Being part of the project “Give to Get”, that is part of the ESC (European Solidarity Corps) program was a unique experience, whereby means of non-formal learning through various activities, you acquire knowledge and skills that will carry you through your life. In this short article I want to share my experience. As one of the main goals of the project is self-reflection, I would start with my thoughts that I had before the project began.
By profession I am a Doctor of Medicine. After completing my studies, I worked in my profession for about two and a half years. In the meantime, from my colleague, I heard about this type of volunteer work. I got interested in it and started researching the possibilities, applying for such a project. I realized that this is a chance I cannot miss, and I must apply. While searching, I found the Association of Inclusive Culture from Ljubljana, Slovenia, which one of the goals is inclusion of children and youth with special needs in society, through various sporting, cultural and informal events. Although I had no previous experience in the field, I decided to apply. When I was elected sometime later, I had to leave for Slovenia in less than two months. Then I began to wonder if I could do that volunteering job, whether I was capable to do well in communicating and connecting with children with special needs. Questions that I can confidently answer today.
The “Give to Get” project included a variety of activities within the Association of Inclusive Culture as well as in the Center for special education “Janez Levec” Ljubljana. For the main activity of the association, the International festival play with me 2019, I was part of the organizing and logistical team, whereas also I was coordinating a group of twelve international guests, all of them ESC volunteers. During the school year I worked as a classroom assistant in a school for children with special needs, where I was helping the teacher. In addition, I was part of a sports activity, called “Specialni Telovaj” designed specifically for children with special needs, where throughout the activity I was guiding several students and following their progress in terms of physical and social improvement. As part of the art project and exhibition “Be an Artist”, at the International Play Festival, I was the coordinator of Macedonian participants. As the Association organizes day care activities during the holidays, I was part of the educators and where I was conducting creative and first aid workshops.
Being part of all those activities gave me the opportunity to be in different situations that I had not experienced before. The approach to learning through volunteering is different from all the others that I know and have practiced before the project. So, the boundary between learning new skills and abilities and the fun and sense of freedom in learning that comes with non-formal education cannot be clearly drawn. Which in conclusion, I see as one of the best ways of learning for life. Therefore, I believe that anyone can find themselves in such a project, but only if you are open-minded and ready to learn new skills and perspectives and gain invaluable experiences.