Volunteering for me is about creating a “change in the minds [and hearts] of men’ by bringing together people of different backgrounds. It serves as a catalyst for dialogue as it provides an opportunity to work together according to each person’s ability and to practice of living together.” www.ccivs.org
Volunteering is a life-long adventure that allows you to meet not only with people from different backgrounds, but through them you meet with yourself, your own soul, your potential, talent, your limits and borders. And what is more important – it gives you a chance to look to the life from the bird’s eye, from a global perspective and you see the world like on a chessboard; you see yourself in a progress – not only what you are now but whom you can become one day; what you can do for others, and how a small step will create a change in the society you work for and in yourself. After having the experience you will never stay the same, you will physically feel the transformation, the change, and as soon you feel it inside it means that the change has started in the outside world as well, and you are a part or (maybe, who knows ?) a cause of it. This is as exciting as challenging, but at some moment you cannot live without it, it becomes a sort of drug, socially accepted one 🙂 .
I was lucky to learn about volunteering at school age, as my mum was working for local government and they organised some local programmes to support orphans and kids with difficult background, and I was always there, as I didn’t have a chance that time to say no :0. Volunteers helped to organize different types of celebrations and were helping to fundraise for those activities, and we were collecting toys and sweets for the orphans. The activities we did were very simple and meaningful at the same time: some games, small talks with kids -it was real fun, but all the rest – I cannot express how I hated it. I didn’t like the fact that we were always bringing toys and other stuff to them – as I could clearly see the consumerism in this approach. Still it was a nice experience, quite alternative to what most of my classmates were having in a free time.
Then, being a student of the second year, I got involved with Nizhny Novgorod Voluntary Service, and I participated in some of the projects as volunteer, and then, I in 2004 I went to my first workcamp in France. At this moment I didn’t know what it is exactly, I just wanted to have a break as I was very tired of studding at 2 universities. Friend of mine did everything for me, and we went to France with the only motivation to get some rest, to have fun and to practice French. Later on I learnt that some of the workcamp organization do no really like this type of motivation:), but I still think it is not that bad if you are open in general for the experience. I was so much amazed with the workcamp of Etudes et Chantier, I even could not imagine what kind of impact this project will have! We were staying in one of the castles that served as rehabilitation/socialization centre for young people with light mental disabilities and behavioral disorders, our task was to support with some works in the castle areas, but not that much with the residents of the castle, but still we were communicating a lot!. And I could see the change both in them and in us. That was amazing how open and sociable they became by the last day of the workamp, and during these days a lot of things changed in us, volunteers, stereotypes were maybe not broken but at list forgotten, everybody was charmed and amazed. My second workcamp, next year, was in French Alps in one of the most picturesque places I saw in my life. That was a truly life-changing experience. This when I decided what I want to do in my life. I still have friends from this workcamp. We were reconstructing the Abbey on the top of the mountain, it was hard, and we didn’t see much sense in this work that time. But I had a chance to visit the place in 7 years after, and this is when I saw the real picture of what we did in 2004 as the building was almost ready. Then I started to work in NNVS, and lately SFERA was established.
SFERA opened amazing opportunities for me, I could go for the international meetings and to see how big and diverse the world of volunteering is, what kind of different values are shown and hidden, how IVS it is dependent, independent and interdependent at the same time; sometimes it was full of paradox, frustration and challenge, but always it was shining with it’s spirit and complexity as true diamond. It was full of ups and downs, excitement and sometimes shocks, it was full of learning at all levels.
Then, working in SFERA, I met first long-term volunteers, I could have a mentorship experience, and this is the time when I started to do trainings for volunteers coming for EVS to Russia. This is the moment when I realized how volunteering and learning, especially lifelong learning are tighted together with a knot of non-formal/informal education. And this is when I could stop and assess what actually I learned for first 2 crazy and intensive years of working in the field of international volunteering. Step by step, I started doing other international trainings, with a support of great teams, somehow I am always lucky meeting right people in the right moment. And in 2007 non-formal education became my main passion and life path. I am happy how now my work is linking everything: personal and professional development, volunteering and global issues such as human rights, participation, inclusion intercultural dialogue and social transformation. I cannot express how grateful I am for the possibility to work with National Youth Council, Youth Department of CoE, Resource center SALTO of Erasmus +, and Selet Foundation which projects changes lives of youth workers and young peoples all over Europe!
Running EVS training cycle on behalf of SALTO EECA I met so many inspiring people, heard thousands of stories, that were influencing me, and the way I felt and the way I worked of course. When one of our volunteers Silvia (from Italy) was organizing a charitable concert to fundraise for the project with kids suffering from cancer I could not hide tears! And there were many volunteers who step by step were transforming the reality around us. They created the change. They became a change. So, I took a decision to go for such experience, but it was hard to find a hosting project as I was quite limited in time and capacities. And this how by chance I got in contact with CCIVS.
CCIVS is huge. It is a big octopus, the king of the see of international volunteering, with many legs trying to connect everyone, and to address the most urgent challenges in the world with volunteering, and to see with many eyes in different directions at the same time in order to balance everything . It is a very big and tough job. And one of the most important ones, and it is purely value-based, at least what I could see being in the office. This organization helped me to see the bigger picture, though I was dealing with a very practical issues.
Another type of volunteering I saw, was while preparation for Universiade in Kazan in 2013, where I was involved as trainer- consultant for training trainers for 20000 volunteers. It opened another side of what volunteering could look like. This experience bring to my life a very important person, whom I can call my best friend, endless source of inspiration and creativity and one of the best trainers I know Anna Feldman.
So, what I can conclude so far about volunteering:
- It is a way to change the world and yourself
- It is a tool for personal development if you are able to assess it afterwards
- It is a link that connects you to the world
- It is way to find really important people
- It is a form of youth participation and a way for social diplomacy and advocacy. It helps you to have a say
- It is a path to sustainable and structural living
- It is a commitment, responsibility and awareness about your own life and lives of others
- It is a source of inspiration and creativity
- It is an opportunity for self-expression and self realisation
- It is intercultural learning
- It is inner peace and peace in the world
- It is fun and adventure
- It is a decision and a choice. Maybe the main one in your life.
- It is a challenge. It helps you to “go out of the box” after of course structuring everything that is in the box so farJ
- It is a dream for better life and better world.
What else I can say? Volunteering is always there. Just go for it! And let your world to turn up side down!
And last but not least, I want to thank, you, all the people, that were and still are with me in this journey, especially all SFERA staff , and Natalia Nikitina as a soul of it, that was always a great source of learning and support, especially when I was doing first steps in the fieled; all partners from Alliance and CCIVS, all my friends and EVS Volunteers, Anna Feldman for inspiration and support, Benito Bernabella for energy and trust, Bogdan Imre, my close friend – for a lot of nice talks, full of meaning and values, Francesco Volpini, director of CCIVS for the opportunity, Jinsu Yom, president of CCIVS for experience and readiness to share, my dear friend Quentin Herada, for a lot of practical instruments I learnt from you, and for introducing Emmaus International, Rita Silva for making my EVS possible, Tomek Szopa and Andrij Pavlovich for support in EVS cycle and other NFE activities, and my actual colleagues from FALCO Group and just borned Academy of Innovation and every of you whom I met, as you left a step in my heart!
So, what is next?
It’s just a right moment4challenge!