One year ago at this time, I was preparing my suitcases to start my volunteer experience. I remember being with my mom looking for snow pants asking ourselves how I would survive in Finland or how it would be living in there, so many questions and curiosities came to my mind. Now, after one year – that has flown- I can say that this has been a lifetime experience of learning, friendship, discoveries and personal growth.
I was really excited to arrive in Hyvärilä after a long trip of two days -a flight from Málaga Airport to Helsinki Airport- and after a -train trip of 7 h from Helsinki to Nurmes-. A girl from the warm coast of Spain to a small village surrounded by forest in North Karelia.
I clearly remember the first morning that I woke up in Hyvärilä, the sun was shining and coming inside my room, this simple sing made me feel at home. After this day, so many days of sunny weather came – of course- also cloudy days, but didn’t matter because I was eager to explore and meet people around, and so I did.
When my job in Hyvärilä Youth Center started and I discover an amazing and new way of learning. This is through experience! Learn while you’re doing a concrete activity. I helped the instructors during the activities and I learned so much about how capable and independent are youngsters. This is my personal experience and I don’t want to generalize but I have the feeling that in my culture adults tend to do everything for the smallest ones, here instead they leave themselves to try, make mistakes and learn in a safe environment and I truly believe that this is a good way to develop your skills and create confidence not only in the childhood but also for the adult life.
A clear example is when I assisted for the first time to basket climbing. In this activity there’s a climber that stacks baskets on top of each other while sitting on top of them, the objective is to build the tallest tower, of course, the climber has a harness and there’s a professional instructor keeping the ropes, but anyway, my first thought was – this is crazy dangerous or they have to be so scared- instead they’re really excited and even the ones that were a bit scared felt encouraged by their teammates to try at least. This made me open my eyes, it was scary because I have never tried but when I did I discovered that it wasn’t, that experience by yourself is a key to facing new challenges and realizing that you can do it.
Another lesson that I learned is the importance to teach the youngest ones to take care and love nature. In Hyvärilä the majority of activities are outdoors and connected with nature, Finnish culture can not be understood without the respect of nature, so every activity is thought to create this relation of love-respect. Learning about the environment or natural species can’t be done only through books, is necessary to explore and discover with your senses: feeling the soil, touching the water, smelling the grass, seeing with your own eyes birds or any kind of being. We’ve done this! And when I say we I mean the instructors, the kids and me while building insect hotels or birdhouses, creating nature art or doing whichever activity outdoors.
I couldn’t expect to try that many things in here, I did canoeing, I sail in a church boat, sup boarding, I tried rafting, I played paintball, I climbed 10 meters high wall, archery, walked with snowshoes, ride a huskies sled among others.
Besides these activities outdoors I joined the instructors in crafts workshops and with time I started to instruct my own macrame workshop, this was absolutely a highlight in my experience because I have been able to teach others something that passionates me.
Working in Hyvärilä wasn’t my only task, I also joined the Youth House in Nurmes and I met people that would be meaningful forever for me. Also, I approach new realities and I discover a bit more about mental health, a topic that was totally unknown to me and now I feel more sensitized.
In addition, I worked with other local organizations taking part in events and getting to know better the local community, they broke up with the stereotype that Finnish people are shy and cold instead they’re welcoming, warm and lovely and I would be always grateful for taking part in this community.
During this year I met wonderful people that accompanied me in uncountable adventures, that supported me always and to who I consider family and honestly I love them deeply and I know that wherever we’ll be in the future we’ll find each other.
I feel truly grateful to share this lifetime experience with you all, especially Katya, Perrine, Kim, Johannes, Yasir, Lies, Heta, Tuija, Betty, Elisa, Meeri, Reeta, all the international people that I met during Back to the Roots or Embrace the Darkness, all the people from the local community that welcome and made me feel at home, all the Hyvärilä staff that supports and helped me with everything, the family Kotivuori and Tolvanen, and in general everyone that has been part of my life.
These experiences, human beings, and landscapes made me evolve as a person, discover a bit more about my values, unblocked new skills and encourage me to have exciting goals and initiatives in the future.
I’m not the same person that I was one year ago and I’m really thankful for this incredible learning process full of adventures, discoveries, kindness, love and nature.
With so much love Laura Glez