I will start by telling you that not long ago, I was just in the same position as you are right now, reading the blogs of former and current volunteers and wondering at how cool their stories seemed to be. I wished I had their courage to start such an adventure and in the end, well… I did! And now I’m here, writing to you! Unbelievable, right?
I have to tell you, nervousness and uncertainty is part of every new beginning. However, at no point did I feel anxious about coming here. I simply felt this is what I have to do. And I wasn’t disappointed along the way.
I’ve been volunteering in Jugendwerk der AWO Württemberg for ten months already, but God it feels like a lifetime. These people made me feel like home from the very first day. The colleagues from the office, the volunteer’s, the volunteer’s friends, the people crossing by, offering help because I seemed lost (and I was, Stuttgart is an unbelievably big city), all of them welcomed me with a kind smile on their faces, which is still there every time we meet again.
Jugendwerk der AWO is an international, intercultural youth organisations that organises summer and winter camps for children, teenagers and families. It also has projects on topics such as: zero waste, cultural exchange, diversity, art, language exchange or offers seminar for young people (and not only). Its values are diversity, solidarity, equality, freedom, tolerance and justice.
As to what concerns what I am doing here, well, I’m doing a little bit of everything: from taking out the trash, emptying the washing machine and writing birthday postcards, to posting articles on our blog, designing our next poster, cooking traditional dishes, “feeding” our platform with more information every day, sorting out camp materials, classifying invoices and bills (which still gives me headaches every week), taking part to projects and seminars and my favourite part: helping anyone who needs my help. Sometimes, due to the rising Corona cases, some plans get cancelled or we have to work from home for a short period of time. However, Tekla and Aleks, our coordinators, always make sure that we don’t have time to get bored. And let me tell you something: we don’t.
Now, I hope I didn’t give you the impression that all we do is work all day. As you might know, or not, here in Germany people really value their free time, and not only at weekends. In fact, they value it so much that they even invented a word for it – Feierabend, which literally translates party evening, but actually means the free time you have after work. So, by the end of each working day, we are encouraged to make the best of our free time and do the things we enjoy: take part to a workshop, learn a new language, travel, take a walk through the woods, go read in the park, meet with a tandem partner, visit a museum, read, paint or go to a party. And this is one thing I really love about my EVS year: we are encouraged to develop not only professionally, but also spiritually. One has time to explore, discover and learn. And that’s how I started growing plants, reading more, learning the sign language, the HTML and JAVA language, discovering myself and my limits at a theater workshop, visiting castles, swimming in mountain lakes, camping at the bottom of the Alps, meeting people coming from various corners of the world and thinking about alternative ways of how my future could look like.
I’m telling you, this EVS year is one of the best things that happened to me. It is a life changing experience, and not only because you find yourself in a new social and political environment, but also because there are places, experiences and most important – people – that leave a mark on your mind and soul; and you have nothing left but wonder – Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Stick with me along the adventure and I will share with you what I've learned along the way. In my next articles, I will tell you more about life in Germany, projects I take part into, as well as about the insights of a life as a volunteer in Germany.