This is the fifth and last article of Tina's experience in her volunteering project in Croatia. The first article of Tina's adventure you can find here.
Solidarity amongst the Generations
How beautiful and powerful it was to have spent one week on the sunny island, interacting with local people, living, eating, and working like them, and sharing all of it with my fellow volunteers at the same time. The life on Brac Island, as we indicated in the short period of one week, is simple, quiet, and peaceful, based on the unique and strong culture and influenced by history and geographical location. It was a special journey, an experience that everyone should live, getting an understanding of life there.
Working with the older generation is one of many ways to help others and improve communication between generations. I think that elderly people are amazing. Hearing the stories, they tell, getting a lesson when they are talking about mistakes they have made in life, or listening about their loved ones or favourite things to do, makes the time spent with the elderly intensely rewarding. And I think it is important to treat older people with care and respect because the older generation can teach youth something that could then be shared with future generation.
I believe that the secret to growth intellectually, physically, socially, spiritually, and emotionally is in helping others grow. Mahatma Gandhi once said,
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.
Any kindness, no matter how small it is, will never be considered a waste. The whole journey was a challenge, as I would find myself doing more than I ever thought I was capable of. And this was a great feeling. I was amazed at how intense life with a group of 30 people can be. Therefore, we wanted to be kinder than necessary because almost everyone we meet is fighting their kind of battle in everyday life. Despite some hard times, we have had the energy and passion to serve the community, and to do small special things for each other every day.
Every challenge is just another opportunity to grow.
It has been difficult sometimes, but profoundly enlightening. It reminded me how therapeutic volunteering can be. Altruism and social connection are key factors motivating people to volunteer. Taking in so much energy from the outside world requires a huge amount of strength, both emotional and physical. Most of us have been giving more than taking, yet never otherwise, we either gave a lot and took just enough to keep our spirits up, or we gave as much as we could take back in.
“Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer”
I am so happy to have participated in “The Fruit of Solidarity” in Croatia with my fellow volunteers and the Outward Bond Croatia team. I have had a unique and unforgettable experience. We played, worked, and even cried together (I cried the most, sensitive old me). We shared our future dreams and past journeys in very precious moments when it felt like I was a part of a special intimate connection that appeared within the group. Just being able to gain these valuable relationships during this short time was unbelievable.
Evening circles! for the sake of solidarity
This so-called act of sharing thoughts about achievements and concerns of the day, from being just a routine meeting became a special time for us when we could openly talk and carefully listen to each other. This unique and very rememberable team activity made me see the world through another person’s eyes; see the same situation from many different perspectives, understanding the reasons one behaves and feels not like the others. It wouldn’t be even nearly possible if we didn’t express ourselves openly and honestly. One can be physically stronger than the others at the same time having the gentlest soul and the softest heart. I cherished and admired everyone’s unique personalities and abilities, for example, one could stay focused and determined in their responsibilities, yet caring and sensitive in interpersonal communication. A group of people becomes a team when they work as a whole organism, where everything is connected and works together. To find solutions to any task or problem we were constantly sharing opinions with the group, and the act of communication among us was as important as blood flow in the human’s body. Some situations would be so unfamiliar that it required us to make decisions looking at things in ways that at any other time we couldn't perceive of. Goals and tasks, we were setting usually require a certain type of knowledge or experience not everybody has, meaning there was always something to learn and try something new. That’s how for the first time in my life it became clear for me that each person has a special talent. To see those talents in people was like stepping on the moon, and surprisingly to myself, I dared to give them genuine compliments.
I wish I expressed adoration and gratitude more!
Expressing gratitude is important. Always! Everywhere!
I am grateful to everyone, who shared their knowledge and experience in food preparation. I love cooking but like anything else when it comes to doing it with and for people of different cultural backgrounds, it can be challenging. As we were supposed to be cooking mostly by ourselves and for ourselves, sometimes it could get rather stressful, taking into account the number of people we had to feed. I was amazed how people were able to prepare remarkable food, using simple ingredients, also taking care of vegetarians and vegans.
