ESC “So far, so close”, 17.08.2021 – 01.09.2021
Hi! My name is Maryna, I am 19 years old and come from Minsk, Belarus. From December 2020 till July 2021 I was an Au-Pair in Bremen, Germany and then stayed here as a student. The semester starts in October, so I had plenty of free time. I have heard a lot about volunteering projects and work camps from my friends, but never had an opportunity to participate there.
So I started to look for a project that would fit in the time gap between August and October. I have sent my applications for 6-8 projects and got two answers. From those two I have chosen the project in Italy, because I’ve never been there and I was very interested in learning the language and experiencing the culture of this country.
So I have made one of the best decisions in my life and applied for a volunteering project “So far, so close”. The project is coordinated by a non-profit organization “Associayione InformaGiovani” in collaboration with a cultural association “Il circo pace e bene” sponsored by “European solidarity corps”. I also had a supporting organization from Bremen, “Naturkultur”. The project took place in a small Sicilian town Milena, which is impossible to reach if you don’t drive a car, because there is no public transport.
I met other volunteers and our coordinator on the train station in Palermo. After approximately an hour in the train we arrived to Sutera and met Carmelo, who was our leader for the next two weeks. We then came to Milena, met local volunteers and had our first dinner together, which was Pizza, of course. On the next day we organized our kitchen shifts (we were supposed to cook for ourselves) and our free days. On the second day we started our work in the field. We were helping to build an open air museum of ancient grains, which were used by people to make local pizza, pasta and bread. This museum is also supposed to attract more tourists to Milena, because this town has a lot to offer, but not a lot of people know about it.
Although we always worked in the mornings to avoid the highest temperatures, it was very hot, so the work seemed harder than it was. But we were enough people, so it was fun working all together and seeing the results so fast, was very satisfying. In seven days of work we cleaned the territory, prepared the earth for planting the grains in the autumn, created signs for the museum, made a path and garden walls.
In the afternoon we usually had different kinds of activities. A few times we met people from the towns nearby, who told us about their organizations and difficulties they have to face. For example we met people from a feministic group, from the organization that rescues refugees in the sea, from organization that works against mafia. We could then discuss all the topics, that was especially interesting, because we all come from different backgrounds, so we had lots of different ideas. We also had some activities that aim was to learn about ESC and Erasmus+ programs and how to promote them.
One of my favorite activities was trekking around Milena, when Carmelo showed us old parts of the town and told about it history. On that day we also had a master class of cooking local dish called Embrialata. We could also take part in it and cook all together, so it was a lot of fun.
Although it seems like a lot, we also had a plenty of free time. In our first free day we went all together to Agrigento, a city near the seaside. We visited the Temple walleye there and then went to the beach.
Our everyday activity was to go for an ice-cream, the best I have ever tasted. We also went to a local restaurant a few times to get some experience of the local food.
We also spent a lot of time cooking for each other. It was a great part, because everyone was trying to give the other some impressions of the food from their own country. For example I cooked Draniki. This dish is very popular in Belarus, but also exists in Germany and called Kartoffelpuffer here.
Twice we went to play football with local kids and that was an experience I would actually recommend to the tourists. Although we didn’t speak the same language, we could understand each other very good and have fun together! Very interesting was also watching a film about Sicily called I cento passi.
I could continue further, but it is impossible to tell about everything I have learned and experience in this two weeks, because it would take a lot more than one page. The best part of it was definitely meeting all the amazing people. Everyone could share their own experience and knowledge, culture and language.
The project has brought me a lot of motivation to learn the Italian language and improve myself further and further. I have met people in Italy, who are not afraid of difficulties. Instead of moving to a better place, a better country, they coming back to their own town and trying to make it better, more attractive, more alive. That is a great inspiration for me to come back to my own country after studying and try to deal with problems there to make it a better place.
Maryna was part of the short-term European Solidarity Corps Volunteering Teams in High Priority Areas project “So far, so close”, organised by Associazione InformaGiovani and financed by the EACEA.