Volunteering as a way of life

The first outdoor event I participated in here in Thessaloniki took place in mid-May. I was responsible for running the opening ice-breaking game. It was a simple yes / no game. People who agreed with the sentence I was saying were supposed to go to the right and those who did not go to the left. So I said, ” I am an active volunteer in my home country”. And then, only two of the approximately 20 participants replied “yes”. I have to admit I was shocked at how people responded. For me, volunteering is an integral part of life, and it is thanks to my local involvement, I also learned about opportunities abroad. Let me share my story with you.

Beginnings

My adventure with volunteering started quite late. I was 26 years old, and I came back from the ski congress in Japan. The event was terrific, very well organized, among others, thanks to the work of volunteers. When I got home, I was full of positive energy. I found out that I would like to be part of big events more often. I want to take part in them, not only as a participant but also as a person co-creating the events. I started looking for opportunities in my area on the Internet.

Living in Warsaw was a simple task. I found a whole lot of offers right away. I signed up for every possible event – football matches, book and film festivals, international conferences. In the beginning, I didn’t have any specific requirements or expectations. I just wanted to prove myself. Volunteering has become a part of my life very quickly. I met many new people – active volunteers, and I learned about new opportunities from the Internet and them.

New skills, new experiences, new opportunities 

Participation in so many and so diverse events allowed me to try many new things. When working at a film festival, I was involved in issuing film tickets and providing information to viewers. I also had the chance to pick up the creators from the airport and show them Warsaw. I was able to participate in the bands’ rehearsals before the official performances.  During the marathon, I was completing and distributing starter packages to the runners in the race office. Every volunteer experience has required me to learn and experience new things. I have also learned and practised new skills as I have participated in new ways.

Credits :18th edition of Body/ Mind Festival Warsaw

After some time, I have already gained a lot of volunteering experience. There were organizations to which I gladly returned and recommended to everyone and those that I advised against everyone because I was not fond of cooperation at all. I already had a lot of knowledge in the environment, and I started getting exciting job offers. I began recruiting volunteers, and my tasks were more responsible. Now I was not only volunteering but also working.

Not only action(events) volunteering

Once I got to know all the opportunities for action volunteering in Warsaw, I started looking for opportunities outside my city. This time not related to cultural or sports events. This is how I found an offer to go on a weekly work camp in the eastern part of my country.

Opportunity to live in a volunteer house in a tiny abandoned village with only five houses. It was an ecological project organized by the bird protection society. My job was to take care of the horses and renovate the place where we lived. The works were varied and depended on the season. But here, once again, I could try many things that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to try living in the city.

Credits – Laura Mesjasz / Kalitnik Workcapm 

First volunteering abroad – China experience 

When I returned to college in the fall of 2017, another volunteering opportunity appeared—something new – volunteering for students abroad. I found an offer for myself on the website of the well-known student organization AIESEC. I chose volunteer work with children during a summer camp in the Chinese countryside. I was very excited about this prospect. I already had experience working with children – after three years of work in a kindergarten. I was very well prepared for the trip – more than half of my luggage was the materials I took with me to conduct classes – in English, about Poland. In the end, I didn’t use anything I had taken with me and unfortunately the experience was very different from what I expected. Sometimes, it is difficult to know what you are going to find while volunteering abroad. But this did not make me lose my commitment to volunteering.  

Long-term volunteering commitment 

After participating in many events, I felt the need to be associated with an organization permanently. Not to wait for events, but to help every day. Use my free time for something useful. It took me a long time to look for a suitable organization. I applied in many places, the organizations did not speak up, or they spoke up after months when I was no longer available.

Finally, I found a foundation that helps refugee children with their homework. I was paired with a girl who is 13 years old and is in grade 7 of primary school. I try to help her two times a week – even now that I’m in Greece and we have online classes. I have to admit that this is a big challenge for me, not only because I forgot about subjects like chemistry and physics a long time ago, but also because distance learning is very different from typical classroom activities.

Future 

Today, I can no longer count on how many various events and initiatives I took part in. Thanks to volunteering, not only did I meet a lot of new, wonderful people, but I also gained many skills that I would not have gained anywhere else. At the moment, I can say that I am addicted to volunteering, and I can’t imagine my life without it. There are still many opportunities that I haven’t used, but I’m sure I’m going to do so in the future.

Credits – Napędzany Kebabem – Cezary biega, pisze, je / Volunteers of 41st PZU Warsaw Marathon 

Now my adventure in the creative media lab has begun. New place, new responsibilities, new experiences. I am only at the beginning of this path, but now finishing not only the first article of my life but also an article in English, I can tell that it was a good choice.

Post Author: Anna Maria Zukowska

I'm Ana - a ski instructor from Poland, who came to Greece looking for the sun. Hyperactive volunteer, trying to live less waste. I'm stepping out of my comfort zone once again to learn new skills and gain experience.

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