My name is Lucía, I am from Madrid, Spain, and this year I finished my double-bachelor on International Studies and Political Science. I’ve always believed that it is fundamental that we all take an active role in our communities in order to contribute to the fair and equal development of our society. Thus, after graduating, I decided to make one of my dreamed projects a reality: moving abroad to volunteer. This way, I initiated my adventure in the European Solidarity Corps, which gave me the opportunity to work for seven months in a sociocultural promotion center from Palermo: the Centro TAU.
My main activity at Centro TAU was developing both formal and non-formal education activities with children. Thanks to this experience, I’ve learned how important it is to support children’s empowerment and integral development in order to provide them all the same opportunities regardless of their gender, origin, etc. Also, my volunteer experience has made me even more aware about the great impact that inclusive social projects may have in the lives of people, especially for those coming from less advantageous socioeconomic backgrounds.
Volunteering in a foreign country has also given me the opportunity to travel around Sicily and discover its incredibly rich culture and history, its natural beauty, and its lively spirit. Hiking the Etna or at Riserva dello Zingaro, listening a music concert at Teatro Massimo, dancing at Vucciria, enjoying delicious Sicilian typical dishes, or swimming in the most beautiful coves I’ve ever seen, are some of the great experiences I will never forget.
But above all, the greatest gift that this volunteering experience has given to me it’s, without doubts, the amazing people I’ve meet. The best part of this experience has been to share it with people from all around the world, from whom I’ve learned so much and with whom I’ve shared unique and special moments together.
In sum, I really recommend participating in ESC volunteering projects to all the young Europeans that want to life a new and different experience but, above all, that want to be part of the change that we want to see in the world. You won’t regret!
When I became a volunteer in Romania, I didn't think that my future plans would turn out differently than I imagined before. I sought to get out of the monotony, and seeing how many opportunities young people can have, I decided to choose the right project for me from the European Solidarity Corps. Thus, at this moment, I am in wonderful Sicily, in the city of Palermo at the end of my volunteering project in Associazione InformaGiovani
It's already been seven months since my favorite phrase is "non parlo italiano", seven months full of challenges and beautiful memories, even if that may sound cliché. I had the opportunity to discover both the Sicilian culture and the people here who made me feel less homesick.
The experiences lived here are very diverse, from a workcamp held at the monastery where I learned to cut trees, preparing the camps for team-volunteering projects, informing young people about their opportunities in Europe to the so-called office work.
I have tried to offer a little of the knowledge I have accumulated in the past, but of course I learned from every opportunity that this project brought to me. I can say that together with my colleague Maxime, we had a marathon of ESC projects facilitating workshops in the volunteering teams.
My experience in Sicily was shaped by the people I met here, some wonderful persons who encouraged me in this whole adventure.
One thing I heard very often during this period was that I am a brave person for deciding to take part in such an experience, at only 18 years old. For me, it wasn't courage, it was a well-calculated decision and a desire to explore, which I've had since I first learned about the European Solidarity Corps.
This project was like an open book, that made me want to discover every chapter. What I like the most here is that every month I have the opportunity to meet, through the workcamps I attend, young people from all over the world who have chosen to be actively involved in the community.
I realized that every project or activity matters. In Italy I was able to take advantage of the knowledge I gained in high school, following my participation in the EPAS program. Thanks to that experience, I managed to create activities for young people in Sicily, about the European Union.
Of course I had unlimited support from my flatmates, a multicultural space, where you can hear six different languages every day.
All this is part of the charm of the volunteer experience.
At the beginning of this experience, I focused more on professional development and on the skills I can acquire here, but I consider that my development took place more on a personal level. I learned things about myself, finding myself in a new context, creating a new life from scratch.
Sicily and especially Palermo is a special place for me, where I will return with every opportunity.
Ciao! Mi chiamo Luís, ho 27 anni e sono nato a Vila Nova de Famalicão, una città nel Nord del Portogallo.
I arrived in Sicily in mid-July to carry out a 6-months ESC project with a local NGO, Associazione I Girasoli Onlus that provides assistance to refugees / asylum-seekers. After arriving in Catania, I moved to Riesi, a small town in the countryside where the refugees’ reception centers were located and where I lived and worked during my project.
