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ESC Volunteers #stayingatproject – Part III

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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Tommaso 🇮🇹 > 🇧🇪

Ciao a tutti! My name is Tommaso and I come from a small town close to Venice, Italy. I am currently a volunteer at Compagnons Bâtisseurs in Marche-en-Famenne, Belgium. My project mainly consists in helping out in the office and on the field by promoting, organizing and leading events such as weekend or summer workcamps. These workcamps consist in carrying out some volunteering work such as renovating a facility dedicated to social use or spending time with people with disabilities and fewer opportunities. During these events, people from all over Belgium or, in the case of the ones held in summer, from all over the world gather to experience community life and cultural exchanges while working as volunteers.

I decided to apply for this project because it is a mix of office work (which is the thing I am the most used to) and activities requiring interaction with different people. Being less experienced in the social field I saw the possibility to improve myself and maybe find out something more about myself.

At first, I was extremely thrilled by the new experience I was living: a new country, new people, new flatmates. I am slow when it comes to getting used to a new place so I kind of invested the first two months into getting to know my surroundings and adapting. Right when I was feeling like I finally managed to settle down, something unpredictable came in turning everything upside down: suddenly we couldn’t go to the office anymore, there were no more activities in which to take part all around Belgium. We found ourselves confined at home and asked not to go out unless necessary.

I cannot say I was completely unaware of what was about to happen, but still it dealt a hard blow.

And yet I consider myself lucky, in my hometown the lockdown is (as of the 4th of May) much stricter than in Belgium. What’s more, I live together with other 6 volunteers and there is no way things can get excessively boring: we are doing so many things, also with the active help of our hosting organizations. Some of us can still work from home (even if in a much more “relaxed” way), we are sewing masks for the municipality (and for us), we will soon start with gardening and some do-it-yourself in the house, we are cooking together, watching movies, playing board games. We are also allowed to go out for a walk or a run, which is extremely helpful in this day and age, especially if you have a forest 5 minutes on foot from your doormat, as it is the case here in Marche. For sure I miss some more human contact but being myself a little bit of a loner this is not affecting me too much and it is always possible to stay in touch with friends and relatives by texting and video calling, which I do on an almost daily basis. Of course, it is not the same as sharing a meal or the same room together but it definitely helps.

I am also happy because my project will be extended next year in order to compensate for these “missing” months, which anyway I do not consider as wasted because I got to discover and learn new things and reflect on different topics. Overall I think I managed to acquire a positive mindset towards the quarantine and the current situation which I hope will be solved as soon as possible.

Let us just hold on the things and people we love and good luck to everyone for the future!

Answers dated 04.05.2020

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Halina 🇩🇪 > 🇷🇴

My name is Halina, I’m 22 years old and I’m from Germany. I’m taking part in the ESC as part of a gap year before I start my master’s degree. My project is called “European Youth Opportunity Unlocker” (E-YOU). It is being implemented in the city of Craiova, in the south-west of Romania by 8 volunteers from Germany, France and Austria.

I was very excited about the project because it was supposed to involve working with students and making them aware about the EU and its opportunities through non-formal education methods. I already have some experience in the field of youth work and non-formal education and I really enjoy these types of activities. Now, because of Corona, personal contact with the teenagers has become impossible. In order to continue our project in some form, we have started creating and publishing YouTube videos on different topics surrounding the EU and we try to be very active on our Instagram channel, which some of the students follow. We are also in contact with the students in different WhatsApp and Facebook groups, though it can sometimes be difficult to get replies from them.

Before Corona, our days were very full. We prepared our activities in the office and went to at least one different school every day. Since we only had one “normal” month of our project, we were still in the introduction stage. We also spent one week in Bucharest for the On-Arrival Training. Now, we have been in our apartments (2 apartments of 4 persons each) for close to 2 months. We have regular skype calls with our coordinators and the volunteers in the other flat to discuss our modified project activities. 

Additionally, I try to use this time to acquire new skills. I’m taking several online classes on the platform “Coursera” and I have started learning French with one of my French roommates. I try to work out regularly and whenever the weather is nice, I spend a lot of time on the balcony. I think having a structured day is very important to stay sane in this crazy time

Being inside and not having as much human contact is not too difficult for me because I’m quite introvert and didn’t feel the need to go out every night before anyways. It also helps that I share my flat with 3 other girls whom I luckily get along with quite well. We often cook and eat together, have movie nights or just chat. I also try to stay in regular contact with my friends and family back in Germany which is luckily made easy by smartphones and digital tools.

In summary, I can say that I’m quite sad and disappointed that the project and our activities are not proceeding as planned and that we are not able to travel around and discover Romania. Still, I try to make the best out of this time and hope that I can come out of it with new skills and experiences.

Answers dated 08.05.2020

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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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