30 abril 2019

Project ACT together - report from Romania part.1

ACT Together project is already underway.

The project started in the beginning of March with only 4 volunteers and we complete the team the first week of April. In that moment we count on 10 internationals volunteers.

For all of them, the part of community discovery is done. The volunteers met the management team and with the mentor help, they got to know the city better. Also, at the institutional level they were involved in the meetings to arrange the activities. In this moment they establish directly with the teachers and with the students in charge of the activities the weekly schedule. That has provided them an added responsibility and a higher involvement in the project.

The first part of the team was in charge to create all the materials that we need to make the promotions and the presentations in the schools:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/acttogethercraiova/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/acttogethercraiova/?hl=en

They also designed their poster, logo, flyers and a presentation model based on non- formal education. During one week they worked alongside our other project Action Changes Things, that started in January. In this week they took part in the activities of this project getting a better understanding of how non formal education works and what can provide to the students and then adapted this knowledge to their own activities and objectives.

Once they had their promotional material ready, it was time to start with the presentation of the project, in four high schools in Craiova and another one in the surroundings of the city. The results of this first interaction were even better than expected and the volunteers not only presented their project in the centres but also met with the most involved students in our office since they manifested a true interest in taking part in volunteering projects and Youth Exchanges during this summer. This has increased the energy of the volunteers that now see possible to involve even more youngsters than predicted at the beginning of the project.

The first group volunteers also took part the On Arrival Training in Bucharest during this month. In this training they participated in sessions that gave them a more clear picture of what volunteering means, of how to approach their beneficiaries and their communities and provided them really useful tools to accomplish their goals during this six months such new kinds of activities, improving their social skills and become more self-confident. The training has been also a great opportunity for them to learn new kinds of activities and meet with other volunteers which allowed them to share their experience and learn from others.

In this month has also taken place the volunteering festival in Craiova. This huge event involved several associations based in Craiova that work with international volunteers from the European Solidarity Corps. During the whole day they promoted their projects providing the public with information about their projects, samples of their activities and different shows such us concerts or flash mobs. In this day managed to reach to a lot of people that didn't had a clue about volunteering and Erasmus+ and opened the door for further collaboration between the associations of the city.

During the last week before holidays the volunteers participated in several events in different sorts of centers, sometimes doing their regular activities and other times helping the centers and the teachers to do their own. Finally, the whole team participated in the Capacity Building Program. In this program the volunteers participated in sessions given by the managing team of the organization. In these sessions they received new information and guidance about the meaning and the goals of the project, the volunteering itself, the way the project can be an excellent opportunity to develop their skills and learn new things and how to deal with the difficulties that will find in their way during this six months. They also learnt how to use the flexibility of the project for their advantage having the chance to think about new kinds of activities and events that can help them accomplish their goals while providing them with new experiences.

24 abril 2019

A testimunho da Agnieszka

„We should bathe our destinies as we do our bodies, change our lives just as we change our clothes – not to keep ourselves alive, which is why we eat and sleep, but out of the disinterested respect for ourselves which can be properly called cleanliness” 

- The Book of Disquiet, Fernando Pessoa

The „perfect” does not exist 

Lisbon. Quite small and charming capital set picturesque on the hills. Little, narrow houses are whole covered in colorful tiles which gracefully reflect the sun. The city faces the wide Tiber which slowly heads to the Atlantic Ocean. In almost every hidden corner there’s a superb park with plenty of nature which in any other place you can see only inside botanical gardens. On the trees, it’s easy to spot some parrots. Furthermore in Lisbon is rarely raining. People are cheerful, relaxed and most of the time helpful. Over the top, Portugal has one of the best cuisines in the world. Is there anything else you would like in life?

If you put it like that, it seems to be heaven on Earth, and I guess if I would show that description to myself a couple of years ago, my suitcase would be already packed and I would be ready to begin a new chapter of life in Lisbon. 
But well, this time it was not my case.

When I got accepted for my project I had a battle in my head if it’s the right thing to do.
 If I am not too young, not too old if the project will be satisfying if that’s the moment in my life when I should do this. From the beginning, I was overload with emotions and thoughts. 
And it’s nothing extraordinary. Starting a long-term volunteering project is quite a big step in life. And because it’s a „long-term” thing, you don’t want to mess up this decision and what follows - next months or „even” a year of your life.

Go to school, choose the profession, start a university… Most of our childhood and youth we are told what we should do in our lives. Sometimes the roles which are imposed on us by the family, society or the culture becomes ours. We live like there is a right time to do the things. We stop questioning life and accept everything as it is. The voice of the culture transforms into our own – now we want to achieve a professional success before 25, buy a house in the early 30s... Some unwritten manual tells us what is the right thing to do at a certain moment of our lives.

However looking for the ideal circumstances in our life to do the things, is simply wasting our time and potential.
 Because the perfect does not exist.

Looking at the Lisbon as the example – on the surface, it seems to be an amazing city, full of joy and sun. But after some time, when you switch yourself from the tourist mode, you discover also the downsides of this place. You start to see the problems and difficulties which people face here. You will have some rainy days, people being rude to you and even maybe there will be that day when you will have to eat rice with beans to survive till the end of the month.

Although, discovering all those imperfections is the perfect reason to come. Because it shows you what is under the superficial surface. It will destroy the illusion of perfect moments and perfect places.
 Nothing bad will happen if you will go one year later to the university, miss that opportunity in your professional career, or if you will not save enough money to buy yourself a car or an apartment in the future. It is not a race where you have to be the first, it’s not about finding things which are „perfect”, it’s about making all those imperfect happenings meaningful.

