Volunteer Service

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Volunteer Service May Include:

  • Refugee Work

  • English Tutoring

  • Supporting homeless and at-risk youth

  • Working with disadvantaged preschool and primary school children

  • Environmental work educating about and protecting the oceans

  • Community empowerment and civic engagement through art and technology

  • Social Service NGOs

  • Societal Integration and Support of Roma

  • Educational Organization for Street Children and Street workers and other disadvantaged populations

Ethical Service & Research in Greece

As an IPSL service-learning participant in Thessaloniki, Greece, you will have the opportunity to perform volunteer service in one of several local partner organizations/agencies. IPSL does its best to match your skills and interests to the placement, but please remember that the notion of service is, first and foremost, to respond to the needs of others. You will play a role not only by actively participating with a determined role among the team members, but also by enriching the projects and programs with your knowledge, experience, and hard work.  Therefore, each project or program is improved and enriched with your participation. Your impact on other people's lives will be powerful and sustainable, even if you don't see the results right away.

Advocacy Research and Sponsored Research

Advocacy Research is a framework for reimagining ways to provide service to others. Through Advocacy Research, IPSL Institute for Global Learning students serve the host organization by conducting primary research that provides data and analysis that supports the organization in its mission. 

The IPSL Advocacy Research Program provides students an opportunity to learn about and engage in professional research that produces relevant, useful information for the benefit of nonprofits, NGOs and community development organizations around the world. Unique to the IPSL program, Advocacy Research permits students to develop insight into the ethics of human subjects research in an international context with immediate, practical application.

“Researching while aboard gives students the opportunity to really immerse themselves into a new culture. In Asia, I was able to cross cultural barriers and really talk to my participants and learn about their past experiences. I gained an understanding into their lives and by doing so enriched my experience abroad.” 
-Karen, IPSL alum

A student’s service organization abroad serves as the “field study location.” The research results in data that is at once beneficial to further the IPSL student’s education and career while at the same time being of use to the host organization. Resource-scarce organizations simply do not have the ability to examine, evaluate, and analyze their programs in a qualitative or quantitative way. With the assistance of the IPSL student-researcher, IPSL’s host organizations are presented with data that can be used to impact their work and the constituencies they serve. 

Advocacy Research generally refers to original, primary research that IPSL students design in collaboration with IPSL, its teams abroad, the host organization, and other local resources. This can be a more time-consuming undertaking. To accommodate the time frames where students are living in the host community (sometimes just one semester), IPSL students also have opportunities to engage in what we call Sponsored Research projects where the research topic and protocol are pre-identified, reviewed, and approved well in advance of the student’s term abroad. Research topics and protocols are proposed in-country by a host organization and then collaboratively designed and reviewed by IPSL, in-country staff and community members, and the IPSL Institute for Global Learning’s IRB (Institutional Review Board), which is legally authorized to approve the research.  The student researcher then has the opportunity to “adopt” the project and conduct the research within a given semester. The data and analyses from one student often prompts further inquiry, which a future student can then adopt as his/her/their research project. In this way, Advocacy Research presents a sustainable model for ethical service. 

Partners contribute expertise and share decision-making and ownership of the research. Data is collected over time with multiple student researchers, leading to an increase in value. The sponsored research program is especially useful for beginning researchers who may want to engage in international research but who do not have previous experience.

Graduate students participate in a Sponsored Research project during their first semester abroad. At all IPSL sites, there will be one or more sponsored research projects at a variety of NGO’s and community organizations. Following review of IRB applications, students can be approved by the IPSL International IRB as Principle Investigators of the on-going project. At the pre-departure residency, students will be briefed on the project details so that they will be prepared to support the organization once they are in-country. Sponsored Research thus helps students learn the research process and prepares them to launch their own original primary research in semesters 2 and or 3 (should they choose) under the guidance of their academic advisor, local research liaisons, the IPSL IRB, and the IPSL Research Coordinator.

The goal of Sponsored Research is to create an instructive and supportive process that removes barriers and enables students to experience ethical, human-subject research in a real-world setting.

