In this article I would like to share my thoughts regarding my ESC experience between October 2020 and May 2021, in Savona, Italy. About a month ago I was six months enrolled into the program and was having a fabulous time with my colleagues. The emotions and the excitement have settled in, so now I am able to better reflect upon my experience.
Saying an early goodbye to the amazing crew in Savona was bittersweet: I was sad because my program came to an end, but at the same time I was happy, because thanks to my experience there, I found an exciting next step, as a legal caseworker in Greece, which I greatly enjoy.
The past half year has been filled with many joyous moments. I was able to spend six amazing months in Savona surrounded by six beautiful people from France, Portugal, and Spain. Our duties as volunteers were diverse: this program in Savona is truly great because volunteers have the chance to try out many different areas related to social services and humanitarian assistance, and you can select the projects you want to participate in long term. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to work with refugees, and Claudia, our wonderful coordinator helped me to organize my days accordingly. I had to split my time between two refugee centers, and I would like to believe that I was able to make a small but significant difference in these postings.
At the refugee center, I was fortunate enough to meet with a group of like-minded people, whose dedication I found extremely inspiring. Thanks to them I was able to learn to succeed better in my professional life. Engaging with refugee communities helped me to enhance my social and communication skills while reflecting upon my future. Spending six months with asylum seekers and refugees, I also became aware that our attitude as workers at the refugee center is the exception. There is a general lack of information and assistance being provided to asylum seekers and refugees as they have to navigate the complex and frustrating process of seeking asylum in a foreign country. Combining this experience with my background in law enabled me to join another fantastic team of caseworkers in Thessaloniki, Greece, who provide free legal advice to asylum seekers and refugees coming from Asia and Africa who truly need and deserve someone to be fighting their corner.
Apart from working with refugees, I tried other activities as well: I taught English to native Italians, I studied Italian, learned how to plant vegetables, spent time with disabled kids, and prepared food in a soup kitchen. I have to say I only tried about 30 % of the activities Progetto Cittá and Caritas offers to their volunteers. However, I don’t mind it since I had known my area of interest from the beginning of the program.
We also knew from the beginning that because of the Coronavirus, this is not going to be an ordinary ESC experience. During lockdown and quarantine time, we couldn’t leave the apartment for many weeks. However, we found a way to cope with it: I am sure that all women close to 30 would understand that deep cleaning and decluttering an apartment where more than 30 volunteers had lived during the past 10 years can make you feel satisfied. Watching Home Edit during lockdown clearly paid off.
My general advice to a potential volunteer is, if you are brave enough to step out of your comfort zone, and eager to gain new skills, learn, enhance your employability chances, and build your international profile as well as your network of friends, then an ESC experience is the right call for you. It is that rare work experience which is actually a bundle of experiences that encompasses many fields. When I started this project in autumn 2020, I was expecting a multi-cultural and diverse journey, but I never expected to feel such a fulfillment and gratitude at the end of it. I was extremely fortunate to meet people from many different backgrounds, to build friendships with them, and to have them share their knowledge with me. I feel lucky that in my current post in Thessaloniki, I am able to prolong this experience.
PROGETTO CITTA is a social cooperative, a non-profit organization, which aims to develop projects and implement interventions aimed at providing answers to the needs of the territory. Since 2013 Progetto Città has welcomed many young Europeans, from Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and Hungary, with long-term projects (12 months) of European Solidarity Corps (former EVS).
ESC4ESC volunteering project
Date: November 2020 - May 2021
Volunteer: Dorottya Rozgonyi