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25 Gennaio 2023

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 a small town in the Sicilian 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.
Luís, Portugal