24 agosto 2019

O testemunho do Simone

How is it possible to resume a year of your life in a few lines? Surely it is something impossible, especially for someone like me who isn’t very good with words. The only thing I can say is that it was a FULL year, full of people who from complete strangers became friends, full of trips, full of experiences and shared stories and why not, full of food too!

I wanted this experience so bad, I remember that living all my life in this small village in Italy made me stuck in this comfort zone that was making me feeling ok but at the same time a bit unsatisfied and after my University graduation the only thing that I had in my mind was finding a way to leave my city and to experience around the world, that’s how I came across Spin and Boutique da Cultura. I took this gap year to reflect on myself and to understand what I really want to do in my life, which direction I have to take and after all this time my conclusion is that I still don’t know, but honestly is fine like this! This EVS taught me that is ok if at the age of 26 years old you are still not sure about your place in the world; good things take time and sometimes you have only to enjoy the road that takes you to them. This year I also experienced that is true that life can be unpredictable: personally I never thought to find myself on a stage acting in portuguese dressed as a green sheep, to hitchike in the middle of the Azores and end up in a rally competition, to eat pasta taken from a big plastic bottle in the darkness of fancy beach in Algarve (long story!) or even to find friends that now I consider for life.

I also never thought that I would end up to live in “Casa Anjos”, at the beginning you could not be superimpressed about this place, you could think is messy and too crowded (9 people and 2 bathrooms, just to be clear) but after some weeks I felt that this crazy flat was my home, because at the end what makes you feel at home are the people and there I met the most important people of my EVS. All of the time that we passed together will be forever a sweet memory in me, in particular when we danced the soundtrack of “High School Musical” in our livingroom, yeah that was great!

During this year I did my volunteer job in Boutique da Cultura and in this final moment of reflection I realize that I was lucky to finish there. This colorful group of people made me feel part of the team from the first moment and they never made me feel uncomfortable, despite the fact that I was speaking very little portuguese. Working in Boutique also allowed me to experiment different types of work, making this experience more dynamic: in fact, this year I found myself selling books and handicrafts in some fairs, I managed a solidary bookshop with my colleagues and I acted in a theatre play impersonating a green talking sheep.

In conclusion I want to give this suggestion to those who are unsure about the choice right now but have the desire to leave everything and get involved in these experience: go! Just do it! I know that often what keeps us at home is fear, the fear of not being ready, the fear of not being enough to be able to do everything alone and plus abroad. What I can say is that often these fears are imaginary and that probably a person will never be completely ready to leave their home for something unknown, but this is the price and at the same time the beauty of the game. Because in the end the unknown can cause anxiety, but if you take the risk it can also be what changes your life forever.

06 agosto 2019

Agnieszka’s testimony: 4 things I’ve learned during my volunteering in Lisbon

Although I feel like I just arrived, I am already in the middle of my volunteering project. Portuguese sun and summer vibes, as well as the close distance to the ocean, makes writing this text slow and painful process. The pleasure of describing my experience seems way less attractive than going to the beach. However, despite this unfavorable conditions of the sunny weather, I managed to write down those 4 things that I’ve learned during 4 months of my stay here:

1. You get as much, as you give

At the beginning of my volunteering adventure, I was a bit passive – I was doing things I was asked to do. At that time I was complaining a bit that I don’t have enough tasks or they are not really what I wanted. And then I decided to do something with that and be more pro-active.

Instead of asking what else I can do, I proposed my ideas. Doing this changed my experience – I realized that being here it’s an opportunity. It’s a safe place to try things that I never did before. I can experiment – do the workshops, events – and fail as many times as I have to.

The secret is to do more than you are expected. In exchange, you can receive more than you could ever think of.

2. Be open

It’s impossible to live without expectations. Starting a volunteering project, we all have some ideas on how it will look like, what will we do, what type of experience we want to have.

And most of the time, reality doesn’t meet our expectations. We can not predict life. We have to learn how to adapt to and be open about the challenges we face. Being open to new, unexpected accidents can make you see and understand a lot of things as well as create new opportunities. Sticking to your original plan can hold you back on your development, create frustration and make it less enjoyable. So let’s relax, be more open and positive about the things!

3. Slow down! It’s not only about work

After feeling a bit depressed in a phase when I didn’t have enough work to do, I realized how important „work” is in my dictionary. Life of almost all the people are dominated by work; sometimes job becomes a sense of life and the synonymous of success and growth. As my project is not connected with the career path I have chosen, I had lots of moments when I thought that being here, for so many months, is a waste of my time. I can do volunteer part-time and develop a professional career, right?

