Today with us we have one of the ESC volunteers doing her project at the Red Cross of Pesaro and she will remain here in Italy for nine months. Thanks to her, we will try to describe the ESC world more closely, starting from her own experience so far, because there is nothing better than hearing directly from the volunteers that take part in this amazing journey. Yaiza, welcome, and thanks for giving us the opportunity to interview you.
So, Yaiza, how did you know about this opportunity of volunteering?
To tell the truth I knew about it thanks to one of my friends who did it already a few years ago and advised me to do it. At that moment I was living in Asturias and so I put myself in contact with an association that works there and that takes care of the orienteering and of all the bureaucracy, the Conceyu de Mocedà de Gijòn.
Which new side of you are you discovering?
I am learning a lot about myself. Before I came here I was totally busy living day by day without really being aware of what I really wanted or about what really makes me happy. This experience makes you reflect on important topics like that. I am discovering new ways of living. You can meet people from different countries with different ways of living and that makes you realize that there isn’t only one option, but many. Another aspect is to be conscious that this experience will end, so I appreciate every detail, and I live with intensity every moment and that made me understand that it is important to live the present. On the other part, in this project of volunteering you live with people of different generations, a thing that usually does not happen, and it lets you understand that everybody can give you a lot more of what you thought.
How are you fitting in Italy? Did you find huge differences with your country?
Italy is offering me a lot of beautiful things… It is a country full of colours, nature, joyful people, very rich in terms of gastronomy, gorgeous landscapes, picturesque streets. I feel really good here and I like to see myself involved in this environment.
I live in a close nation, but it is certain I did not know more more about Italy apart from the fact that you eat pasta and pizza, so I realized that we have a lot of things in common, but also things that make us different. For example, little things like the way of greeting someone, the culinary culture, the way of courtesy, the way of gesticulating while talking, and other more deep things like the health system, the education system. Then to talk about a substantial difference of the role of the woman in the society, for example in some jobs where women do not even enter, or about the street harassment, which reminded me of the Spain of the ‘90s.
What are you bringing to the Red Cross of Pesaro?
In our volunteering project, we have the opportunity to create a personal project. You can develop an idea that may help the hosting organization or the society in general. Thanks to my background in psychology I am trying to show how stress can affect our daily life, (it is more than you can imagine, believe me!). My project includes also a practical side that can help people to manage stress situations. First, I will interview the volunteers to get to know how they manage stress in their daily life and, from that point, I will create content applied to their job. Apart from this activity I would like to give my positive attitude, my participation and my time.
Which advice will you give to people that want to experience volunteering?
Simply be yourself, don’t forget why we are there and try not to lose focus. Being a volunteer implies, in the majority of cases, escaping your comfort zone. You will go, for example, to live in a country with a different culture, with a different climate, you will taste food you never eat at home. You will do jobs you do not know or that you know just a little. You will meet people that do not speak your language or that are completely different from you in their behaviours. And it does not have to be necessarily from another country. They can be from your same city and still behave differently. Do not hold anything back. Take every second like a moment of learning. There is not only one truth, but lots of them. And you know what? Each of them has to be respected. It is like being on a rollercoaster of emotions and so it is very important you let them flow without leaving them stuck inside.
Finally, I will say that it is important to have a good balance between the activities you do with the other volunteers and the things you do for yourself. Most of all you have to enjoy everything. Every second. Every minute. Every hour of your experience. Enjoy the time while you are doing the activities, but not only while you are working. Enjoy the people you will meet. Take advantage of every experience, every moment, every anecdote. You will meet people who will become your friends for life. Do not create problems in your head that are not necessary. Do not limit yourself. Enjoy.
Do you think this opportunity is making you grow at a personal level?
Without any doubt. This opportunity will give you a lot of things at a professional level, linguistic abilities, handling crisis, but mostly at a personal level. You will meet again yourself, a trip of self knowing that will make you grow a lot.
How are you fitting into the Red Cross? Do you like the activities there?
The Red Cross does an important job for the community and for that I feel very lucky to have this opportunity and to collaborate from the inside. The activities that we do are related to social environment: we work with elderly people from a residential home and we cooperate with an association that works with people affected by Alzheimer. Then we work with autistic children, families in economic need, people living in the streets. There are various activities and I can learn a lot from each of them.
If you had to describe with a word your European Volunteering experience, what would it be?
Growth, because every day I learn something new. This is supposed to be a big learning experience and in the end a big growth. I was curious, so to add more, I asked the same question, in a casual way, right now, to the other four volunteers that are here with me and their answers were intense, intensity, dynamic and amazing.
To a more personal level, I would describe it with the word gratitude because every day that I wake up and say “Buongiorno Pesaro” from my window I always think thanks, thanks and thanks. I feel really grateful for everything that I am experiencing during this volunteering project. I can see the branches of my tree growing and growing. All the beautiful people that I am meeting, what they are giving to me, and the options that I only see now for when all of this will end.
Have you had or are you having difficulties inside your project?
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I thought I was a person that can adapt easily and that can be very confident, but I am not and it is one thing I learnt. I have to admit that when you cannot express yoursef fluently in a foreign language, it can affect you a lot: it causes you lots of stress and this caused me also some health problems. There were lots of moments in which I would have liked to express my feelings, give my opinion, but I felt very limited in doing so, because of the language problem that only increased my insecurities. Here everything you live, you live it with intensity. A whole life represented in a short time. People coming, people going, euphoric moments, sad moments, melancholic ones. Also, while you are here living your “paralel life”, the other life that you left in your country keeps going on, things happen to your family, to your friends, and you have to accept it in the best way possible. There will be days when you will feel frustrated, your loved ones will be missed, and days where you will feel overwhelmed by outside events that you cannot control. It can also happen, not my case, that what you were hoping for does not happen. But do not feel down, even from failures you can learn. As the last thing, I will add that you will live with other volunteers in one house: each of them with their own habits, their own routines, and you with yours, so you will need to adapt with the ones of the others.
To conclude, why should everybody try this foreign volunteering experience?
This experience is the best of my entire life. I recommend it 100%. The opportunity that you can live is unique.
I recommend to all of them that they want to discover themselves, know people, learn a new language, or simply escape from their comfort zone to see from another perspective and so to know which can be the next step in their life. But I believe that after this interview the motives have been well expressed.