Χαρμολύπη: a mixed, rare feeling that combines both positive and negative emotions, either in equal or unequal portions. Χαρμολύπη consists of the Greek words “χαρά=joy” and “λύπη=sadness” and it actually describes the unusual coexistence of those two emotions at the same time. Sometimes, χαρμολύπη is expressed by κλαυσίγελος: crying and laughing at the same time. Χαρμολύπη often appears when something is ending, but you know that other great things are about to come. It appears when you say goodbye to a person you love, but you know that they are leaving for a better place. Χαρμολύπη is a bitter-sweet emotion that comes along with the ending of our project as well, and the volunteers describe how they experience it.
H2O was a project consisting of 12 international volunteers and 12 local volunteers (from the Thessaloniki region and Faros). The project lasted for two months (August and September of 2023), and its main aim was to work with the Roma community and enlighten their culture. Nobody can deny the fact that having to communicate and work in English, which for the majority of volunteers is not their mother tongue, was a difficult task at first. As time passed, not only was it easier for us, but we also included even more elements of verbal and non-verbal communication, from all the different languages. Another point worth noting is the preparation of the events. Being in charge of the preparation and effectiveness of the projects seemed like a stressful task at first, but through teamwork and a more methodical method, we managed to successfully carry out four events: a sports event, an open-mic, a photo exhibition, and a multicultural food-related one. For sure, interacting with the children in Faros was an experience better than expected. The kid’s willingness to participate in the activities surprised us all in the most positive way possible. Despite the language barrier, the activities were mostly physical and game-focused, so nonverbal communication played a key role in communication between us.
Living in a madhouse
Challenging, so funny, unforgettable – that’s how a volunteer described the living arrangement of the past two months. For the international volunteers from all around Europe it was quite testing to get to know oneself in a setting with little to no personal space. We learned to communicate our needs and take time for ourselves but most of all we got so used to life in a youth residence: to entering the kitchen or living room knowing that you won’t be alone, to talking while taking a shower, to spending hours on end on the rooftop and to all the random things that made up the neighborhood. Experiencing Thessaloniki this intensely was an incredible opportunity. Something we’ll definitely take with us when we return to our “realities”.
Saying our goodbyes
Asking the volunteers about how they feel about returning to their realities and leaving this project; most were having mixed feelings. They were talking about nostalgia, about sadness and not wanting to say goodbye, but also about being excited for the future, and about gratefulness for everything they experienced in the past two months. Many will start new chapters in their life and are ready for other adventures, saying that it’s time for them to leave this part of their lives.
Even though we won’t ever again have this feeling of living and working together as a group of international volunteers, what everyone of us will keep are the memories of these two months. We learned together, we became friends, we shared happy and sad moments – and most importantly, we had an unforgettable summer in Thessaloniki.
Authors: Katerina Leivaditi, Flora Lasinger, Georgia Tentzidou, Jaqueline Schett