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Start date: Jan 2, 2015, End date: Sep 1, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The social cooperative Social Cooperative Activities for Vulnerable Groups - EDRA operates in the field of mental health/disabilities since 2001. EDRA has developed a variety of programmes and structures in the community aiming at the prevention, promotion, rehabilitation and awareness raising of the community around mental health, stigmatization and social exclusion of vulnerable groups. Since the beginning, EDRA counts and evaluate voluntarism as a mean of solidarity, mean of expression of active citizenship, as well as tool for personal development. EDRA hosted four (4) volunteers for a period of 6 to 8 months. The volunteers hosted by the organization, besides the need to prove their pure motivation to work with people with disabilities and to fight against discrimination/social exclusion, they were not expected to have any other prior skill or knowledge to work as volunteers (unless, of course, from basic communication skills in English). Volunteers offered their services, mainly, in the rehabilitation houses and the center for alternative therapies, called "Diadrome". Volunteers? tasks were centered on supporting the quality of life and the rehabilitation / integration process of mental health service users and other disadvantaged individuals being at risk of social exclusion. Volunteers took part in different therapeutic groups and activities, such as expression / creative groups, and in various therapeutic procedures like music therapy, art therapy, psychodrama, a productive workshop for hand-made items, as well as various educational programmes. All these took place in a therapeutic environment under proper supervision and training of mental health professionals, the mentor and the volunteers? coordinator. At the same time, they supported other activities and events organized by the organization, such as charity events, bazaars, sport event for people with disabilities, environmental educational programme for children, the unit for food-destribution (soup-kitchen), as well as other informative events in the community. The impact of the project for volunteers was focused on the development and/or improvement of their skills, personal and professional ones. The project offered enriching learning opportunities: a) for developing communication skills in foreign languages, b) for developing flexibility and adjustability in new conditions, mediation skills, conflict management and time management skills, c) for intercultural learning and cultural awareness, d) for new knowledge on mental health disorders and mental health professional profiles, e) for developing social skills, like empowerment and sensitization over contemporary problems of people with mental health problems, opportunity for expressing solidarity, and other values being on the ground for active citizenship. The project had great and positive impact on young people. Besides support offered to mental health service users, volunteers supported the organizational capacity of the organization in order to broaden and/or enrich its services. At the same time, through their daily contact, volunteers acted as "role models" for their peers in local level and inspired other young people to engage in similar actions. In a broader sense, the greek community was sensitized and immunized through the contact with foreigners, and in some ways, it minimized the resistance to any "new, different, foreign" stimilus, and, consequently, negative stereotypes were shaken down (especially in a period that xenophobia has raised). Volunteers brought and introduced the value of voluntarism into the local community as well as in their home countries. By spreading the project and mental health problems (social exclusion, stigma, ecc), they acted as carriers for social change and social cohesion, through expressing solidarity towards vulnerable groups. Moreover, the promoters organizations broadened their network, exchanged new ideas and good practices, and were renewed by the freshness and energy of young people.

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