This is the second article of Tina's experience in her volunteering project in Croatia. The first article of Tina's adventure you can find here.
How I found my Supporting Organization
I did some research about organisations working with young people outside the formal education sector in Latvia. I figured out that it’s not a common thing in Latvia, and not as widely recognized and used here as in other European countries. I was determined to know more and thanks to one of my friends I learned about a Non-Governmental Organization in Liepāja, Latvia, called "Radi Vidi Pats" which if translated means "Create the environment yourself ”. Its main activities are ESC projects, youth exchanges, and training about a sustainable lifestyle. I decided to go to Liepāja and meet them in person. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to spend two days in Liepāja and meet the co-founder of “Radi Vidi Pats” and learn about the universal validity of non-formal education first-hand.
That day I felt like a piece of the puzzle I was lacking for many months suddenly fall into the right place. So, I decided to get a well-needed change in life, and make a positive impact in another part of Europe at the same time!
I have been volunteering for other organizations in different communities before, but it was the first European Solidarity Corps project. I chose the organization important to me. With the beautiful and heartening moment of self-realization to make a change, comes a more de-motivating feeling of “how to do that”. Volunteering is a broad term that can be complicated or simple. It includes everything from cooking and caring for homeless people to picking up trash. There are needs everywhere, but sometimes it is difficult to know where to start, especially when you relocate your life. Thanks to the “Radi Vidi Pats” team, this question soon didn’t bother me anymore and the wheel of exciting events and invaluable experience started to spin. "Radi Vidi Pats" told me about the prospect of volunteer work in the nearest future, I then decided to apply for the short-term project “The Fruit of Solidarity”. Here, I would be working with the other volunteers, helping with the harvest of apples, rebuilding dry stone walls, and getting to know about the maritime tradition in Sumartin. I thought it could be an opportunity for me to get actively involved in youth organizations and learn mobility activities, which in this particular project would allow me to meet young people from five different countries and live together for two weeks. I also found Croatia an exciting place to visit in terms of cultural, religious, and historical sites, so I also hoped to use the time to explore the beautiful environment.
Meeting the team and planning our trip
The next step to becoming a volunteer for me was to meet people I was about to travel with and spend two weeks abroad. At our first meeting, we introduced each other and went through the paperwork and main concerns, mostly Covid-19 related. We hoped for the best, though it is always important to be prepared and know the risks. I found out to be a more communicative person than I thought to be through the ease in making friends with my fellow-volunteers whom I had not known before, and I was looking forward to getting to know them better. I was excited to be travelling, living, and working together.
“Radi Vidi Pats” as a supporting organization made the process of booking easy, and a member of the team was always on hand to answer any questions that we had. I registered my interest for the program “The fruit of Solidarity”, and as soon as the border restrictions were eased, the team of the host organization in Croatia contacted me. It happened only a week before the project, and there were no direct flights from Latvia to Croatia. We had to be quick yet sensible in deciding which country to transit through as changes were made every day. Many countries were going into lockdown at the same time while we were planning our journey. It slowed down the booking process, and it wasn’t guaranteed that we’d still arrive in time for the project.
“Radi Vidi Pats” has also made changes in response to Covid-19. Our coordinator deliberately purchased tickets through the travel agency that guaranteed a refund in the event of cancellation.
With over fifteen years of experience in organizing European Voluntary Service projects and the new European Solidarity Corps projects, the team of “Radi Vidi Pats” is one of the most professional organizations in Latvia hosting volunteers from all over the world, creating new projects, and supporting volunteers throughout the project, providing support and advice in all aspects of volunteering.
The first week we would be based in Veliki Žitnik, a small village 7 kilometres away from Gospić, and the second week we would spend in Sumartin on Brač Island. Outward Bound Croatia has a strict safety policy as far as Covid-19 is concerned. We would make sure not to have any symptoms before we leave. We would also get checked before the project starts, and then live for five days in local accommodation when we arrive.
All in all, in terms of my responsible travel, I think that the small village near Gospić and a small island, with additional safety measures, was one of the better calls - and I couldn’t wait to get going!
In the next article I will explain more about our common spirit and arrival in Croatia.
Project "The Fruit of Solidarity" is financed by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.
This publication reflects only the viewpoint of the author.