My name is Yong. Now I’m 28 years old but I was 24 years old when I participated in long term volunteer project in France.

I was a volunteer in Service Civique program, which is supported by French government. The organization that I worked with is called Citrus. It is in the south of France, about an hour from Toulouse.  

This was my first time living aboard for a year. It was challenging in the beginning. I carried a lot of fears and worries. But once I arrived in the project, I felt much better with a warm welcoming from the staffs and also other volunteers.

About working, we worked together between volunteers and insertion workers. Most of the time, we cleaned or renovated the train station. Apart from this, we also host the groups. When we hosted the group, we worked together and also cooked together. It doesn’t sound difficult but it does. Cooking for a big group of people was one big challenge of our voluntary service. At the end of my volunteering year, I also took part in the workcamp. I led teenagers’ workcamp with 2 more leaders. Workcamp leading helps me a lot to be more patient and flexible at the same time. I experienced a few hard situations and we had learned from them. Moreover, we worked also with teenagers in the village. There was a club named “Bouge Ta Bogue”. We organized some trips outside and also some cultural activities with teenagers.

About living, we lived together in volunteers’ house. There are 3 bedrooms, one for girls, one for boys and another for guests. It sounds simple but not actually. Washing dishes was always our issue. We had a meeting every Friday with our mentor to organize and discuss our daily lives in the house. Imagine living together all the time for a year, it was not easy but in the end, we end up to be really close friends.

After this one year experience, I found myself growing up a lot, for sure not for my physical aspect haha. I had learned how to open my mind for the strangers, how to adapt and compromise when they were hard situations and also how to be confident and make a decision when it needed. I had learned to believe in myself and my abilities. This volunteering experience gave me a chance to learn that voluntary service supports us to discover about the others and (the big part is) to discover ourselves. J   

I am Ayano Minoura, 21  years old, from Japan. I volunteererd for 3 months in Koh Sukorn.

The main activity there was agriculture, especially we did gardening (organic vegetables), harvesting rice, fishing. Besides that we also visited the kindergarten and organised activities for the children. But for me I can say that the biggest task was to learn Thai language actually.

Through my volunteering, I saw a totally different lifestyle from the Japansese one, and it was a really good opportunity for me to rethink about how to live, about my future life. And the biggest thing that I realized was actually that I am a person who prefers to live surrounded by nature, than to live in the city! And now I know how to live more happily!

One of the biggest challenges for me was to learn the Thai language. Since there was no English speaker on that island, I had no choice but to speak Thai! I managed this difficulty thanks to other volunteers’ help. I don’t have a tough mind enough to overcome this by myself.

My best memories – working, learning, living and eating together with the local people, and with other international volunteers. It was so simple life there but at the same time, it was the most happiest time in my life. I surely would recommend anyone to be a volunteer.

My name is Sofia, I’m 21 and I’m from Portugal.

I volunteered for 2 months in the South of Thailand, in the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. I was living with a self-sustained Buddhist community and helping in the daily-life activities, learning how to cook and plant and a new way of teaching and learning by doing.

In my volunteering I learned that my Occidental lifestyle and way of thinking is way different than Thailand’s, for example. Life is very simple, and there are no extra worries. Thai people are very nice, funny and uncomplicated. I tend to think a lot about a lot of things, for a very long period of time, and I am very impatient. I learned that about myself while living there: because I didn’t really have much to do, I had to reinvent it by myself, without any stimuli. That’s when I realized that when you’re closer to nature and yourself, you tend to be more and more creative, and be curious and handy. Some things I found unpleasing on other people, such as their calmness or slow way of doing things; it only made me realize how I was a rushed person, both physically and mentally. It was a wonderful exercise to get to know myself and my surroundings.

Regarding my challenges, I have a swelling chronic condition that became worse in Thailand, because of the heat and humidity. It was a little bit hard to handle, which sometimes led to tears and frustration. But I tried to pull myself up every single day because I knew I was living a once-in-a-lifetime experience and even after all those ups and downs, I realized a lot of things internally that I want to see changing.

