Humanstate gives every member of staff 12 extra days of leave each year to volunteer. Earlier this year, GivenGain Regional Managers Robyn Andrews (UK and Ireland) and Clara Miret Carbonell (Europe and Latin America) used theirs to spend a week helping out at the Malakasa refugee camp near Athens, Greece. Check out the video they made of their experience below, then scroll down to read our interview with these two Humanstate Heroes.
Why did you decide to volunteer at the Malakasa refugee camp?
Clara: “This was my second time volunteering at a refugee camp in Greece, and I wanted to do it again to keep learning about the realities of refugees – to understand their struggles and encourage their hopes. No-one should be forced to flee their homes by war or persecution, but there are over 25 million refugees in the world. I knew that going there for a couple of days wouldn’t make all the difference, but I hoped that by volunteering I could become a more informed and engaged citizen and continue to use my platform for good.”
“Remar, a Swiss charity that does a lot of work in the camp, uses GivenGain to raise funds from supporters around the world, so we already knew the managers and that was our way in. Their volunteers at the camp were really welcoming and supportive too.”
Robyn: “Despite following the refugee crisis in the media for months, it was too easy to pretend that this was someone else’s problem. However, I was inspired by Clara’s passion for the cause and felt empowered to help the men, women and children displaced by war and disaster.”
What did you do at the camp?
Robyn: “Sadly we arrived at the camp during a heavy storm which had damaged hundreds of makeshift homes. We mainly spent the week clearing away the floodwater and distributing dry blankets and sleeping bags. We also ran a little free ‘shop’ called “The Boutique” which was stocked with donations of clothes and toys. The hardest part of the job was convincing the children to only take one toy each!”
Clara: “We spent a lot of time sorting donations from individuals, charities and governments all over the world. However, my favourite part was the downtime, when we played with the kids and taught them a bit of German and English – languages that will be really useful for their new lives in Europe!”
What did you gain from the experience?
Clara: “I gained what I was looking for: a better understanding of the crisis. The refugees’ patience and resilience seemed beyond limits to me, and the volunteers’ commitment and dedication to the cause left me in awe. And finally, I made friends with Robyn! We’d been working together online from separate countries for two years, but spending a week with her brought us closer together. I can now say that she’s not only a colleague but a very good friend!”
Robyn: “On a personal level, I was able to challenge myself and get outside my comfort zone while also gaining a better understanding of other ways of life. It was also fantastic to spend the week with Clara in person after getting so used to Zoom calls. I feel very fortunate to have learned so much from her and become close friends which has had such a positive impact on our work together.”
What advice would you have for others who want to do something similar for charity?
Clara: “What’s a week in the course of a lifetime? My advice is to go for it. Sometimes it’s important to take some time off and look at things with a new perspective. Going back to work after volunteering gave me more of an appreciation for the work we do at GivenGain – and for the culture at the company that encourages us to do charity work.”
Robyn: “Volunteering is a great opportunity – just a little bit of your time can make a big impact and also improve your own emotional wellbeing. Regardless of what you do, going in with the right attitude will help you find the fun in it and meet likeminded people.”
Feeling inspired? Ask your employer what support they offer to help employees volunteer or fundraise. You can also make a difference right now by starting an online fundraising project on GivenGain!