Peace

Thirteen-month journey going to end, or…?

Long term volunteering

Written by Nina Mialo from Ukraine

July 2020

For one year (actually a bit more) I was doing my EVS in the office of SCI-Germany. Normally, I was an incoming placement officer for the workcamps, however my working life was very diverse and full of various tasks. My project is going to end soon, and this the best possibility to reflect and recall all that has happened during this busy and exciting year. So, follow me on this journey!

1. My project
Placement of the international volunteers into the workcamps in Germany (with the highlights of leading and visiting workcamps) took half of my stay from March to September. After this time my tasks were various and mostly shaped by my initiatives, among them:

  • Help for the cooking team during School project in Cologne.
  • Renovation of the volunteer flat.
  • Presentation of the SCI on various fairs.
  • Support during Herbstfest 2019.
  • Coordination of the Project Café seminar in Berlin and Serbia.
  • Preparation of the new design of the Infosheet template for the next season.
  • Writing articles for the SCI magazine “Amities”.
  • Supporting PR staff regarding new communication strategy (especially social media – Facebook and Instagram).
  • Preparing leaflets for the trilateral projects in Russia and Ukraine for further promotion among the partner countries!
  • Organising an event in Bonn about promoting SCI in the form of a Human Library.

The most, I liked the tasks that required some creativeness from me: Working with the photos and designs. At the same time, I enjoyed a lot, meeting and making new contacts with people from all over the world during workcamps, general meetings, seminars, etc.

2. Seminars & trainings
During my service I took part in different seminars and trainings, such as the on-arrival and mid-term, camp leader & project management seminars:

  • The on-arrival seminar in Munich, except for great people and amazing group activities, gave me inspiration and motivation to overcome the hard beginning of my project.
  • During the camp-coordinators seminar in Niederkaufungen, I learned how to be a decent camp leader and took specific tips and tricks, which I used afterwards.
  • Seminars and trainings were not only about constant learning, but also about building a community and spending some time together (like cooking and cleaning together, watching movies, playing games)

Upbringing feelings of tolerance and understandings – for me, these are the most valuable results of attending seminars and trainings. My experiences were so enriching because only in diverse groups you can meet people that you would never expect even to talk to normally. Meanwhile one starts breaking stereotypes and making friends for years. Furthermore, in the international groups, surprisingly I started to feel more European and was discovering greatly about myself as well.

3. Bonn – the city I lived in
Before going for the service I’ve had barely heard something about Bonn (what a pity!). Because, it is the place of birth of Beethoven; the headquarters of Deutsche Post DHL and Deutsche Telekom, around 20 United Nations institutions are located here. So many various festivals and events are happening during the year, like Rhein in Flammen (firework displays) or cherry blossoms in the Altstadt. Many museums and theaters can offer an exciting program. Personally, for me it is the place where different generations and cultures can live and flourish as the combination of cultural, economic, historical, educational aspects make it very unique.

I am extremely happy that I landed up in this city (with Post Tower, Siebengebirge, huge parks, botanical garden), as it is so comfortable to live here, and I will be sad to say goodbye to my “new home”.

4. Travels
Opportunity to travel – is the best thing to discover various countries, cultures, and traditions (during this year I visited the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Albania, Serbia). However, right now, we are not able to do this… But probably it is the time to reflect on how easier access to traveling changed our lives and our planet. This travel obsession led to the high price we should pay for that, climate change and for the personal life (constant need of new trips, tiredness, sometimes people almost are not discovering or enjoying the city they are living in).

Thus, sustainable trips were the core idea during my volunteering. I made 2 long trips across Europe with buses, ferry, and trains. Despite the fact that I was trying not to use planes, sometimes it was hard to avoid it… For the long trips: coffee, chocolate, and good books or sometimes tight sleep were my companions. Additionally, I am happy that except for other countries I could also discover Germany: Frankfurt, Hamburg, Kassel, Tübingen, and many more cities, towns and villages.

5. Sports & Free-time activities
My project had a great influence and impact on me, but moreover, I was also greatly shaped by the activities that I was doing in my free time. Surprisingly, I discovered for myself so many new and fascinating things, like improv theatre classes, yoga (especially at 6 am), constant walks and bike rides in nature (fortunately Bonn can offer many options), cinemas, museums and German classes, which started to be also my hobby. Constant curiosity and willingness to try something new, opened for me broad horizons!

6. Food
Food is an essential part of our lives and I couldn’t forget to mention how my diet and eating habits have changed during one year. I was always into cooking, but this year I’ve rethought in general food production, consumption, storage, and usage.

Furthermore, I was always the person who couldn’t throw away the food, so the decision of becoming a foodsaver came pretty naturally. Except that, I started to eat healthier and pay attention to what I am buying, from where it comes from and which avail it will bring to my body. Additionally, I was indulging my colleagues and friends with cakes and cookies. And now with vegan ones, since it is also one of my goals for the current year to try to eat vegan.

7. People
In my last paragraph, I could describe, how I’ve changed, which were my achievements and failures, or which plans I have for the future. Though, this time I want to focus on people, who were surrounding me this whole year because their support and presence in my life were priceless. I am grateful to each and everyone, who was with me in the moments of happiness and despair, joy and sadness. I am also thankful to those, who made me realize that our ways are going in different directions, as it happens and is a natural process. Just remember, people are the most valuable resource in our lives and presently we understood how hard it is to be isolated and separated from the others. Be kind to yourself and others!

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