Charlotte ESC at OCC

Hello! I’m Charlotte. I’ve been working with Open Cultural Center as a European Solidarity Corps volunteer since summer 2020. 

I first heard about OCC in 2016 when it was based at Idomeni refugee camp and have followed its work online since then, so I was excited when I received an email during lockdown about a volunteering opportunity.

I had signed up to the European Solidarity Corps after hearing about it from some friends in Portugal, who had taken part in really interesting projects in different European countries, but hadn’t applied to anything because I was working as a freelance translator, and because of the travel restrictions in place. 

Thankfully borders opened again! OCC’s work in Barcelona was really interesting to me and I was keen to get involved if I could. I moved there in August and started the project immediately.

My main focus has been managing the language classes project. OCC offers free language lessons to migrants and refugees, which local people who are OCC members can also join. 

The classes used to be held at the centre in El Born, but since the first lockdown they have been taking place online, via google meets or Zoom. 

I try to be in close communication with the students and volunteer teachers so that they feel part of the OCC community, but it really isn’t the same as seeing each other in person! I’ve also helped with ongoing projects like Untold Stories and Amigo Mio, and spend a lot of time drafting project proposals, reports, and grant applications for OCC Greece and Barcelona.

It’s been said a zillion times, but this year has been super weird on so many levels!! 

I feel so lucky to have been able to get to Barcelona and take part in this project, as so many people’s plans were postponed or cancelled in 2020. Many of OCC’s activities have been affected, but our project manager Mariia has supported everyone throughout and managed to keep everything running smoothly. 

The pandemic has put the world’s most vulnerable communities in even more precarious situations than before, and the work of organizations like OCC continues to be essential to provide as much support as possible to individuals and families who already face extreme challenges in their daily lives.

My favourite thing about OCC is how it brings everyone together and creates spaces where people feel safe and welcomed no matter where they come from. I can’t wait for us to be able to have intercultural events and meet face-to-face once things change! We’ve met lots of volunteers in Polykastro on video calls over the last 6 months and I’d also love to go there at some point.