An Interview with VSI's ESC Volunteer, Senka
Long term volunteering
Written by Maria and Senka from Serbia
What causes are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about volunteering, languages, travelling, and horses!
What inspired you to apply for ESC?
I have wanted to make the world a better place since I was a child. During my childhood, I was passionate about animal protection. But because life sometimes takes a different direction than what was our first plan, I have found another way to change the world – through volunteering! I truly believe that everyone can make a big change in society by constantly taking small steps. Small steps can make one big change in the world!
What were you doing before you started your ESC with VSI?
I was studying for two baccalaureats (bachelor’s degrees), in French Language and Literature, and in Philosophy. I have a lot of experience in non-formal education and youth work. I was also working as a language teacher and a proofreader.
What interests you about volunteering with VSI as an organisation?
I’m amazed by how many different topics and subjects VSI is engaged in! At the same time, they work with refugees, people with disabilities, youth and the elderly. As I have experience in youth work and peer education, I would love to share my volunteering experience with other youngsters and to promote volunteerism among youth, especially among people with disabilities.
How did you find working with the VSI team? In what ways did the online experience affect getting to know the team? Tell us a bit about what you and the team did to work and socialise together online.
I absolutely loved my online experience with the VSI team. Our morning check-ins were like a morning refreshment in these psychologically hard times of social distancing. Every team member told me a bit about their position in the team and gave me a small task related to this. So now I have a small image of what it will look like when we start to work together in person. I feel like I already know them for a long time, I can’t believe we didn’t even see each other in person! I think we will have a very pleasant and productive collaboration in person too.
What did you gain from this experience?
I think I have found a good group of travel-lovers to travel together. Also, I have found a museum-mate with whom I will visit the best museums in Dublin. When it comes to knowledge and information, I’m amazed at how well organised the volunteering system is in Ireland, and how many possibilities there are. As a person from Serbia, I find it interesting to think of just how many different volunteering opportunities we can also implement in my home country (e.g. On Saturdays, young people in Dublin volunteer to help the elderly in their homes by painting their houses. I think we can also organise and implement this in Serbia. It is not expensive, and it’s good for both sides – youngsters have fun and express creativity, and the elderly get help for painting walls in their houses).
Also, I discovered with the help of Maria, a Canva free program for the design of posters, which I can now use to promote my future projects. I am moderating a youth book club in my city and now I know how to promote it better.
What was the best part of your (two weeks’) placement with VSI?
The best part of my placement with VSI definitely was meeting the team and discovering how much we have in common!
Did you find it challenging to do your project online?
Mostly no, it was smooth and easy for the most part. The only thing that I’m sorry about is that I couldn’t enter their virtual office on GatherTown (due to technical issues). I think that if this were possible, my contribution would have been bigger and more visible.
What do you hope to gain from this ESC experience?
I hope my ESC with VSI will inspire many young people to use their free time for volunteering. I want to encourage young people, especially those physically disabled, to be persistent when they are on the road to fulfillment of their goals. Also, I hope to connect with my new friends and make new friendships that will last long after my ESC. I want to improve my language skills and to learn more about myself and Irish culture.
What did you learn about VSI/SCI during your placement?
I’ve learned the main principles of how the two organisations function, what their aims are and by which methods they fulfill those aims. I believe that it is extremely important to develop more programs related to peacebuilding and engaging youth about these issues. I think that especially in this time of the pandemic we get to know how important solidarity is for all of us.
What are you looking forward to most when you resume your ESC project with VSI in September?
I’m looking forward to meeting new people and making friends and feeling the real Irish spirit of hospitality.
How did the SEEDS online project contribute to peace, solidarity and social justice?
The SEEDS online project was really amazing and it was my biggest pleasure to take a part in it. It promotes an environmentally friendly lifestyle in many aspects. First of all, through the seminar young people are informed about their own individual impact on the planet which I think is very important. During the project, we had the opportunity to talk about the different aspects of this impact, from food production to fashion, and we were also encouraged to make small individual steps that, put together, can make one big and important step towards a healthier environment.
Would you recommend volunteering with VSI to other young people?
I would strongly recommend volunteering with VSI to all young people, especially to those with physical disabilities. I know firsthand how it feels to be discouraged about volunteering because of a disability. I’m incredibly thankful to the VSI team, especially Helen, who didn’t give up on giving me this opportunity, regardless of all the obstacles involved.