We have started a small joint project with volunteers we got to know in Finland. As the situation for all people around the world has changed, it has a huge impact on the lifes of volunteers as well. Coming to Finland to get in touch with people and culture, it became very limited. How do the volunteers feel about that? How does volunteering look like nowadays? Are there huge changes?
We have asked 12 volunteers (including us) in Finland coming from different countries to write about their experiences and thoughts.
Here are the first four reports.
‘’Are you interested in writing something about your Finnish experience?’’, my friend Olga asked me this question just a few days before I had to leave Finland. At that moment, I did not know that it was going to happen. ‘’Yes, of course! I think that is a great idea!’’, I said to her immediately.
I loved nature and the way the ‘Finns’ protect and defend it. No matter where you are, you will not be more than 200m away from a forest or a lake. The weather is great. Even if temperatures are below 0°C it is not that cold (I swear!) and you can always go to a cafeteria for a hot chocolate, a good cup of coffee or tea to warm up again and continue your trip.
People are very respectful, and they are always eager to help you if you need it.
I had the opportunity to see how the school system works from inside and I think this is the secret behind everything. The quality level, the opportunities, the guidance and the motivation of teachers and youth workers… This is what makes this country great and their people welcome anywhere in the world. They make good citizens, prepared to face the real world and to help their community grow and improve.
I had the chance to meet other volunteers in Finland from all around the world at Villa Elba training week, in Kokkola. It was a really nice place, next to a frozen lake. We had to go through a one-week training about solidarity, tolerance, teamwork and problem-solving strategies, among other things. Very interesting topics that helped me a lot with my project later. However, the thing that really motivated me was being able to meet other people with the same motivations and problems that I had, to share and to find solutions and different perspectives. It was really self-improving, almost soul-healing. It is not easy to be a volunteer, especially if you are alone (some projects are one person only), but if you manage to hold the line you will find yourself learning a lot from your environment, people around and, especially, from yourself. And I think that is the final objective of volunteer work (and any other task in life), to let it shape you and to be a better version of yourself when you come back home.
Unfortunately, I was not able to continue my project, so I had to return home. For sure it is very sad. During the short stay, I have learnt a lot and I am going to come back to Finland as soon as possible. Staying in touch with volunteers I got to know feels right and supportive right now.
My name is Alice and I am a ESC volunteer since February.
I was supposed to organize free-time activities for students in Kanneljärven Opisto. With the coronavirus crisis I am now living in the school alone and realizing some gardening tasks, planning summer camps (for next year) and talking with students on social media.
My volunteering project is not like it was supposed to be but I am glad to be in Finland and that I can learn some Finnish during the week with the online courses.
What are you feelings regarding your volunteering now?
As I flew home to my home country I feel like my volunteering failed in some way, because my tasks were to work with people, but right now this is not possible because of the corona virus. But it also shows me how nice it actually was to be with all the new people and I think I appreciate the volunteering time I had now more than before.
Differences now and before?
Now I am back to my home town where everything goes kind of the same way as it always does and the same time not because there are so many differences because of the corona virus. I am spending a lot of time at home which is good to rest a little bit and to organize myself again and reflect on my experiences from the volunteering. Although Finland is a quiet country it feels like it was a busy time compared to my situation now at home. Everyday I met new people and learnt a lot about other cultures because in my project I was working with refugees and Finnish people. I also went to Finnish class from Monday to Friday which improved my Finnish a lot although it was just for four weeks. Now, I don’t practice Finnish but would like to continue talking it with somebody.
What are your plans?
My plan is to go back to Finland to continue my volunteering if that is possible. But if it seems like there won’t be any possibility to go back because of Corona I will apply for jobs in my home country and start working in the field of my studies.
What is going to happen?
I really don’t know.
I’m pretty positive about what happens next. Times are tough right now, not a lot of work to do but I’m sure everything will go well for the future. The situation will improve and we will be able to live our voluntary work properly. The situation here in Finland is much better than in Belgium. That’s why the idea of going home didn’t cross my mind. My family is healthy, safe so it’s better that I stay here. Not having a lot of work leaves us time on other projects, on discovery and especially in these times of loneliness on self-discovery. I take advantage of these difficult times to find things that I really like. I am and I remain positive for the future.
2 thoughts on “Different Perspectives of Volunteers – Part I”
Hi! Greetings from Kerry, Ireland!! Nicolas, our ESC volunteer is working on a video piece at the minute.. He is French and chose to stay in Ireland rather than risk himself and others by travelling home.. He has a transcript he could send to you, maybe with a photo? What does he need to do/ who does he need to send info to? Hope you guys are safe and well!
Hello Kevin! Thank you so much for your message. We are doing really good, hopefully you as well. It’s great that Ireland found its way to Finland digitally. 🙂 We would like to get in touch with Nicolas. Our email address is: email@example.com. Maybe it’s better to get a first idea of the transcript he has already prepared. If he feels more comfortable writing in French, that’s fine as well. Best to you!