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Q&A with Jai Mexis, Founder and CEO of Odyssea

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December 14, 2022

Back in October we launched a joint training program for vulnerable job seekers together with the non-governmental organization Odyssea. Today, Jai Mexis, let us into Odyssea’s world, by sharing the vision, goals, and activities of the organization.

Hi Jai! Can you share some information about yourself and Odyssea?

My name is Jai Mexis, I am the founder of Olon Design Group, a humanitarian architecture company, and founder and active CEO of Odyssea, an NGO that focuses on the integration of vulnerable youth groups such as unemployed Greeks as well as migrants and refugees. Since 2016 Odyssea has grown to an organization of 15 full-time staff and 10 part-time. Odyssea services more than 1,500 vulnerable people annually providing them with vocational training and bridging them with the world of work.   I am also part of NextFab Foundation as a senior advisor, with which I maintain a long-term relationship on designing and setting up FabLabs for social innovation and workforce development programs in developing countries. My specialty lies in the intersection of social design and tech for the humanitarian sector. 

What led you to founding Odyssea?

Odyssea’s humanitarian actions trace back to 2014 when just after my architecture studies, I decided to return to Greece amidst the economic crisis and contribute towards transforming social challenges into opportunities. After immersing myself in life-changing work in refugee camps around the world and spearheading a plethora of social initiatives the cracks in the humanitarian system became evident. When the average years a refugee stays in a camp is over 10 years resulting in dependency, estrangement, and eventually the loss of hope. This highlights the inability of actors to transition to programs that would result in dignified lives for marginalized groups. One of the most promising ways to actively change the quality of life of excluded local and guest groups is education. Harnessing the power of knowledge and access to technology for those in need gives them the opportunity to radically change their lives. My vision is to inspire vulnerable youth to reach their full potential by empowering them with the skills needed to be self-reliant and live purposeful lives. 

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What practical issues does Odyssea address? What’s Odyssea’s mission?

Today, 2 out of 5 young people in Greece are unemployed and 40% of young people betwee 16 and 34 years old are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Our country holds the second-highest youth unemployment rate in the EU. Even when one has a job, they often remain unable to provide the basics for themselves. In-work poverty in Greece is also one of the highest in Europe and is seriously affecting the physical and mental well-being of those who experience it. Young people with low educational backgrounds, limited job experience, and a lack of basic skills and access to skills training, are therefore trapped in unemployment and poverty. The situation is even more severe for refugees and migrants, especially those arriving from developing countries, with poor educational backgrounds and technological literacy. Their road to integration is often blocked by a wall of discrimination and prejudice.

Odyssea is a non-profit organization that supports vulnerable young people in order to best respond to employment opportunities in society, by providing tailored vocational and life-skills training along with employability services. Odyssea’s mission is to ensure that people have equal opportunities by harnessing the power of knowledge for employment and personal development. Our vision is to build a world where all young people thrive by realizing their full potential.

How can job seekers benefit from entering one of Odyssea’s programs? 

In Odyssea we implement a holistic approach to assist our beneficiaries, the Odyssea model is built upon three equally important main services,  orientation, in-depth support with soft skills and hard skills training, and employability services. Our services include counseling, skill assessment, and the empowerment of vulnerable youth with in-demand job skills training and capabilities to assist them in their smooth transition to the world of work. 

Could you share with us a success story from your beneficiaries?

One story that always comes to mind when I think about the success stories of Odyssea, is the life journey of Shah in Alon from Bangladesh. Shan is the oldest of his siblings and after an accident his father had, he was forced to stop his studies in Art history and travel to Turkey to find employment. He stayed there for 5 years working in a factory.  He then managed to come to Greece, but still, he had to overcome the language barrier to socialize and integrate into the workforce. He enrolled in school and learned to speak Greek. He heard about Odyssea from a friend, while he was unemployed, and signed up for the kitchen assistant training that we offer. In Odyssea, with the support of our staff, he learned  not only how to work in a professional environment but also how to use his soft skills to become a better professional and coworker. We helped him create his C.V. and prepare for an interview. A few months later Shah found a job in a sushi restaurant. During his days off he is now helping in-return people from Bangladesh with medical issues that are in need of translation. This story always makes me see the glass half full because, through Odyssea, Shah managed to escape the state of vulnerability, turned his life around and he is on his path to achieving his full potential. You can see the story of Shah here.

We really enjoyed our collaboration with Dialectica in October and we are looking forward to further scaling our impact together.

To find out more about Dialectica’s CSR activities follow us on Instagram. To learn more about Odyssea follow them on Instagram.

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