Here’s the thing...
I love books and nature. In wintertime my life can be 90% books, then in summer, it can be 90% nature. I love apples and music; I love throwing myself into activities where my interests complement each other. I am always so grateful when life gives an opportunity to share my love with others, either writing about it or talking to people directly. I love when something I do is useful and meaningful to others.
But here is one more thing...
I am always the last person in the group to send a report. I remember when I was in school, studying and learning would come to me naturally and effortlessly, but I would always take extra time working on exams and essays, and I often was the last one in the classroom to finish. It’s not because I was the laziest one, it’s just because I wanted to use that time to perfect my work. I even tend to overthink and overcomplicate things when I want to perfect them, to the extent that I might quit something before even starting.
It won’t happen this time though!
Today is December 18th, and less than two weeks left until the end of this year. I have started writing this article weeks ago, right after the project was over. I had an urge to write my thoughts down multiple times but never went further than describing the emotional impact the project thing had on me. I am an emotional person, yes, what’s more when some people tend to feel relaxed regardless of what comes their way, I am almost always in one of two opposite states of mind, I’m either anxious or thrilled and happy. It’s not always easy to cope with my excitement, hence I didn’t finish this article the same day I started it. I was too excited, the experience was so new, and memories were fresh that I needed some time to think about what and how to write. I care about my writing; I care for people. And for that reason, I want it to be perfect because in my head perfection equals value to the reader, but perfection is just an idea in my head. Most of the time it has nothing to do with reality. And I figured out that not only perfect, even good enough writing can have a huge impact on someone’s life.
Hey! I’m Tina!
I’m 26 years old and I was a volunteer in a short-term project “The Fruit of Solidarity” which took place in Veliki Žitnik, and Sumartin, Croatia from the 15th to the 28th of October 2020. In this article, I will share my experience in European Solidarity Corps volunteering activities and give the reasons why work for the local communities is a unique opportunity to be involved in promoting solidarity. So many situations happened before I could officially take part in the European Solidarity Corps project for the first time as a volunteer.
I’ll start from the beginning.
I was born and brought up in the countryside, from an early age I got used to country life with open space, fields, cows, and sheep. As a child, I always helped my parents with work on a farm. I had my duties, such as helping with planting the vegetable garden during the spring season; maintaining the fruit garden while on summer break; harvesting crops in the autumn to prepare for the coming winter. Life in the countryside helped me understand where food comes from. It has also developed life skills, such as raising food, working hard, communicating, caring for others, and enjoy the simple things in life. I remember being a child and visiting houses in my village where older people lived, and I would help them work at their cottage.
I was volunteering before I even knew the word for it!
Of course, the reason to volunteer for a ten-year-old child is different from now. I was more than happy to help for a basket of pancakes that a lovely old lady from my neighbour's house made for me as a “thank you” for the little work I did. I loved when people praised me, and even more, I wanted to help and make their life easier.
My genuine concern for others was a key motivator for me to help without expecting anything in return. I would find myself receiving much more, in the form of happiness, understanding others, and thankfulness for all that I have and can share with others. “Sharing is caring” was a slogan for the Latvian participants in “The fruit of solidarity”.
The ability to serve others is a core to humanity.
And to serve others in balance with nature and the environment was my dream, which I felt originated from deep parts of my soul, and it reflected my wish for as long as I could remember. After studying environmental engineering and environmental protection at Rezekne Academy of Technologies (RTA) in Latvia, I decided to continue my education with a master's degree. I was interested in learning more about different environmental challenges, including common environmental problems in rural areas. After graduating with a bachelor's degree, meanwhile working on my master's degree, I realised that the formal education wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be. I decided to leave the studies and shortly after found myself travelling around Europe and working in different fields from babysitting, caring for elderlies, and working with animals to working for printing and publishing companies. That’s where you can tell I have a love for books for a long time.
But my life wasn’t all about books and nature. My self-education and personal experience in life shaped my understanding of the importance of volunteer work. I volunteered for The Red Cross in three different countries and worked with The Salvation Army team in The U.K. The main reason for me to volunteer was to do something to benefit others. Working with others in a role that feels like it means something is an important life pursuit. I lived in the U.K. for the last few years before the pandemic hit the world when I decided to come back to my home country and put myself to use where my roots are.
I stayed with my parents in the countryside of southeast Latvia from February until not long ago this year. As I was relocating and acclimatizing, I had to reorient my life and search for a new job while dealing with negative psychological experiences, such as a reduction in social contacts and social isolation. In August 2020, I found a graduate job locally, due to “the uncertain times” it was deferred very soon...
...and my first thought was “Where else can I be useful at this time?”
I wanted to find a way to meet new people, do good for others, gain experience, and the very needed joy in life. At that point, I was much more concerned about the sheer joy of being a member of the groups and taking part in the activities than looking for job prospects.
Initially, travelling during a worldwide pandemic seemed unwise (and near impossible!) but the world started to open up again, so have the travel opportunities. And more than ever it was important to choose the right experience and travel responsibly.
In the next article I'm going to tell you how I found my sending organisation and about our Latvian team.
Project "The Fruit of Solidarity" is financed by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.
This publication reflects only the viewpoint of the author.