A service project for high school students primarily from Wheaton, Illinois, with a handful of volunteers from Bulgaria as well. World Impact Greece 2014 combined construction of a playground in an underdeveloped part of the municipality by day with informal sports in the local community each evening.
A Tradition of Service Around the World
Most of the high schoolers came from College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, which has a long history of sending high school groups to take part in projects around the world. In this case they came to help us do something lasting in the community that would open doors for us to develop a long term presence in the Pangaio Municipality.
An Angel in the Neighborhood
As soon as we arrived at the work site a curious resident who lived right across from the empty park came by to ask us what we were doing. It turned out Yorgos was a retired contractor, and he jumped in right away with help, advice, and tools to make the work go faster and better. He really improved our construction technique, giving it a level of professionalism that would make any builder proud.
A Playground for Tuzla
The most obvious product of this service project was the playground built in Tuzla, a section of the municipality where there was land earmarked for a park, but no money available to actually develop anything on the spot. So for years it just sat empty. When we started talking with the municipality about sending a group this year, the Assistant Mayor suggested this location and we agreed that it was a good place to get something done.
The playground attracted attention from the first day we started work, with neighbors coming out see what was up and beachcombers stopping to watch the playground take shape. As the posts went in and the crossbeams gave the structure shape, the whole thing stood out against the bare landscape. An excellent paint job by the team applied the final touch and the completed playground was beautiful in its setting against the sand and sea.
Making Friends Through Sports
After dinner each evening the team went out to the downtown area of Ofrinio Beach, where there was a basketball court and a football pitch. The temperature cools off in the evening, and kids come out to play. Some of the team played basketball, some football, and others tossed frisbees around. A couple of American teens taught Greek teens to throw an American football. Some got the hang of it and showed off great spiral technique!
A few of the regulars from the local crowd really welcomed the American and Bulgarian teens. By the end of the week they developed friendships that seemed destined to carry on via social networking.