When it comes to volunteering projects, there are many successful stories we can tell: certainly, Maria’s story is one of them. Maria left for a volunteering project in Cyprus in February 2020 due to a lucky change of plans. The project she had been selected for was due to start in March 2020, but the hosting organisation in Nicosia decided to move it up. If the project had not been brought forward by a month, the pandemic would have most likely blown Maria’s plans and the story we tell today would have been different. It’s for sure a sign of destiny, isn’t it?
Thanks to the volunteering project, Maria lived in Cyprus for 9 months, which turned into 12 months and then magically turned into almost 2 years, still ongoing! During these two years we all experienced the pandemic, which Maria lived through in Cyprus. The pandemic certainly upset the balance, created new dynamics and dilated even more these two years of full immersion in the Cypriot life.
Maria tells us that she chose Cyprus for the project, rather than for the place where she was going to live. It was, in fact, her second volunteering experience abroad (the first project she had participated in was in the Czech Republic) and she was looking for a project that reflected what she wanted and wants for her future: to work in an NGO. The project at Politistiko Ergastiri Ayion Omoloyiton gave Maria the opportunity to experience first-hand the work of an association working in the cultural and youth sector. From the very beginning, Maria supported the activities of the association, which works in two main fields: European projects for young people and cultural events for the local community. As a result, she was able to gain experience in the coordination of volunteering projects (mainly short-term), seminars and also in the organisation of events and activities for the community.
Although Maria chose the project and not the place, Cyprus fascinated her deeply. As she tells us, she left without knowing much about Cyprus and landed on a small island with an important, delicate and still very controversial history: Cyprus is a nation divided by a border that divides its own capital in half. A border which, Maria says, creates a palpable duality in the identity of its inhabitants. It was in Nicosia that Maria found her dimension and began to build her Cypriot life on tiptoe, with the utmost respect and curiosity for the world she was entering.
At the end of the 12 months of volunteering, as it always happens in this kind of experiences, Maria was not only able to make many new friends (who were also her family during the months of lockdown due to the pandemic), but also had the opportunity to learn a lot and to grow professionally. Because yes, volunteering projects are a perfect opportunity to grow professionally as well. She felt she was ready to start working in the non-profit sector and her hosting organisation took the chance and offered her the possibility to work with them thanks to a European Solidarity Corps project in the Job sector.
These two years outside Italy have been a transformative experience, as every journey out of our comfort zone, whether long or short, really is. Maria is ready for all the experiences that await her in the future, because one thing is certain: now that she has left, she has no intention of going back, at least not for now! In her own words, ‘there is only one life and if we don’t throw ourselves into it, we cannot appreciate all its beauty!’