I have always been interested in intercultural activities and volunteering. In the past I took part in several national and international projects in these areas and the idea of one day being able to participate in a long-term volunteer project in another country was always on my mind. The opportunity to participate in this project came at the right moment of my life, so I applied and was selected.
The beginning of my project was quite challenging because I was the only volunteer working there and I needed to adapt to new cultures: the Italian/Sicilian one and all the others from the refugees’ countries. Nevertheless, I quickly got used to the new reality and the warm welcome I received allowed a smooth integration in the project and in the community.
My work as a volunteer went through different phases as the people were changing, as well as the needs and the support granted by the NGO. Although I often was required to adapt and to find my role within the project, this was also an opportunity to know better the work performed by the NGO and to know new persons and carry out different activities.
During the first month of my project, I attended the Italian lessons provided by the NGO in a refuge center for young adults, participated in some activities organized by them and met families of refugees also receiving support from the NGO. That was also a period with some summer festivals in Riesi where I was introduced to the rich culture of Sicily.
After the opening of a new refugees’ center for unaccompanied minors, I started working also there by promoting and assisting in the organization of recreational activities, supporting in the maintenance of the center and participating in several excursions and events about integration and human rights.
During my ESC project I also had the chance to visit different places in Italy and in Sicily and to live incredible experiences, such as running the Palermo half-marathon, climbing the Etna volcano, tasting the amazing Sicilian cuisine, watching the Opera dei Pupi, seeing the sunset from the Valle dei Templi, watching an Italian opera show in the Greek theater of Taormina, riding a bike in Via Appia Antica in Rome and so many others.
This experience fulfilled all my expectations and was very enriching. I made new friends, learnt more about other cultures and different ways of life and I feel I contributed to something meaningful.
The Language of Compassion
Hello! I’m Saadet from Turkey and I’m 23 years old. I graduated from molecular biology and genetics last year in Bursa, Turkey.
I wanted to go abroad after graduation through ESC and do something else besides my major. I wanted to apply my hobbies, skills and increase my creativity in a project. In addition, I wanted to discover the culture and go out of my comfort zone. I especially chose a project related to children. I always dreamed of working with children to understand their idea of the world and be useful for the human future by contributing to their education.
During my service, I was teaching playing guitar to the children. Also I was playing games, dancing with them, helping with their English homework. My best moment was when we were dancing in the dance room and suddenly a few children started to hug me and invited me to dance. Then we made a circle and danced crazily with the children. Also I was a child at that moment. I felt their compassion for me. Even though I couldn’t speak Italian and we couldn't understand each other, while dancing, smiling and hugging we could get it easily that we liked each other with children. Thus I understood that love or happiness has no language, you can just feel it anyway, anywhere…
My difficulty was language, sometimes hard to integrate some activities about discussion, etc. I was more of a listener and observer during those times but I took advantage of that and while listening people, try to learn and take some notes on common expressions in Italian. Then I started to use those basic things in Italian while teaching playing guitar to children. That was the funniest part, to be honest. Sometimes children were correcting my Italian and sometimes I was correcting their English. We were having fun during these conversations.
I strongly recommend ESC to young people. This is the best thing you can do in your twenties. If you want to discover people, countries, and yourself and make new friends from all around the world. Furthermore, if you want to belong to society and get to know your limits just apply to projects that you are interested in and do your best and be part of that great experience.
I’m Maxime, I’m from Belgium and I did an European Solidarity Corps for 7 months in Palermo as a volunteer for “InformaGiovani”.
Even though my grandparents are from Sicily, it was the first time that I came here. I had this strange feeling of being in another country with a very different culture and at the same time feeling something very familiar. Palermo is like a family reunion with my Sicilian side of the family : loud and chaotic but warm and passionate.
Working in the office of InformaGiovani, with my colleague Iasmina (another volunteer from Romania) part of the job was administrative but this was far from being the case all along. With projects organized all around Sicily, I had the chance to discover different places through the work; going there to implement workshops and facilitate activities.
I had the opportunity to be team leader for a work camp in a monastery. At first, staying for two weeks in a monastery didn’t look very attractive but this gave me the chance to meet the monks in their everyday life, sharing meals.
