"Here, I’m not a professional, but a volunteer”

"Here, I’m not a professional, but a volunteer”

Volunteering work in shelter for homeless youth

28-02-2024 · Reportage

Having a lie-in is not an option for Angeliki Pantelidi from Greece this Saturday morning. In addition to studying for the master’s of Legal Psychology, the 26-year-old student also carries out voluntary work. And no, not just feeding some goats at a children’s farm, but as a host in a shelter for homeless youths. She received a UM edubadge for her work.

Eight-hour shifts, sometimes during the day, sometimes during the night. It gives her a sense of satisfaction, as well as a kind of recognition (see box) from Maastricht University (UM). All well and good, but it doesn’t earn you any money. For six long summers, Angeliki Pantelidi waited tables in Greece. With her savings and a little help from her parents, she doesn’t need to do paid work here.  

“I started this morning at 8 o’clock,” she says. Many students would prefer to turn over in their beds, but that is not the case for her. Since September last year, she has been a volunteer at the Credohuis, a shelter for homeless youths. “Ultimately, we want to help them live independently by offering them a home that is as ‘normal as possible’.” And indeed, it seems like a very normal terraced house with a communal living room and kitchen downstairs. The house has enough room for six people to sleep. “On the first floor, there is an office and the rooms for the women. The second floor is for the men,” Pantelidi explains. There is no maximum length of stay. The aim is no more than a year.

Faith, hope and love

A text from the bible on the wall betrays the organisation’s Christian identity. Pantelidi is fine with that. She herself is Greek orthodox and regularly visits a church in Maastricht. “To light candles and to pray. One for my family, one for myself, and one for every lost soul on earth.” But when she is working at Credohuis, she is not thinking about that. Not all of the occupants are actually religious. “One inhabitant goes to church every now and again, escorted by a colleague.”

Lost

How did she end up there? “A friend pointed it out to me when I came to Maastricht to study in September. He had already been doing it himself for a couple of months.” Pantelidi was a volunteer in Greece as well. She gave extra lessons to children and did similar work to what she does now, but the youths there suffered with psychoses. “That was tough. But I know how lost you can feel, during my bachelor’s of Psychology in Greece, I was very depressed. I have been in therapy for five years. Fortunately, I am now better able to deal with my emotions and so also those of others. And during my study I learned a lot about the relation between me as a ‘professional’ and the client.” Although – she doesn’t manage to suppress a smile – “I’m not here in that role of course. I am a volunteer here.”

Entertaining

What does she do there exactly? “I am there to help the inhabitants and to ‘entertain them.’ They can always come to me if they want a listening ear. In addition, I cook with them, we eat together and sometimes we watch a film or play a game.” Fortunately, we don’t need to entertain them all the time. An open laptop and notepad beside Pantelidi reveal a non-work-related activity: studying. “Most of the inhabitants are either gone or still asleep. Then I can get some studying done.”

Edubadge

Two years ago, the UM set up the ‘Recognising and Acknowledging Civic Engagement Activities’ project, with the aim of involving students more in the city. They did this by encouraging volunteer work and subsequently by ‘recognising and rewarding’ this. This recognition is expressed in the awarding of a so-called ‘edubadge’. The award is subject to certain conditions. For example, the student must spend at least 28 hours a year doing voluntary work and write a reflection report. The badge can be added to the LinkedIn profile as well as to one’s cv.

Interested in volunteer work? Take a look at the Personal & Professional Development Portal or mail to [email protected]

Photo: Ellen Oosterhof

Categories: news_top, People
Tags: edubadge,volunteer work,student,credohouse,homeless

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