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Personal growth of young people through creativity and volunteering with the elderly of the town of Porec, Croatia

Do you know people who browsed the internet, saw some volunteer project, applied for it and then forgot and in a couple of months found an email saying: “Congratulations! You`re accepted for EVS project”? So this is NOT about me.

Long time ago I have realized that I don`t belong to this lucky category, that`s why I was prepared for a long way. Days and nights, I was looking for a project and bombarding organization with emails. In total amount, I sent about 300 letters. Everyone finds this number too surprising but I think the more - the better. Thus, as a result I had choice between 8 projects. But it wasn`t so easy as it seemed.

Usually it takes half of a year from applying for the project and actually to departing to the venue. My search started in September 2015. I’m on the current project for already 2 months. So it took 1,5 years for me to actually become EVS volunteer. Firstly, I was selected for a project in Czech Republic: at that time I just graduated from the university. Inspired and full of dreams I was thinking about starting my volunteering practice right after my graduation, but unfortunately that project was canceled due to lack of financing. But now I don`t feel sorry about that, because Kharkiv NGO “Stella” selected me for youth exchange in Greece. I`m endlessly thankful to the organization for this opportunity to meet interesting, smart and simply awesome people! This trip inspired me and gave me strength and motivation to keep on trying to apply for long-term volunteering.

And on one beautiful day I found that Croatia choose me! But they had compulsory condition to hold a Skype interview. To be honest I tried to avoid projects that required interviewing, because I have never had an interview in real life and was really afraid of all this responsibility and officiality. But I went for it, maybe I felt this is ‘my project’ somehow. And, as it turned out, it is mine! The interview was not scary and it didn`t seemed to be official interview at all.  It was more like getting to know each other and I was asking more questions than the interviewer. In the end of our nice conversation I was told that I am accepted. Having in mind previous experience, I didn`t let myself be too happy. After 3 months I received an email saying the project was financed successfully and I can buy tickets. And only then I was jumping with happiness!

It has been three months while I`m here in Poreč, Croatia. I think, my project is perfect. I`m glad that I choose this one. It seems to be tailored for me. Job is very interesting and creative.  Working week has 5 days 6 hours each. In a first day I was met by my coordinator and the other volunteer from Spain. Firstly, we dropped our luggage at our new apartment and went to see the working place. We are living in a super cozy apartment: living room, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a balcony - 5min to work and 5 min to sea shore. No need to worry about food, we use to eat at work and they provide us with products so that we could have breakfasts at home. Coordinators are very friendly and help us with any questions. They often ask if we like everything, how else they can improve our living here. We were even given bicycles, so now we ride through the town and along a sea shore.

I’m working in a house for elderly people. We held workshops for them, arrange their birthday parties, decorate interiors or help them to move to dining area or to park.

Croatian language is much easier for me than for my Spanish co-worker, so I enjoy speaking with elderly people. This is very important for them. And I feel they like my visits.

In March I visited required on-arrival training in Orakhovytsia town near Zagreb. There were 10 of us: volunteers from Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Portugal and France. We got along very well and now are planning a trip together. Every volunteer has 2 additional days off a month, so you can accumulate them to go for a trip. I partly used this opportunity for the trip to Madrid.

In Ukraine I played futsal and here I was missing my trainings very much. But this problem was also solved. During one of my walks through the town I saw the training of female football team. I was incredibly glad! Couch allowed me to join and now I probably will be allowed to play in the tournament.

Dreams come true if you work on it!

Daria Zelenska, Kyiv