A glance into EVS through a personal journey
Let me share with you my volunteering experiences. I wanted a new challenge in my life, a recreation from the ordinary weekdays, from my ordinary work, so I thought about trying myself in a voluntary project. I took part in a short-term volunteering project this year, from the 13th to the 28th of May in Veliki Zitnik, Croatia.
The hosting organization was from Zagreb, a non-profit educational organization named Outward Bound Croatia. The subject of the project was nature, sustainable lifestyle, environmental issues and working with wood. I like the outdoors and hiking very much, so I thought that this project would suit me well.
I heard about this project from the Association of Intercultural Communities, which was also my sending organization. The project was announced in 4 countries: Italy, Macedonia, Greece and Romania for 16 participants in all. I was really excited about it because I was the only one there from Romania. Before starting my adventure, I was prepared by this association, by my mentor, who told me everything about this and I also got an information letter from the host organization with all the necessary information. They told me that every cost will be supported by them, including the travel cost, accommodation, food, and I also will get some pocket money. After this, I started to think about the travel opportunities. I didn’t find a direct bus service there, so I planned the route with my mentor in such a way to arrive there for the specified time. My first stop was in Budapest, then I traveled to Zagreb and then to Gospic, where they waited for me and took me to the small village of Veliki Zitnik, the location of the project. When I arrived there, the others were already there, so we got to know each other. Everybody was really kind, likable and helpful. The accommodation was in a very nice house all together. I was really tired because the journey lasted almost 20 hours, so I rested a little bit, after that we had a meeting to discuss about us and about the programs.
We were divided into groups depending on what tasks we will have to do each day. In the first days we had to do woodwork, because they needed some bunk beds for the education center where we were accommodated. At the beginning it seemed to be very hard work, because I have never done this kind of work before, but then I got used to it and it was very interesting. Each day when we started the day we had team-building exercises and sometimes yoga classes, then we worked almost 6 hours a day. At the end of the day we had some free activities and round table discussions about the previous day and how we felt during the programs. During the day, we had to clean the house where we lived, because each activity took place there: the work, the meals and all other things.
On the second and third day we had intercultural night, where each group had to present their country and cook some special food. It was a pleasure for me to find out more about these countries and to learn how to cook the original Carbonara pasta from the Italians. One day we were separated into two groups and we had to go to clean the river bank.
During this program I saw a lot of beautiful places and we were accompanied by a biologist, who presented us the typical flora and fauna of the countryside. At the end of the week we had 4 free days, so we could go visit other places in the country. We split into 3 groups, so first day I joined the group that went to Plitvice lakes. On the second day I joined another group that visited Rijeka, a very nice seaside city, where we spent the whole day. Next day we visited Opatija, another tourist destination close to Rijeka. It was an amazing trip for me and I really enjoyed spending time there with those nice people. After that, we came back to Veliki Zitnik and we continued our activities there. One day we went to the village of Gospic, where we had to rearrange the garden and to paint the benches and the tables of the local schoolyard.
Another interesting program was when we went to a permaculture farm. We gained insight into the non-chemically cultivated plants, energy-saving and healthy lifestyle, and how to create a better environment for us and for the society. The last day we had a very interesting and surprising program: we had to stay alone 3 hours on a riverside, to think about ourselves and about the experiences gained in the last 2 weeks.
At the end of the project we had to share our experiences about the programs and how we felt during this project, what we learned from it. For me it was a great experience and I enjoyed it very much, I met a lot of interesting people, made friendships, learned new things and last, but not least, I developed my social competencies and my English language skills.