We always have an incredible volunteer team in Nea Kavala. The perfect mix of long termer knowledge, with the fresh energy and curiosity of short termers, means that our operations continuously run to the highest standards. There are however, two Drops that are slightly more important than the rest. Everyone who has volunteered here during the last year knows them, and knows just how important they are to coordinators and volunteers alike. Without these two volunteers, A Drop in the Ocean would be in real trouble.
By: Signe Korntved
Maria and Nikos is a Greek couple who have adopted the ever changing Nea Kavala volunteer team, and are, unofficially, the Drop’s longest volunteers.
Last summer, A Drop in the Ocean had a warehouse in the small town of Axiopoulis, opposite a bar called Memo. Nikos, the bar owner, saw the volunteers working hard and came over to offer a refreshment. From that day on, the volunteers have been regular guests at Memos. It sounds like no big deal to have a favourite volunteer bar, but Maria and Nikos means so much more to the team than this. In our phone book, where coordinators pass on all important contacts, the description of Maria and Nikos is not “contact for shipping boxes” or “in charge of Help Refugees warehouse”. Their description is simply “Contact for Everything”, and that is perfectly descriptive of their importance to us. As a non-Greek organisation working within Greece, it is invaluable to have been taken under the wings of these local Greek people.
Maria, who everyone knows as their Greek Mama, sees her most important role as taking care of her “volunteer children”. She regularly cooks the entire team amazing dinners. If we have a meeting at Memos running late, she will often run upstairs to whip up a tasty pasta for us because, as the incredible Mama she is, she knows that we will probably just end up eating pizza, again, if she doesn’t take action. Maria is also our main go-to when we need to purchase something for distribution. As a relentless negotiator, she ensures no one cheats us, always sourcing for affordable, and quality items. Recently Maria has also helped find the coordinators a new apartment. The apartment is perfectly located next to her convenience store – maybe because it was cheaper, but probably so that she can keep an eye on us, and check we have had breakfast, when we pop our head in to say good morning. Whenever we stop by on our way home from work, she immediately senses if it’s a beer day or a coffee day. Maria is amazing like that – she always has a piece of advice, whether our struggles are with a lack of volunteers, processing the stories we hear in camp, or having trouble in our love life. A real Mama, with so much love for each of us.
Nikos – everyone’s favourite bartender and storyteller, takes care of our debrief sessions. No one knows better than Nikos how important it is for the volunteer’s self-care, and he is the one in charge. His bar, Memos, has become an icon for the Nea Kavala Drops. Whenever you stop by you’ll be sure to find volunteers inside. As a former DJ and sailor, Nikos can always offer a story to put a smile on your face, and always plays the tunes that will have the whole team up and dancing in no time. Nikos is also an incredible help in navigating the Greek bureaucracy, which is no small task. He has recently helped us with parcels stuck in customs, and will always call around to solve any kind of tricky situation. He can source anything that can’t easily be found – from pallets or metal shelves to musical instruments, he will always find it, and make sure that we get the best deal possible.
Nikos repeatedly praises us and the work that we do in that proud “Dad kind of way”, and he often talks about how important we are in his life. Little does he realise, that without himself and Maria, much of our work would not be possible.
Maria and Nikos are probably the main reason volunteers return over and over again. For leaving volunteers, they are usually the hardest goodbye. They are truly amazing people, and are absolutely the two most important volunteers for A Drop in the Ocean Nea Kavala.
To Nikos and Maria, we say the biggest ευχαριστώ!!