23 abril 2019

O testimunho do Justin

It was a cold day in March, raindrops dripping on my window, when I checked Gmail on my mobile
phone. I'd been expecting this mail for weeks and indeed it had finally arrived. Alas the answer was not what i had expected! My application for a grant for university was denied. I was furious. How could they reject the application, i thought while preparing a sandwich. I was more furious though, when I noticed that in my bread there was a worm. Luck, it seems, did not favour me.

The next day I did not want to even touch my mobile, which was the bringer of bad news to me, but fortunately i did, for I received a message by the European Solidarity Corps, saying an organization was in need of a volunteer. That organization was Spin in Lisbon. I applied and the rest is history.

Coming to Lisbon by bus is tiring to say the least, it was like an 40 hour long drive, but it is also quite charming, because you could get to know fellow travelers, which i did not as i assumed the role of a mute. No, I am kidding of course. I met a Bavarian in Lederhosen, a girl with whom i had a great conversation, and many other people of all kinds and creeds. The bus was crossing the Vasca da Gama bridge, dark clouds covered the skyline of Lisbon, somehow everything being of gigantic size, I did not fully grasp the reality of it all. It was more like a dream, everything distant, surreal even.

This changed, however, once i left the safety of the bus and walked my first steps in Lisbon. I would have just stood still, taking the moment in, the screaming, the smell, the colors, if it weren't for the people, who pushed past me.

I got my luggage and greeted Agnes, a volunteer and flatmate to be from Estonia, who welcomed me. Having charged the metro card, Agnes and i waited for Miguel, another volunteer and flatmate to be from Spain, who shortly thereafter arrived. Together we went to our flat, my new home for the next nine months. What the flat lacks in size, it makes up in style. I like it. I know very descriptive.

Anyways, once inside I got to know Marina, also a new volunteer, who had arrived just hours prior to me. I unpacked my stuff, all of us had a delicious dinner. Then we went to the good-bye party of Monika, who had finished her EVS. To be honest i was a bit overwhelmed, so many new faces, names, places, and being tired really didn't help the socializing.

The next day was my first day at Spin, where Agnieszka, a Polish volunteer, Marina and i received a prep-talk by Inés, explaining how everything works, general rules, insurance etc.. After that we had a most delicious welcoming lunch. Then the three of us and another Monika went to explore the neighbourhood of Bairro Padre Cruz, see blow and discover what we discovered!

O testimunho da Marina

Even if the project I am doing was not my first option, I was sure I wanted to do my CES in Lisbon.
Fortunately, I was not chosen for the project I applied but I was offered a new one. I felt excited and happy, so I decided to do the interview.

During the interview, I felt “good vibes”, and some hours later I received the confirmation email. I cannot describe how I felt, but it was all positive. However. I had to decline the offer because I was finishing my master degree and really need to do it. I was sad but I knew it was the right thing to do. Few weeks later, a day before my birthday, I received an email from Inês offering me a new starting date. It was the best birthday presente I could ever have: the opportunity to live a whole year in Lisbon doing a project that I love! I could not do anything but accepting the challenge.

After finishing my master degree, I had only 3 days left to prepare my stuff for my new life in Lisbon. With my packed bags I took the train. Fourteen hours later, Giulia was waiting for me at Santa Apolonia train station. She helped me going home, Casa Bernardim, where I met Agnes, one of my flatmates. Afterwards I met the rest of my flatmates. The following days I had the opportunity to meet the other volunteers, who already knew each other because they arrived a month before. 

I have only been living here for exactly two weeks, but I had the opportunity to wander in the city center, visit some of the most famous places, know new people and try to speak some words in Portuguese. Despite the intensity of these two weeks, the “good vibes” feeling have not change, it has only been increased. I can not describe with words how well I feel here in Lisbon and how much I enjoyed its colours and its people. It is a very nice place to live and enjoy life!

I hope and know that this year in Lisbon is going to be a very enriching experience, which not only will help me know myself better but also will help me expand my horizons, personally and professionally. I can only thank Spin for giving me this unique opportunity which I will make the most from it. 

17 abril 2019

O testimunho da Alba

Finally I’m writing my first testimundho. I should have done it in my first weeks here, that means
almost a month and a half ago, but here I am now… And I think it’s a good sign as it means that I’ve been too “busy” doing other stuff to sit in front of my computer to write it.

I came to Lisbon by chance (It had never crossed my mind to come here before), it was totally unexpected, and for now I only can say that I was lucky that this happened to me. In a matter of days I was accepted, I packed my stuff and moved to Lisbon. After university I’ve been always traveling and living away from home, so I told myself: “why not?” I was already volunteering in the south of Spain, so I didn’t even go home, I came directly to Lisbon.

I’ll work for 12 months in SPEA, a NGO dedicated to the protection and conservation of birds. As I’m a biologist, and a nature and bird lover, this sounds
perfect for me! I was, and still am, very excited about the project, ready to learn more about the wildlife world. And here I am now, making a mess of my head trying to learn the names of birds in Portuguese, and trying not to mix them with the Catalan or Spanish names. And maybe the Portuguese is the most difficult part for me… I have the feeling that I’m just guessing words. But I hope I’ll be able to write my last testimunho in Portuguese and not in my current Portuñol (fingers crossed!).

And despite the nerves and fears of the first moments, which I think it’s inevitable to have, for now I can only say good things about this experience. And this is thanks to the amazing people that welcomed me with open arms, who bake me cakes (what else can I ask for?) and who are discovering with me the wonders of this city!

I’m eager to continue discovering the magic of Portugal, with this amazing people by my side.
And I can only say muito obrigada por esta oportunidade!