One of my brightest memories was from one day when I was very bored and decided to take off a neighbours’ bicycle for a 3-hour ride around the village. I walked through places with beautiful and nice people working and resting, kids playing with what the nature gives them, dogs, huge spiders on their nets on the lightning points… Until I reached a pathway near a river by our house with plants all over from different species. And I felt so free that day, so enchanted, so… alive! That I just thanked every living being, and whoever created it, for being so perfect. This volunteering was very different from what I was expecting, but it was so raw, so natural… It was the best decision I ever made.

I was deployed in a small Muslim village of Kokpayom in southern Thailand, near seawater channels surrounded by mangrove forests. The main host organization, Dalaa, has made a long-term commitment to the village with an emphasis on education, lifelong learning, community development and environmental conservation.

It was my first field experience in Asia. Despite cultural differences, the hospitality of the local community has made us feel at home from the very beginning. Over the past six months, I have had the opportunity to work with local people and organizations and visit other project sites in different parts of southern Thailand. It gave me a good overview of rural development and how local communities can mobilize to be more active.

As an EU development volunteer, I had the opportunity to work on different initiatives of the host organisation and to improve my professional skills and knowledge by gaining valuable field experience. My work was mainly focused on education and community development.

I helped the host NGO develop more effective networking activities so that it could build stronger and more sustainable partnerships. One of my main tasks has been to help the NGO develop a more strategic partnership with the local community college, with the aim of promoting and supporting inclusive education, lifelong learning for better opportunities and community development. The two organizations are in the process of finalizing a memorandum of understanding that will formalize the partnership.

This was an excellent opportunity to put my professional expertise at the service of the local NGO to identify the needs of the community by developing the pilot phase of the Kokpayom community needs and strengths assessment and training local volunteers in this tool. The initiative for such a comprehensive assessment was the first of its kind for the community, as previous research was not so broad in scope and did not target the entire village population. The host NGO is now familiar with the evaluation tool and will use it again in the next phase of the evaluation in January 2019. The results of this project would help the NGO to improve its activities and programmes so that they can reach even more people in the village, meet the real needs of the community and provide new opportunities for learning, personal growth and development. In addition, the evaluation will contribute to the dissemination of local knowledge and skills and capacity building as the trained local volunteers (high school and university students) who helped conduct the survey will share this knowledge with their peers. The results of the pilot phase confirmed the credibility of the NGO and its key role in community development and empowerment.

One project that I fully accepted and worked on with great pleasure was related to children’s education and girls’ empowerment. I had the opportunity to teach in local schools and become familiar with the local education system. We also organized extracurricular activities to engage children and youth and encourage them to become active members of their communities. The village has created a new “Girls’ Club” whose activities are developed thanks to the creativity of the girls and more and more children are expressing their interest in joining it.

What I consider to be the most rewarding part of my volunteer experience is the opportunity to work closely with the local community, to have direct contact with it, to interact and learn from each other. Through the EU Aid Volunteering, I have seen how the local community is mobilising to meet its needs with local resources, and I have had the opportunity to help them in this process in order to increase their resilience. The hospitality and kindness with which the local population welcomed the volunteers contributed to the success of the deployment project and motivated me to pursue my professional development in this field.

Petya Koleva, Bulgaria

 

 

My name is Echansi. I was honored to spend 13 months in People’s Theater in Germany, as a volunteer, from to 2018.

The volunteers in this organization are doing interactive theater at a public school. That means we play a show showing a conflict in front of a class of students. When the conflict reaches the climax scene, we stop the play and discuss with the audience about what happened and how the conflict could have been prevented. Then the audience gets the chance to try out their own ideas and solutions.

Though this experience I learned to act in the theater; well, it sounds easy but actually isn´t, not at all, especially for me, a person that is not so confident to act in front of the audiences. Acting in many roles as well as learning the scripts in German language was challenging. My involvement in acting with the team also gave me chance to express myself in the discussions about the observed conflict, and to take part together in looking for the possible solutions for conflicts, both for the theater scenes and also in real life.

Working in a big group of people of different ages, backgrounds, personalities also taught me to be more tolerant, open-minded and open-hearted, responsible and, most importantly, patient. There were many incidents, conflicts and dramas along the year that I spent in Germany. All of these taught me a lot about how to survive and adapt.

Last but not least, I am very satisfied with my 13 months of long-term voluntary service in Germany. I would like to say thank you very much to DaLaa Thailand for this great experience.