IPSL’s mission of service is rooted in advocacy for the NGOs, organizations, and communities in which IPSL students serve. Advocacy Research and Sponsored Research are meaningful and transformational manifestations of IPSL’s advocacy for the communities we serve. 

The following are samples of some of the service opportunities that may be available:


Social service organization that was created to serve refugees and migrants located in Thessaloniki, offering bathroom services, clothes washing, clothing and food donations and language lessons. There are translators in the languages of the refugees, with a specially designed children's play area. The center accepts refugees as well as immigrants from different countries who have applied for asylum in Greece or are being transferred to another country. With the help of the mobile medical unit that is a fully equipped dental, gynecological and cardiology clinic, we visit the villages of Greece Roma camps and official refugee accommodation centers, offering free medical services.


Refugee center that serves as an open space where people of diverse backgrounds can come to receive various services, including education and livelihood programs, attend social and recreation events, and exchange information and experiences with one another. The center also provides reproductive, neonatal and postnatal counseling and care to mothers, designated spaces for breastfeeding (“breastfeeding corners”), child-friendly spaces and targeted services to beneficiaries, including legal, social, and psychological support. The primary objective of the Center is to empower refugee and host communities by providing a central place for these groups to actively participate in decisions that affect their lives.


Migrant center is a hub that provides healthcare services, social support services, employment services and legal aid to underprivileged groups who live in Thessaloniki. All services are provided free of charge, and there are no requirements as to who can receive services, meaning local Greeks, migrants and refugees are all welcomed. This model represents a comprehensive effort aimed at poverty alleviation and social integration of those most affected by the crises facing Greece – namely the economic downfall and the influx of migrants and refugees. The center delivers individualized services tailored to each client. 

Community refugee organization started serving refugees with their social clinic/pharmacy and free medical services. Now their organization has expanded to provide services to people without health insurance, the unemployed, immigrants and refugees and anyone that is not able to meet their medical costs.  Clients can also receive food assistance through a direct -supply farmer's market as well as other assistance programs. Aside from helping individuals and families with their immediate needs, they work to build support systems through community solidarity.


"Green Zone" development agency is a Government run organization dedicated to creating a sustainable “Green Zone” in the regions of Northern Greece. The organization provides the following areas of support to achieve these goals:

  • Human resources    

  • Environment and infrastructures

  • Energy

  • Sustainable mobility

  • Environmental education

  • Consulting support on school communities

  • Social economy

  • Agricultural development

  • Promotion of innovation and new technologies

  • Supporting Local Authorities

  • Supporting Sustainable Enterprises


Organization for Roma integration is fighting discrimination and anti-“Gypsyism” in education and employment in the EU. The project aims to develop a comprehensive approach to achieve a number of goals in education, healthcare, housing and employment in order to accelerate Roma Integration into society.


Street school is an education organization that mobilizes learning in the community. The goal’s are to:

  • Empower Street Kids

  • Empower Street Workers

  • Empower School Kids

The project is a cart on wheels, with extendable blackboards allowing the mobile school's educational learning games – its software – can be installed everywhere and can easily be set up and torn down. Due to its design, it can be used on sidewalks, squares, parks and slums of the big city. More than 300 Educational Games are available. The package covers diverse themes, which makes it possible to offer street children a wide-ranging basic education: literacy, creative therapy, health education, and drugs and AIDS prevention.

Community arts organization is "a socially engaged machine laboratory of applied creativity".  Using the idea of Art as Social Intervention, projects hosted by this organization aim for social change through community engagement, citizen empowerment, and community self-governance.  The lab responds to society’s needs and problems introducing solutions and alternative strategies with the contribution of the artist as catalyst for change and the citizen as co-producer. 

Ocean conservation NGO is an environmental organization for the preservation of the aquatic ecosystems. Their activities range from research to educational programs for citizens and kids. They have four main areas of focus:

  • Fisheries

  • Invasive Aquatic Species

  • Human and Aquatic Ecosystems

  • Waste Water Management