As the title states, singing and solidarity always go together. No task in the world can be successfully achieved in a bad state of mind or with a heavy heart and I see music as one of the highest motivators. With the right music, you can do a greater job almost effortlessly even when you thought you couldn’t do better. I want to thank my fellow volunteers for sharing my love for music. I sincerely admire people with good taste in music and a sense of rhythm. I was taken away when someone would play exactly the right music, feeling the mood of a whole group and translate the mood into the music. People performing their traditional dances or enthusiastically making up a song by purely improvising. We were like true artists and not in the traditional sense of painting or writing. No wonder why creative people chose to live in the moment because their true strengths lie in the fact that they are happy in who they are and can express themselves freely. Creativeness at a workplace gets people involved and socialising, when working hard for five hours straight in the heat or under the cold heavy rain, once you hear someone humming a traditional song it’s like having somebody cuddling you with their voice.
Singing in everyday life is a gracious and rewarding thing to do, it’s a way of living, no matter what to stay positive and open. Not only approaching work with music and dance improved our group spirit, but it also encouraged us to embrace the moment. Sense of humour, clear mind and kindness helped improve our communicating skills, developed a good attitude and sense of belonging, made us believe in ourselves, and understand others by relating to them and giving them a chance to care without expecting anything in return. That’s how solidarity influenced us and forced us to grow and learn from each other, either we expected it or it came as a surprise.
No internet – no problem
Speaking about surprises... going back to the beginning of the project, when we just arrived at Outward Bound educational centre, we were slightly worried and concerned about the internet connection and network, as neither of them worked properly. After a day or two we realized that that was not a challenge or loss, the other way round, we gained from it, having to improvise, learn and discover things in real life from real people. Even though the current situation in the world is extremely serious and uncertain, and it may sound careless, but it was good to spend some time without having access to world news and concerns. Especially, in a journey like this, having no outside influences helps make your true potential shine brighter!
I started this program thinking I would learn valuable new things about non-formal education through different principles and practices. I was hoping that the world of volunteering would open up more. Participating in different activities, exchanging experiences within the multicultural volunteering team and learning from each other, and just generally creating a larger understanding around the topic of solidarity. I would never have expected to learn so much in just two weeks, from strategies and approaches for teamwork improvement, to problems and opportunities around the social context and how to improve myself. I also would not have expected to change my opinions and values around the travelling and European Solidarity Corps volunteering opportunities during the world’s crisis. I now understand better the complex and responsible work that non-profit organizations in the non-formal education sector do. I have become much more appreciative of organisations and projects successfully implementing youth mobility, non-formal education, volunteering, and solidarity.
The most meaningful thing for me personally was the strengthened spirit within the volunteering team. The positive impact we as individuals had on each other was evident. We very quickly became a team, a whole original community - sharing ideas about areas for improvement, supporting each other, building friendships in many cases. This project opened my eyes to the needs of the community, while making a positive impact and empowering myself to better my own life. Many valuable life lessons can be learned from volunteer work, which in my opinion is a civic duty for everyone. This volunteering experience allowed me and the others to engage with people, whose paths would not have met otherwise.
Stay kind, caring, and grateful for others!
I am endlessly thankful for “The fruit of Solidarity”:
to Outward Bond Croatia team, especially executive director Lovorka Šimunec, project manager Tamara Lipnjak, instructor Marko Lukačević, and long-term volunteers Elvira, Venessa, Juan, and Edi. For being professional, patient, protective, and inspirational;
to Radi Vidi Pats team, especially project manager Stanislavs Babins and volunteering and project manager Linda Ulane for encouragement and support;
to all my fellow volunteers, including Pamela, Nick, Marita, Nikita, Rasa, Vincas, Susana, Monica, Tia, Ioanna, Giannis, Billy, Marlena, Marcin, Raul, Joan, Ariadna, Elvira, for all the teas, songs, hugs and laughter!
to Veliki Žitnik and Sumartin local communities, especially Vinko, Andro, Tomas, and Mike, for all the wisdom and traditional food!
to the European Solidarity Corps and all those people without whom this project would not have been possible.
Project "The Fruit of Solidarity" is financed by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.
This publication reflects only the viewpoint of the author.