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 work 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 next four reports.
Celia 🇪🇸 and Elodie 🇫🇷
We are Elodie and Celia, from France and Spain, doing our ESC volunteering in EKOenergy, an international NGO based in Helsinki, that has created an ecolabel to promote the use of sustainable energies and fight against energy poverty in developing countries.
Despite the coronavirus and the measures taken by the Finnish Government, we can continue our volunteering for EKOenergy by working from home. Everyday we have meetings on Skype, we chat online with our team and exchange emails as usual. We had to get creative to facilitate this new way of working, using platforms designed for remote work and task management, that will definitely be very helpful even when this situation is over.
Now we are more autonomous because we can decide to organize our days as we wish, and we have more time for ourselves, since we don’t have to commute for about an hour to get to the office and back. It’s great to have the possibility to do some yoga or go for a walk in the forest in the middle of the day to get some fresh air if we’re feeling unproductive, and to finally be able to dedicate some extra time to learn Finnish or bake the perfect cake. But on the other hand, we miss our fellow volunteers and the great atmosphere we had in our office, and of course being outside and participating in many events!
Even though our lifestyle and way of working is not the same, the goals of our volunteering project have not changed, so we don’t see a big difference between now and before the crisis. Our volunteering started at the beginning of January 2020 and it will last for one year. We both wanted to discover as much as possible while being here and visit our ESC friends that are volunteering in other places in Finland. So far we’ve been to many places around Helsinki, we also went to Tallinn and Stockholm, and we even went all the way to Lapland by train! So for now we will try to make the most of our days in quarantine and hope for a return to normal life before the end of the year (or maybe even before the summer!).
I’m David from Portugal. Since, February I’m a volunteer of culture and leisure department in Nykarleby (Uusikaarlepyy).
The world is living some weird moments this day. We had to rethink the way we work; we interact and live our lives. Afterall I think many people are now experiencing and facing the utility of one of the volunteers’ biggest skill: adapting to new situations. We are used to that and it can be useful to look to this situation in a different perspective.
I came to Finland with some goals and excited to contribute positively to the community of the city that I live, through work with kids, youth, horses and helping in many town events and activities. Also, I was using my free time to be involved in as many things as I could, from language cafe to box classes. Needless to say, that almost everything is cancelled, the only exception is the stable work, because horses can’t quarantine alone.
After knowing that some reasons why I came to Finland were cancelled I definitely felt unmotivated. It was a mix of many feelings, because apart from this I also had my family bombarding me with questions because they were worried.
But then I stopped for a bit, and though about the real reason I came to Finland. It was not just to be involved in a nice and diverse project, it was also to challenge myself and grow while living in a country which mindset is completely different from Portugal. So, it was clear that if I had meaningful work to do here (although different from the first plans) and conditions to keep a safe daily routine, I wanted to stay here. My hosting organisation helped a lot with that and proposed the creation of an online project to publish content to inspire people to be at home. The chosen name for this project was “sHOMEthing every day” and the name says almost everything you need to know about the idea. It also contributed to my decision knowing that I would not be alone: I had not only a comprehensive hosting organisation, but also a supportive volunteer that was sharing the project with me, Patrycja.
In these moments it’s difficult to make big predictions, because many things are changing every day. At least, for now, I know that although I miss a lot my family and friends, I feel really motivated to continue my project.
I feel like I want to go home because I have nothing to do here.
Before I had work and traveling was easy but now don’t have anything to do and that’s really boring.
I don’t really know. I will try to enjoy the nature.
Im very insecure about the future so I don’t know what will happen.
My name is Jytte and until two weeks ago I was a volunteer in a youth circus in the Finnish city Lappeenranta. I arrived there at the beginning of January and had an amazing time teaching kids circus skills while discovering Finland and meeting a lot of amazing and nice people.
I was supposed to stay in Finland until July, joining the biggest juggling festival of the world after my volunteering time. And after that I was planning on going back to The Netherlands by train to start my studies in September.
Sadly, however, my plans were completely turned upside down… On Tuesday march 17th I had to decide to go back to The Netherlands prematurely and on Wednesday afternoon I was sitting in a train on my way to the airport…
I am very sad and also frustrated that I had to leave my project early, but really glad that I got this opportunity. It was crazy that I found a project that fit me so well. I wish it could have lasted longer, but for the time that I got it was amazing!
I have grown quite a lot in these 2,5 months and am really grateful for that. I feel more mature and independent and like I understand a little bit more of this crazy world we live in. I loved getting to know the Finnish culture and language and I also really liked meeting the other volunteers who I consider good friends after having only been a week together.
For the rest of my gap year I don’t know exactly what will happen. For now I am babysitting and working in the youth circus in my home town. It’s weird being back and still not being able to meet up with the people that I haven’t seen for quite a while, but I’m making the best of it and at least the weather is beautiful in The Netherlands right now.
I do feel a bit directionless. I had always anticipated that my plans or time in Finland maybe wouldn’t go the way I planned them, but having to take the decision to go back I felt out of control and right now I also feel out of control over the coming months.
If I get the opportunity I will definitely travel back to Finland and if I can, I will interrail Europe in the summer, maybe meeting up with the other volunteers who are back in their home countries?
One thing is for sure this might have been my first time traveling to Finland, but it will definitely not be the last!