of new short term volunteers were expecting us eagerly because they were so isolated and needed to meet new people. At the Tree Houses we had our first on-arrival- seminar and we were taught by Fotini and Filaretos themselves. We worked a lot in a group and got to know eachother by funny games. In the afternoon the long term volunteers – like me – tried to bake some bread that took us a long time to become like it should be. Finally it became a really big and tasty bread. The boss of the Tree Houses area was Sotirios a really nice guy who takes a lot of care of his voluntary sheeps. In the evening we had a great meal in the amphitheatre with very special greek music. The atmosphere was just great. We slept in a open tent that’s why I woke up with so many mosquito bites in my whole face. The worse were four bites directly at my eye that became so big. But thanks to Sotirios’ natrual medicine it became better. The next day our trip came already to the end.


And so we started a new one: Poliminio – Waterfalls. On Saturday we went to a place full of tiny and big waterfalls. We went by bus and walked around one hour to the swimming place. It was very rocky and difficult to climb but we had a lot of fun. On our way home we just took a short break at a very nice tavern and ate really tasty souflakia and mousaka that was our motivation for the whole way.

Now we are already planing our next trip during our free days this week! :)


Lina's first days in Kalamata

I arrived on Monday evening. In Athens I met another volunteer, he is from Ireland. His name is Fiachra. It was nice to meet him. From Athens we traveled together, it was much easier and more fun, but still the last part of the journey from Athens to Kalamata was really very tiring. In Kalamata we were greeted by two French gentlemen, who helped to reach our flat. Later we joined the party in the Youth Center. There was a lot of volunteers from previous projects that are ending now. It was nice that we had the oportunity to meet them, even if it was only one evening. So my first day was really very long, tiring, but with a lot of excitement.

The days and nights are really very hot in Kalamata. So the next day, after we got the maps of Kalamata we went to the beach. The water was really very good. In the evening the volunteer from Slovenia – Erika – has arrived and the French gentlemen made a wonderful dinner for us. The day after we also had some meetings at the Youth Center and tried to find and remember our way home. In the evening we joined a party in the park, which was against nazism in Kalamata.

On Thursday and Friday we had a small on-arrival training course in “tree houses” somewhere in the mountains. There we met other short-term volunteers. It was a really wonderful place. Apart from the on-arrival course we tried Greek food, and some games. At night there were so many stars in the sky. More than I had ever seen before. It was amazing. The number of ants in our tent was just as impressive, but they turned out to be quite polite and by the morning, they left the tent only for us.

When we came back from tree houses the next day we went to the Polilimnious waterfalls and lakes. It was also a wonderful and amazing all-day trip. There we saw a small Greek village and could feel the small impression of Greek life. On Saturday evening all volunteers from the tree houses came to visit us in Kalamata. We showed them around the city that we already found by ourselves – including the beach. The next day – Sunday  it was a day for relaxation.
From Monday we started our work in Youth Center to full-fill a lot of forms and documents. Everything is new and unusual.

Monday, August 12, 2013

People come & go - let the creativity flow!

The year have passed so fast and already more than a week new volunteers have been able to wonder around lovely Kalamata!

We all say big warm HELLO to ALL of YOU!!

Welcome to Kalamata guys! We hope you will like here.

Volunteers from last year

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

EVS year though volunteers eyes

Our volunteers have managed to capture their year in Kalamata to video. Here is what they say about it! It's a bit more artistic & we hope you will enjoy it!

Let us briefly explain what is this video-artistic conception all about... ! 
During EVS time all of us are feeling, living through various amount of emotions, situations, periods and so does the idea to create something abstractive enough & still easy to understand and free for interpretation appeared!
It is a stream through-out the EVS daily life with a main pressure point on how "myself" deals with new surrounding, challenges, difficulties, negative/positive aspects, small details, big standpoints, different values, various issues, etc ... !

We wish to thank all our EVS fellows we have met during this time, mentors, locals, our coordinators Fotini and Filaretos and there are many more who are worth the credit! THANK YOU!

So enjoy the video and we hope You will like it!!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

