I went on the road and woke up an European Volunteer
Context (personal, socio-cultural)
I have been in Italy for almost 5 (five ) months, with EVS (European Voluntary Service). When I was 25 years old, I left the table, the house and everything was familiar and confortable to me until that date and just took the plunge/ launched myself into the world. And all this so that I could find confusion, doubt, disappointment, panic, helplessness, unawareness, happiness, balance, amusement, friendship, hope. To be more precise, my experience on EVS is not what I expected/imagined to be, but for sure it offers me everything I need to (re)discover myself.
After I have graduated from University ( Faculty of Social Assistance) and after almost 3 (three) years of volunteering (for human rights LGBTQIA+ ), I found myself exhausted, lacking ideas, energy, will of getting involved and lacking the hope that the things that I can do could make a change. Therefore I thought that a volunteering service (intership) somewhere far from Romania could help me reconsider my future actions and path.
Said and done. I have chosen to come to Italy, in a small town called Bassano del Grappa, located an hour far from Venice. I thought that nothing can be better than la dolve vita italiana (the sweet Italian life) that could heal my soul, with good food, warm people and heavenly landscapes. But, as always, things were more complex than I thought.
Unexpectedly, the small town of almost 45 000 (thousand) people, is a small intercultural conglomeration: local citizens, turists, refugees and immigrants from all over the world (Europe, Latin America, Africa), that live more or less in peace, giving it a sense of cosmopolitanism (cultural openess, universal citizenship). Yet, Veneto region, where the town is located, is one of the most racist regions of Italy; it is reportedly seeking to be separated from the rest of the country.
Pride describes best people from here, as from all over the Italy, every region defines itself as “the best of all”, the Northern region (highly industrialized and modern) is always in opposition with the Southern region (much more libertine and insecure). Furthermore, in order to highlight the importance and the identity (uniqueness), each region has it’s own dialect, therefore when you travel from Napoli, to Veneto, to Sicily, you feel like crossing from country to country.
I don’t know if it is a result (consequence) of the Romanian – Italian “interrelation” (alliance between Romania and Italy), but here the situation isn’t that easy, either. People are also complaining about the lack of jobs, about the high cost of living (expensive life) (about half of the wage represents the costs for the rent and utilities – in fact, most of them live in rented places, because it’s very difficult to buy a house) and about the government “which is not doing anything for it’s citizens” and because of the presence of corruption.
Life as a volunteer EVS
The association where I’m doing my intership/voluntary service is called “Casa a colori” and for almost 25 years they offer their services to those who ask for political asylum in Bassano del Grappa. Their main activity is accepting, counselling and guiding the refugees for gaining their status (of refugees).
More than that, the association has also an afterscool programm, where the children of the refugees, of the immigrants or of the local citizens can receive support for doing homeworks or for any other activity. After 5 (five) months spent with the children, I started respecting more the teachers who can manage to remain focused, calm and tenacious. We have good days and bad days, but in the end we try to support the family when the educational system failed/ let them down. There are parents that bring their children to afterschool programm just to have a few hours of peace, or because they need to go anywhere else but home. There are also parents that teach their own children to read. And also children that come here to seek for a refugee just because they don’t have any friends at school. Some children have bad grades because they don’t understand the lessons and have no courange to ask questions, as they’re scared that the teacher could yell at them.
Another service of the association is a canteen (they call it mensa) where homeless or less fortunate people come to eat. Mensa has a space for 25 people, who can benefit from it only if they are written on the list of the City Hall. Every day, a group of volunteers prepare, serve food and clean afterwards. The association collaborates with some supermarkets, sellers from the market, restaurants, from which they receive the food. Most of the volunteers are old and wanted to spend some of their time helping others. Also there are volunteers from other towns that come because they want to help. This is one of the big differences between the voluntary work from Romania, where the majority of the volunteers are young people, and the one I’ve seen here.
But beeing a volunteer EVS does not mean you only have to work. Social life is a main point, because it is a different way of seeing other cultures.
I live in a (beautiful) flat, located near the center of the town, with an Estonian, also EVS volunteer. Cultural and personality differences can’t be more diverse than this. EVS is like the lottery, from this point of view: you never know who can be your room mate or your fellow worker .
...traveling! It is a thing that is compulsory. Especially if you are in a country like Italy. Bella Italia (beautiful Italy)! Every corner of the street, every alley, every window reveals a visually colored and arhitectural scene. In the big towns (cities), but also in the small ones, you can always find beautiful landscapes filled by the warm sunlight.
As a conclusion
About EVS is so much more to write. But all your experiences and feelings can’t be all described in words. Each experience as a volunteer EVS is different: some can be animal-party, some can meditate more, other can be extreamly sociable and communicative, and others introverted.
Therefore, EVS is an experience you achieve, that you build(you work on it) and it builds (it helps you evolve) you, as well. It is a mutual exchange. You learn to discover as many things you are willing to receive. Although I have still 5 (five) months left, I can for certain say that it is a radically changing experience (If I may).
I truly recommend an volunteering service/intership/project. For me it is a journey in findind balance, inspiration, peace and happiness of living. Everything I wish is for this inner feeling, state of mind to stay with me eternally.