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  • Writer's pictureBill Loumpouridis

Personal Branding for Refugees, Week 0

Updated: Mar 12, 2019

I arrived in Thessaloniki, Greece on March 2 to volunteer on behalf of IsraAid ( in an effort to support IsraAid in providing refugees in Greece with social services and support. The objective of the services IsraAid provides is to ultimately transform refugees who choose to stay in Greece into productive Greek citizens. My role in Greece is to take my Personal Branding program that I developed in the US targeted towards assisting at-risk youth in their career development and see how it can be applied to refugees living in Greece.

The White Tower of Thessaloniki, Greece

But first a bit about Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city. It's a city filled with history, positioned like much of the Balkans at the crossroads of Europe, Persia and Asia. There is a rich Sephardic history in Thessaloniki which unfortunately was largely wiped out during The Holocaust. The current mayor is doing his best to revive and cultivate this tradition and as a result tourism from Israel is on the rise.

Thessaloniki is also in the Greek province of Macedonia, which has been at odds with FYROM over its name. The new name for the country to the north is now officially Northern Macedonia and although there continue to be protests in Greece over allowing another country to claim its heritage/identity, most people I speak with are happy to have this issue behind them and support the new name.

The refugee center where I am volunteering is on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, in a small suburb called Sindos. While many of the refugees there are from Syria, the majority at the center are from other countries including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan as well as several African nations. The most common language spoken in the center is Farsi, and many of the refugees are solid candidates for becoming translators.

The reason this post is titled "Week 0" is because my first week was focused on orienting and meeting the staff and members of the community.

The Sindos Community Center

More importantly this first week was all about my daughter Eve's contributions to the refugee center. Eve had traveled with me to Greece on her spring break due to her interest in helping to refine the Early Childhood Development program being launched at the center. Eve is currently pursuing her degree in social work, with a concentration in early childhood development. As a result she was able to provide valuable input on the structure of the program while also lending a hand in working directly with the children.

I was really proud of Eve and how much she was able to contribute during her week at the Sindos Community Center. It was also a great bonding experience that we shared while being focused helping out at the center. Finally, I learned a great deal that first week about the challenges refugees face in Greece. I'll provide more on that in a later post.

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