Almost a year ago I started my journey in the interesting and wonderful world of long-term volunteering, a journey that got me through good times, bad times and a whole lot of emotions and experiences that I will never forget.
Starting in September, it was kinda weird for me at the beginning, as I was coming from a very…unstable environment, in the sense that the previous year, I was always on the run, always in another country and now I had to get accustomed to a life that was stable…well, from the location’s point of view. As for the activities, hoooooly….was it rocky
We have had so many interesting events this year that it would take me more pages to write about them than Tolkien for The Lord of the Rings! But what I can do for sure is to summarise them in a worse way than said author would.
One of the cornerstones for the beginning of the project was a series of events that was called ‘Living Books’ in which us, the volunteers, would go from school (or highschool) to school (same thing) and spread an intercultural feeling through the students, by talking about our countries, traditions, hot spots for tourists and a lot more. The reason why I think about it in this way is the fact that because of this series of events, it made me feel part of a big, tolerant community, that is used to having foreigners and that would like to learn more about their cultures, which for me was interesting beyond measure.
So, coming from this thing, what else could top it off? Well, in November our coordinators informed us that we were going to help with the Marathon of Writing Letters of Amnesty International and the Human Library, which hyped us more than expected, to be honest, here were some volunteers from 6 countries, ready to take on one of the big challenges of life in making people more tolerant and open to change. Both of the events were going to happen on the same day, on the 7th of December, a day which will always be embedded in my brain as one of the best and one of the worst days I’ve ever had in my entire life. Why was it good? Well, it’s fairly easy to answer that question because of the fact that most of the things went pretty well, nothing derailed (too much, will get into it in a bit) and it proved me a valuable lesson of unity and power of the group, as without the people that were around me, I think I would’ve went insane. Now, why was it bad? Well, a lot of mismanaged things, that were kinda my fault, a lot of things that were made on the fly, me almost having a mental and physical breakdown, as for the whole day I was running around the place, making sure that everyone was happy, having an good ol’ time and whatnot. All in all, a great experience from which I still get some inspiration, even though it was more than half a year ago.
New year, new me, great year ahead…well, noone was expecting a damned pandemic to ground us to our house for the better part of this year, were they? January was kinda okay, in the sense that we’ve had some workshops to get us back on track from our holidays and whatnot, had some fun…a lot of it, actually, as all of those things really helped us develop more as a group, getting to know each other more, even though we were at the middle point of our project, but better late than never, eh? February rolled in and we continued with these amazing workshops, but now it was our time to think about some workshops, sooooo we did a series of workshops about the European Solidarity Corps (original, I know) that kept going til the end of March. Now, before going into the pandemic side of things, it is worth noting that on my birthday, well, I got a bit more….*Balder* (my flatmates shaved my head as a present for said event) which made me look like a fat lil’ egg but it was a fun experience nonetheless. As you can very well see, the relation between me and the other volunteers was really great, we really had a great amount of chemistry between us and I truly believe that we’ve created during this amount of time some quality and long-lasting friendships.
Now, pandemic, fun stuff, it was, if I’m goin to be honest, one of the most excruciating things that I’ve had to go through, as never before have I realised how much I was actually walking and going out and whatever, for that to be ripped apart. I know it was for our safety as people but it was a bit frustrating, and given that I had more time with myself and that sparked some really old inner conflicts that I should’ve dealt with a long time ago. Hence why I started going to the psychologist, which was a really useful thing during these hard times. Another thing that kept me afloat were (again) my flatmates, that have been amazing from every point of view, always there to support, to have fun and to talk with!
Talking from the perspective of the NGO, well, we started doing mostly everything online, through streams, mostly, which was a fun and interactive way of doing the things that we’ve had in mind of doing, especially because I felt useful again with this idea, that has and still is rolling in CIM Horyzonty.
May came knocking and thus it made some of the restrictions fall, meaning that we were again able to walk through parks and forests, which was a god-given gift and I took it the moment it was available, running, walking, strolling for at least 3-4 hours a day, with the mask on, of course! As these changes came to be, so did some changes in the working environment…We’ve changed place, moving from our old place to a sorta new one, that was waaay better and useful than the previous one. And so started the cleaning of the place, which took us about a month to finish.
From June and til the end of July, well, this was a bit depressing, really, even though we’ve had events, started doing English Classes again (done them from October til February then we kinda had to stop them), we’ve had a camp for kids in which we presented our countries, again, in fun and non-formal ways, so yea, fun was in the air but there was something more, something more potent, a feeling of loss, in a way…of impending loss, as we were all aware of the fact that by the end of July, some of us were going home. First, it was my flatmate and Armenian Brother, Narek, then my very supportive Greek friend, Zacha and, for now, my bandmate and Italian Brother, Salvatore, all of them I miss more than one could imagine. Goes to show the power of these types of projects and most importantly the time-factor, being one next to the other for 11 months has to leave a mark on ones soul, especially when some people leave, for me, it tore me apart, but life goes on, and so do we. Thank you, kind reader, for taking this stroll down memory lane with me and who knows, maybe sometime we’re going to meet and I’m going to share some more about this experience that made me rethink everything about what I knew about myself, people and life, in general.