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ESC Volunteers #stayingatproject – Part II

Due to great interest in our volunteers’ stories we have decided to connect with volunteers all over Europe in order to share their stories. We wanted to see how their volunteering experience differs from ours and the ones having their project in Finland.

#stayingatproject is linked to the current #stayathome movement giving the impression of how volunteers feel and spend their time continuing their ESC project.
In the following articles you will find new perspectives or even similar thoughts and feelings because of the pandemic. Leave a comment if you can relate. Or contact us to have a chat and share your thoughts.

The volunteers were given 5 questions regarding their introduction and changes of their lives and projects. 6 volunteers share their stories in 3 blog entries.

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Anni 🇫🇮 > 🇧🇪

Hi! 

My name is Anni and I’m from Finland. At the moment I’m currently part of an ESC project in Belgium. My project is located in a small town called Genappe, in the Wallonian part of Belgium. The project is organised by a cultural and artistic space/ theatre, Le Monty and cultural centre of Genappe. The project includes lots of different type of work tasks, for example making videos, promoting the events and serving the customers of Le Monty. I work together with two other volunteers, whom I also share a flat with.

My usual work tasks, such as customer service and event promotion, have changed to ones that don’t require physical contact. I have been working on cleaning up the garden of Le Monty and reorganising the warehouse that has all the stuff needed for the shows. I also make weekly videos with my flatmates/co-workers. The video series is called “3 minute quarantine”. We wanted to have something to occupy ourselves with and decided to share our “what to do during the quarantine” recommendations in a form of weekly videos. 

The weekly schedule and rhythm of day has also obviously slowed down. On most days it’s completely up to me when I wake up and what do I do with my time. It has been kind of refreshing to be able to focus on the things I haven’t had the time to focus on during my ESC project. On the other hand I’ve noticed that the I’ve been more stressed during the quarantine. It almost feels like the less productive I’m being the more stressed become.

The biggest, and  for me the hardest, change has happened in the social life. Many of my volunteer friends have returned to their home countries and I can’t even see the remaining ones since I would have to use public transport. That means the only people I can spend time with are my flatmates. Fortunately, we’ve been really close to each other from the very beginning and if possible being locked down in the same appartement has brought us even closer. I feel like they are one of the reasons why I decided to stay in Belgium. Even though having flatmates has helped me not to feel lonely or isolated, it can sometimes make me feel like I’m seeing them too much. Normally we could all do our own things during the free time and see other friends. Now, it’s just us three all day everyday.

Thanks to internet I have been able to keep in touch with my family and friends via Whatsapp and video calls. In the beginning of the quarantine I used to call my friends and family members almost daily. “Hanging out” and chatting with my friends helps me to organise my thoughts and get out of the negative headspace. Also doing things I love like dancing and spending time in nature is important for me during this time (or I guess it’s always important but especially right now). So, if you’re feeling lonely, I recommend having a call with your friends or family. One small call can do a lot!

Best wishes,
Anni

Answers dated 07.05.2020

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Aleksandar 🇷🇸 > 🇧🇪

My name is Aleksandar, I come from Serbia and I’m currently quarantining in a small town of Marche-en-Famenne in the south of Belgium. The reason I am staying here is that Marche is the hometown of my organisation, Compagnons Battiseurs Belgium. They are a part of an international network of Aliance and CCIVS. What exactly do they do? Well, they make it easy for Belgian people to find a volunteering project abroad but also, organising projects here so people from all around the world can do something meaningful somewhere abroad. In this big volunteering universe, my work is to deal with workcamps. They are a very specific form of volunteering projects where for two or three weeks you get to create an international family that can do something very big in a local community. You can rebuild schools, spend quality time with children with difficulties, improve the life of migrant families in refugee centers, reconstruct and take care of a green protected area or make a park so the people from the village can enjoy it. Other than the physical stuff, workcamps are a place where you build friendships and bonds, not only with your fellow volunteers from all over the world, but with the local community and opening their eyes to a whole new world. To me, camps are a real magical place. That’s why I decided to commit a year of my life to do this project.  

My job consists not only of dealing with volunteer applications and sending volunteers abroad, but also managing social media of the organisation and the best part, being the camp coordinator in the camps here in the Wallonie region of Belgium. 

We just came back from our on-arrival seminar in Brussels where the lock-down started, not even two months after our arrival in Belgium. So the first thing we did, we moved our office to our home. It’s a bit harder to wake up than usual, but the work stayed mostly the same. I am still managing the social network thinking of  things we can do to keep the voluntary service alive during the #stayathome period. That’s why I’ve created #volunteermemories #wakeupyourcamp hashtags with a challenge on Instagram. Because, finding the best camp memory is not only a good way to kill some time but watching thousands of pictures also brings a smile to your face when all the memories flood in. Now, we are making an international video of support where in their own language people would send a short support message “Let’s keep our distance today, so we can share a hug tomorrow. Stay at home!”. I am also a part of a team designing an ESC seminar and a training for camp leaders for when we can all have physical contact again. Considering the uncertainty of international mobility, it is likely that the summer projects will be cancelled and that meant I had to try extra hard to find motivation for my work of workcamp promotion. But the volunteering spirit lives on, and it will grow only stronger after all of this goes away! 

Other than that I have to say life has been pretty busy. Measurements in Belgium weren’t so strict and we had the liberty to do some activities outside. I live with six roommates so it’s never boring. We have a big garden, we organise thematic evenings with karaoke, games and movies, cooking dinners together and all the imagination of the world to entertain ourselves. One very important thing that we did during these times was sewing masks for a retirement home and the city of Marche. In total, we did about 150 masks and I never used a sewing machine in my life. I found a new talent and it made me feel very useful and I was happy to help. Time really flies by here. I had some rough moments during the quarantine, and needless to say that you also need some time to yourself in this period. From time to time I would spend a day in my room either reading a book, writing stories or just staring through my roof window into the sky. We also have a big forest next to our place so getting lost there and doing some physical activity also helped a lot. I also try to remind myself that even though the project is not going how I imagined I am very lucky to be here considering how the lockdowns are going in my country. Here we have loads of fun, time goes by so fast, and most importantly, everyone that’s close to me is reasonably healthy.

If I can give you any advice to other volunteers it would be to share your feelings and thoughts as much as possible with your roommates, tutor or someone  you find close that’s in a similar situation. It’s perfectly fine to have bad moments but also you have to remind yourself of all the positive stuff going around and be grateful for the small stuff.

Answers dated 02.05.2020

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Published by volunteersofhyvarila

Hello! We are volunteers at Hyvärilä Youth Centre, Nurmes, Finland sharing experiences and projects.

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