The Goodwill Traveler
Words & Photographs by Corrine Voelp
Photographer & humanitarian Corrine Voelp journeys to her family's homeland where she works with Middle Eastern Refugees and captures this iconic city from a perspective and mindset not always seen.
We like to joke that I grew up in the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” It all started when my parents had to get married twice – once in my mom’s church and then again in the Greek Church. I grew up next door to my grandparents and they offered us Greek statues for our front yard. I guess you can say that’s where my love for Greek culture began. My love for photography also started when I was really little. The first wedding I shot was the wedding of my favorite teddy bear and doll at age four.
As I grew up, I realized I had a strong passion for international cultures and sharing what I believe with international cultures. I firmly believe that good traveling should be seen as an art. It is something that may be worked at and perfected. Eventually, I decided to pair all of these things and I travelled to Greece for the summer of 2014 to do an internship for Hellenic Ministries in Athens. I had the opportunity to do a lot of photography along with my internship. I also got the opportunity to stay with my family at the beginning of the summer.
Staying with my family was such a dream come true for me. I got to learn a ton of language and culture that was so specific to Greece. I got to travel a little bit, and see some different sites. I also had the opportunity to just spend time with my family. I got to have conversations that were so beautiful – not rushed, but slow and meaningful.
After staying with family, I rented an apartment with a French girl who was also there to work with Hellenic Ministries. We spent a lot of time exploring the city in between our work with Refugees. Our work focused on Middle Eastern refugees in the city of Athens. I worked at a center in the city for women and children. We offered services such as laundry, showers, clothing distribution, Pediatrics, English classes, German classes, childcare, religious studies, meals, and more. The main goal of the center was to share our beliefs with the women and children and prepare them to move onto whatever was next for them since most of them could not find permanent refuge in Athens.
I also worked for a week at a Refugee camp. The camp that I worked at allowed entire families to have a place to stay and eat for a week to get away from their hard life in the city. It gave them time to learn and have fun together. We stayed busy doing crafts with the kids and I got the opportunity to lead a small group of 5 little Iranian girls. The girls in my group were so fun and so crazy. It was definitely a transformative week for me as my heart was broken for Refugee people.
The small moments where I learned about Greek culture and language, and immersed myself in people are the highlights of my travels to Greece. Whether it was confusion about what I actually asked for to drink, a family member laughing at my dislike of octopus, learning language alongside my 1-year-old cousin, or getting lost trying to find my office in the center of the city, I always enjoyed the times when I was ignorant, because it meant I had the opportunity to learn. I had the chance to broaden my understanding of another language and culture, and I cherished it. I wouldn’t trade the small moments for anything, because those were the times when I learned the most.•••