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.