Our task was to clean up their garden (which looks more like a forest) and we did that with one of the monks called Don Riccardo. Don Riccardo is a very fun young guy far from the stereotype I had on a “typical monk” before going there. Most of the monks were open minded and really nice.
I had some knowledge of italian but I didn't really ever speak it. Working and living in an international environment, the language I spoke the most was english. But also with the help of a few italian courses at the university of Palermo, I could progress in Italian.
In the second part of my volunteering, one of our missions was to go to secondary schools to speak about the possibility of international mobility, where I could practice my Italian a bit more.
At the end I was even interviewed in Italian by the national television on one of our projects.
I was already used to sicilian/Italian food so it was not really a big novelty for me but I have to say that now I cannot drink a coffee other than an espresso.
Volunteering in another country is a big challenge, you have to adapt to the everyday life and the culture of the country/city, adapt to a new work environment and also, because I was sharing an apartment with 5 other volunteers from different countries, learn to live with people with other cultures/habits.
In the end, these kinds of experiences are unique and can really forge you into the person you aspire to be.
My name is Esra I am 27 years old and from Türkiye. I am a psychologist. I've been doing a volunteering project in Mazzarino for 3 months in the youth center I Girasoli as a European Solidarity Corps volunteer.
Before this project, I worked voluntarily with children in Romania for 45 days in the AIESEC project in 2019. I worked voluntarily in many different fields with refugee children in Türkiye. When I heard about this opportunity in Italy I thought I should apply and I was accepted. So my story began.
Before I came here, I was worried about where to go and what to expect there. I was afraid of being alone. But the first thing I noticed as soon as I got off the plane was that Italians are very friendly people. Everyone was very friendly when I arrived at the association. Everyone greeted me as if they had known me for a very long time and I was a member of their family. So I was relieved. I felt safe.
I started living with refugee children in the building here. There were refugee children from Africa and Arab countries here. At first, I didn't know how to contact them. Because they are teenage boys at puberty. But over time, we started to spend time together.
I did activities with the children. We cooked together, played games, danced, watched the world cup, chatted and I attended classes with them. Here, I had the opportunity to get to know Italian, Arabic, and African cultures closely. My musical culture expanded and children taught me how to dance.
The biggest challenge I faced here was the language barrier. I was speaking English but the children only knew Italian.
I used google translate to solve this problem and learned some Italian. We also taught each other some words from our native languages with the children.
In the meantime, I had the opportunity to travel to the island of Sicily and learn about its history. I was very surprised to hear that Muslims and Christians lived together in the history of the island and that the Arabs ruled there for a long time. The tour guide told me that there are churches built by Arab architects in Palermo and that some churches have verses from the Quran. Even the names of some cities come from Arabic.
The island has a multicultural and deep-rooted history, and that impressed me a lot.
I can say that I have improved myself in many ways here. First of all, I had the opportunity to closely examine the lives of asylum seekers. I lived with them. I listened to their life stories. Among them were those who had gone through very difficult processes. There were those who had made many sacrifices in their lives. I had the pleasure of being close to them and being able to help them. Despite all the difficulties, I saw how strong human beings can be and their desire to hold on to life.
Secondly, I followed the activities of the association closely. I learned about the legal processes and the operation of the association. I observed these sessions by participating in sessions held by psychologists and social workers.
I've seen refugee camps and prisons. I had the opportunity to be there with the operators.
I gained work experience.
After my experience here, I feel more courageous to go abroad. The 3 months I stayed here went by very quickly for me. I believe it is a very good experience to have in life and I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity.
I recommend everyone who is interested in different cultures, who likes to do good for humanity and the community, who likes meeting new people, and who likes new adventures should join this project. All you need is a little courage and motivation.
I nostri partner
Questo sito è realizzato con il supporto del Programma Erasmus+. Né la Commissione Europea né le sue Agenzie sono responsabili del contenuto, che rispecchia unicamente le opinioni degli autori. Responsabile Pietro Galluccio
L'attività di InformaGiovani è supportata dal Comune di Palermo, che ha concesso l'utilizzo di un bene confiscato alla mafia per il progetto di sportello