My volunteering experience started in September. As if knowing that a girl from post-summer Tbilisi was coming, Bremen greeted me with sunshine and heat. I even had a chance to go to a lake a couple of times with other volunteers and take a swim, and these warm memories cannot be spoiled even by the drumming of raindrops on my window, which keeps me company as I am typing this text.
When I sat down to reflect on these past four months, lots of highlights ignited in my mind at once, but one sparkled the most: people. When you think about it, it makes all the sense, since the topic of my project is Local Connections, which implies establishing networks with various organisations in Bremen and promoting activities organised by NaturKultur among local youth – so basically communicating with people all the time. But there is so much more behind it. I don’t know if it’s moving to a new country that makes you braver, natural curiosity or just the magic of the volunteer community with everyone willing to embrace and support each other in cold Germany, but it’s almost ironic how after coming here all alone I ended up connecting with more people than I have in Georgia where I lived my whole life.
My working life is never boring either: seeking new networks and opportunities for promotion, I end up at different fairs and workshops, making earrings and pendants from upcycled plastic for kids, connecting with other organisations on the solidarity action on World’s Girls Day, promoting projects at schools and universities and much more. Next week, I’m going to the Green Week trade in Berlin, where my coworker and I will be representing NaturKultur, and I cannot wait to see what this experience will bring.
Another beautiful part of my volunteering experience lies in a charming village named Garlstedt located about 30 kilometres from Bremen: here stands KulturHaus, a youth house where NaturKultur conducts trainings and youth exchanges. They first took me there at the beginning of my volunteering and I fell in love with this place immediately: the old house holding memories of many friendships created here, magical forest surrounding it and neighbouring houses that look like they came from the pages of the Grimms’ fairy tales. I come here every time I have a chance – to help with the projects or just to hang out with people; I even participated in one youth exchange and one training course and both times it turned out to be a very heartwarming experience that connected me with many amazing people.
Yes, last 4 months brought me lots of sweet memories: exploring Freimarkt and Weihnachtsmarkt with friends and overcoming my fear of bumper cars, getting on the wrong train at Köln’s subway and playing Ultimate Ninja with other volunteers at the night station while waiting for the next train, traveling to Macedonia and being taken care of as if I were at home, playing snowballs with my flatmates at 12 am, visiting a chocolate museum in Hamburg with my sister and many more experiences I’m grateful for. Of course, moving abroad is also about overcoming challenges, be it language barriers and cultural differences (I still shudder every time I walk by the shelf with jarred sausages at a supermarket) or a clogged pipe in the bathroom, but it’s much easier to make lemonade out of these lemons when you know that it comes with a side of apple pie to sweeten the pill.
Looking forward for the next months and what they will bring to me,
Ana is hosted by NaturKultur e.V. on our project co-funded by the European Union.