Latvia in the heart: Francesco’s volunteering experience

Francesco participated in a six month project in Latvia, from March 9th to September 8th. He was an educator in the kindergarten. He gave assistance to teachers and he made workshops for the children like English lessons, music lessons, etc. He also did some activities in the open air, creating games or simply passing the time with them, even engaging them with some gardening. And now we directly hear from his words.

-G: Hi Francesco, thanks for being available for this interview. Let’s get started. How did you know about this possibility in Latvia?

-F: Hi yourself Giulia. The pleasure is all mine to be taking part in this interview. I learned about this formative experience of volunteering by word of mouth. I have a friend who lives in Latvia, right near to Gulbene, the little town I lived in the last few months; I said to him that I was looking for an opportunity to live abroad, and at the same time to be helpful to someone else. He talked to me about this chance. I thought about it a little and then… I left!

G: What pushed you to leave, considering the difficult times we are under ?

-F: Well, as I partly told you in the previous answer, the sense of collectivity, the desire to be able to help and my personal initiative, pushed me to start this project, despite the worst period and the forced closure during those particular months affected everyone lots, on every level. 

-G: What were your expectations for this adventure ? Have they been satisfied ? Or did you discover new ones?

-F: I didn’t have particular expectations. I was searching for an experience that could value my abilities and my desire to be at disposal of others. Moreover, the project was really exciting. It mixed the education and the attention towards children from kindergarten and the care for the environment around us: a big garden connected with a little green house where there are some species of plants (flowers, fruit trees and vegetables).

G: How was the impact of being in a place completely different from yours?

-F: The climate indeed. It was the first change I had to get used to, because I arrived in Latvia during March and it was -20°. The situation was really icy, but on the other hand the house where I lived was really warm during that period of time. Then, as it likely can happen, living in a little town there, people were practically closed off and discreet, but luckily there were some exceptions!

G: Did you encounter any difficulties? If yes, which one?

-F: I had some difficulties with the social aspect of the town. It wasn’t really easy at the start, but then I met some people that got a place in my heart and thanks to them also, I could continue this experience.

G: Surely in those six months some things might have happened to you that remained engraved in your mind. Do you have some anecdotes to tell us? Or a significant moment?

-F: I don’t have an anecdote to tell you, but surely one of the most significant things of this project were the smiles of the children I worked with: each smile of theirs; I think it is one of the most beautiful and sincere things that there can be, really!

-G: Do you think you gave a significant contribution?

-F: I hope so! It is a question to which I cannot answer with absolute certainty, but without a doubt I gave my best self and that is what really matters and that remains at the end of every experience.   

-G: What did you take with you in your luggage coming back? About experience, people you met, etc.

-F: I met a new culture, a different lifestyle, and I got to learn a lot about social experience, education and work too. It was the first time where I was on my own, as a foreigner, to face new challenges and to took part in a project like this where only a few times I faced some problems in my life and in Latvia they made themselves concrete: organize from the start an activity, do some works with medium difficulty with several responsibilities, etc., I also have to say thanks to Vicolocorto association for having accepted the proposal of this ESC project (European Solidarity Corps) that without their collaboration I couldn’t have experienced this adventure, thanking in particular Carolina for her precious help.  Nonetheless I thank also the hosting organization Auseklitis of Gulbene for all the dedication shown in welcoming me and integrating me  in this new reality; in particular I want to mention my coordinating of the project, Ilze, the director and vice director of the kindergarten, Vija and Marina, the teachers Agnese and Anita, and the whole school personnel. 

-G: Would you recommend this adventure? If yes, why?

-F: Absolutely yes. Because Erasmus (or in this case ESC project) opens new horizons and new perspectives for yourself. I hope that more and more young people in the future can engage in this experience, enjoy the advantages and that can enrich their luggage of life.


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