But then, having in mind the previous point, about being open, I decided that changing my focus on different things for a while can be beneficial even more than professional sucess. It’s a chance to slow down and try new things. For example I discovered that I like cooking

(all my life I thought I am the worst at it) or I came back to drawing and making collages. I woldn’t do that in „normal life”, because I am too busy to take care of my hobbies and I don’t have time to discover all that little things that makes our lives better.

4. Nothing lasts forever

Everything in this world will end at some point. Having that in mind I try to take as much as I can of my experience here. Sightseeing, exploring nature and new cultures, meeting people from all over the world. Every day it’s a possibility of experiencing something new, going out of comfort zone and learning about yourself. Having in mind that my time here is limited, I feel that I want to do all those things almost religiously.

With that being said, I am ending this post, and run to take some sun rays, eat pastel de nata and drink vinho verde! There is never too much of these – that’s for sure my favorite lesson that I’ve learned.

01 agosto 2019

Miguel’s testimony No.2

Five months have passed since I started my ESC adventure in Lisbon and, truth be told, it feels as if  I have been here for longer and simultaneously just arrived. Up to this day, it has been jam-packed with experiences at my hosting organisation, within my group of friends and beyond. Even if is hard to summarise it in a few lines, I take this testimony as a way to reflect upon it all.

Compared to the rough start in terms of adapting to the working environment and the new language, the Câmara Municipal de Lisboa has become a second home for me.  From the start, I felt included as another team member and was given the opportunity to voice my opinion and contribute to the improvements for the newly-created Volunteering Platform. As a result, the amazing team of colleagues has allowed me to grow professionally and personally and become more confident in my Portuguese.

As I came into the project with an interest in acquiring project management and communication skills, I put myself forward to develop a communication plan aiming to increase the visibility of the Municipal Volunteering Bank. Without hesitation, the team at CML welcomed this project with open arms and have given me sufficient tools and support to carry it out. Ever since I have been advancing with this side project at the same time as my other daily tasks and researching potential ways of achieving the set communication goals for the institution.

Not only have I been active within the CML, but my project and participation in the On-Arrival and Mid-Term Training programmes have allowed me to grasp recent developments within the volunteering, social cohesion and social development fields in Portugal and Europe. I have been able to attend several working group meetings on updated statistics on volunteering rates in Portugal, volunteering in mental health, increasing cooperation in public health programmes and the WHO, and developments in Portuguese social economy. Through the training programmes, I got to discuss, compare and analyse other ECS projects and identify similarities and differences. This just is another example out of millions that demonstrate the power of ESC and EU mobility programmes in terms of getting to know from a direct perspective different realities. As a result, all of this has made my volunteering experience in Lisbon even more worthwhile than expected.

But do not get me wrong. Not all the exciting experiences have been work-related. In the process of growing closer to my friends, or more like my family away from home, I have gotten to know Lisbon and Portugal alongside great people. From early morning sacrifices to reach distant beaches and survive the heat in stunning settings to attending underground music events,  finding hidden corners in the city, participating in events on EU politics or even just staying in to catch up on TV series, films and gossip/complain about our issues. I would do it all over again if I would be given the chance to start over one more time. Because without the amazing friendships I have acquired since starting in March, I do not think I would have been able to keep going on. So this testimony is also for you great people. I love you so much!

Now it is time for me to start preparing the end of my stay in Lisbon, squeeze in a few more day trips, finish my personal projects and spend time with those dearest to me before my next adventure in Brussels. Saying goodbye to Lisbon will definitely be a challenge for which I need to prepare myself in advance.

Marina’s testimony No.2

Wow, it is incredible how time flies!
At professional level, I have been able to get to know the children and youngsters of the association and also deepen the way the association works with them.

This enable me to broaden my perspective and knowledge on the social work. I also had the opportunity to conduct different workshops, one related to the Spanish cuisine where we made a Spanish omelette, and the other one was focused on creating a fanzine. All these experiences made me understand and know better the families in the neighbourhood and their situation.

At formation level, apart from what I am learning daily, I very much like on arrival training, especially because we met a lot of interesting volunteers all over Portugal.
At personal level, up to now, it has been very intense and enriching!

During this time, I had been able to know Portugal and Portuguese culture more deeply. I have the chance to visit different spots in Portugal such as Cascais, Sintra, Arrábida, Covilhão, Évora…! What to say about the amazing portuguese food: sardinhas, bacalhau, polvo, caracóis, bifanas and
entremeadas, pasteix de nata…I have also been lucky enough to enjoy Santos Populares in Lisbon in which I had the great fun and the chance to see a concert of the well-known portuguese singer Quim Barreiros and his popular pimba songs. I must admit to be impressed by the lyrics of the songs.

In these 8 moths ahead, I would like to visit, try and enjoy all the Portuguese treasures, while
learning throughout this volunteering experience!