LiNK nr. 43 Epilogue of 7th Street Festival of Kalamata

STREET FESTIVAL - 3rd day - Theater Day

SUNDAY 28th July

The third day of the festival was devoted to miscellaneous kinds of performances ranging from 
pantomime and stilt walking to aerial dance. As during the previous days visitors could again watch tricks performed by young skates, get on a climbing wall, explore photography exhibition and stands with hand-made jewelery, find some pretty garments at gift bazaar or buy refreshments in the bar.
Apart from all those attractions, on Sunday you could admire additionally posters sent to KANE by various organizations dealing with problems of discrimination, racism, homophobia or women abuse.
The organizers of Street Festival place much importance on diversity, that is the reason why we could see also kinds of art, that are not usually connected with street art. Artists read randomly chosen poems of writers from Kalamata and Nobel Prize winner Giorgos Seferis whose lyric expresses a deep feeling of Hellenic culture. Listening to those verses one could notice that poetry is simple and understandable for everybody.
The exact main stage program was not known until last minutes before the start. The program started with dance show prepared by an international group of EVS volunteers. They were skillfully changing from one style to another: swing, salsa and tango. Several other dance groups prepared amusing shows: salsa group, Fame Dance Academy, Just Dance. We could hear as well soft voices of the Choir of the Youth Center and watch Jimmy who performed popping - a special kind of street dance.
Street Festival hosted several clowns and circus groups especially attractive for children, and a juggling show.
The most interesting point of the night was show prepared by participants of the Youth Exchange “Peace, Love & Unity”. The show began at staircase with youngsters singing such hits as “We will rock you” and “Samba de Janeiro”. Then accompanied by special light effects which created a sense of mystery there was a dance telling a story of a princess and warriors. Following stilt walking man who was spreading money we reached next point. Three girls presented breath-taking acrobatics on trapeze and one man was dancing on a rope. Silk climbing was also impressive and caused shivers to go through my body while watching it. Subsequently we came back to the main stage, where we observed several dance shows including French-Portuguese break dancing group – although they met only a week ago, they were dancing as if they known each other for years. In the background there were constantly people with slogans encouraging fight with racism and discrimination – this year’s topic of the festival.
It’s impossible not to mention astounding fire show featuring Polish ethnic electronica music. Light circles were rhythmically moving in the air and stimulating imagination of the viewers.
The festival turned out to be - not surprisingly - a huge success. Thousands of people from Kalamata and surroundings were crouching on the hill slopes in the park and enjoying the cheerful atmosphere of the event. Street festival is definitely getting better and better from year to year!

STREET FESTIVAL - 2nd day - Hip-Hop Day

SATURDAY 28th July

Second day of the Street Festival was connected with this what comes to our mind, when we think about street art. Hip hop? Graffiti? Skating? Yes! But also much much more.

During  the “Hip Hop Day” which took place on Saturday, 27th of July, almost 3000 people visited park and enjoyed positive and artistic atmosphere created by volunteers and artists from Greece and different parts of the world.  Everything started like every day on central part of park, specially prepared for skates and BMX.  Youngsters from Kalamata could use it and present their skills in skating. At 6 p.m. graffiti artist from city and guests from France started prepare its pieces of arts. Viewers could observe whole process of creating graffiti in more than 10 spots in different parts of the railway park.
As Street Festival is not a commercial festival, but is created by active citizens, very important part of it have been social projects. One of them was an art installation, final result of project “Step”. Through an open call immigrants from all over the world - regardless of age or sex - wrote down their thoughts and ideas connected with word “step”. These were collected and “dressed” the tent which was used after the earthquake in Kalamata. It stood  as a symbol of safety and protection. Viewers could visit this tent and as well as express their thoughts and  then sew them with red string to the tent.

Another important action was project “RE:Think”. This artistic and social project aims at raising awareness for the city of Kalamata. A part of this initiative is to create improvised composters in home and neighborhood and thanks to the effort of the network in the county composting in the Municipality of Kalamata, which already operates a pilot phase. Part of the project are also workshops, in which authors learn how to use recycled materials for various aims. During the festival, in wagon which belongs to the project’s authors, there was an exhibition of everyday things  created during workshops made with cans, wood, paper, plastic and even pasta. Authors of the project were open to talk about their job and mission. They claimed that they participate in Street Festival, because on one hand they want to promote their activity, on the other, they want to take part in the event, which gives the local community a possibility to gather and use their social space in creative and active way.

Second day of course could not exist without music and dance. And because of that, on the festival stage we could see and hear local and international MCs like Eisovelas from Athens and Kazdall from France and participants of Youth Exhange “Love, Peace and Unity” Zakari also from France. Portugal and French participants of YE and local dancers gave a great break dance show.

Hip hop day, was just like this music genre, full of energy. Concerts gathered a lot of people and it was really nice to watch a crowd around the stage. There was a great music  and a lot of fun. What is more there was a place for active social project. And it is one of the reasons why Street Festival is itself a fantastic social project as well.

STREET FESTIVAL - 1st day - Rock Day

FRIDAY 28th July

After a lot of preparations it was finally time for the Street Festival. All the volunteers were very excited and also the visitors were enthusiastic. The railway park turned into a festival area where you could enjoy music, acts, bazaars, … . Happy people were wondering around everywhere to see what was going on. The first day was immediately a big success and it was like that all the days of the festival.
Young or old, into music or not, people just passing by, … everybody definitely  found something they liked. The festival is very accessible, so you could see different types of people, which made it interesting to just observe everybody.

In the gift bazaar you could find free clothes (women, man and children), there were a lot of clothes and most of the people who stopped by also found something. There were retro clothes, clothes for theme parties, sportive clothes, city clothing, casual clothes, nightwear, … . I’m sure we made a lot of people happy with their new wardrobe, some of them even put on their new conquests right away.
In the bar everybody was working hard to make sure the visitors didn’t have to wait too long for their drinks and arms were sacrificed to keep the drinks cold in a large tub filled with ice cubes, after a few hours of taking cans out of the tub it was hard to feel the difference between warm and cold. But no festival without drinks of course.

In the skatepark everybody could show their tricks and moves to the others. Young and old visitors brought their skeelers, skateboards and bmx’es to show the others what they could do. We saw a lot of impressing things.  Next to the skatepark there was a climbing wall for children. The red cross stayed around just in case something would happen, luckily nobody got seriously injured.

On the stage rock-bands were blowing away the audience with their great music. You could hear the music on all the other spots in the festival-area, so you could for example try on some clothes while listening to the music. A lot of people also gathered in front of the stage to be sure not to miss anything from the concert.

The first day set the trend for the rest of the days, after this successful day everybody was tired but happy and ready for the other days to come.