Gülay from Turkey did her EVS volunteering project in Skopje, Macedonia from February 2019 to February 2020. She volunteered in a center for disabled children, Lastovica. Her year in another country was full of new challenges, adaption to a new culture and language, but an overall amazing experience.
I am a landscape architect. Before EVS, I had 3-year work experience as a project supervisor. Also, I am a Turkish folk dance instructor and I have been training children from 5 to 18. I thought that it could be a wonderful experience in my lifetime which would never happen again, that’s why I chose to participate in this project. Although I worked with children, this experience was very extraordinary as well as difficult because my organization works with mentally and physically disabled children. Most of the children didn’t have the speaking ability and understood only Macedonian. So, it was really hard to communicate with children at the beginning. I kept in step with children’s daily routines. We did some routine activities related to maths, art, sports, and dance. We also walked around and went to the park to socialize and took some sunshine when the weather was good. In fact, I tried to make them gain new skills by doing various things together.
My speaking level of English was not good before my EVS. So, I hesitated to communicate with children, their parents, teachers as well as local people. I improved my both language; English and Macedonian with the help of this project. Because I had to communicate with teachers and people around me in English. I had to communicate with children in Macedonian even word by word. Sometimes it was enough to understand each other. My other hesitation was not to adapt to their life. The children taught me so many things while I taught them. They have their own personalities. If they do not want to do something, nobody can push them for it. But you can show and teach them, and then let them show you how they express themselves. Now, I know how I can act when they need to help, and when I want to communicate with disabled people.
My volunteer friend, Soner, and I organized workshops and events. We organized “a barbeque party” in our backyard for children, we introduced Turkish food and culture with our Turkish guest from Turkey. It was such a good activity for all of us to know one another. We also organized public dance workshops with the permission of the municipality each Tuesday and Thursday almost for two months.
I visited almost all the Macedonian cities. I can say that I know about 80% of Macedonian culture right now. I have so many local and international friends from all over the world. I sang songs, traveled, and tasted new food and drinks with my friends. Of course, it was not perfect all the time, but no one can be perfect. Every problem has its own solution. I have learned so many things that I am going to use for a lifetime. During this project, I got out of my comfort zone and got to know myself better. This kind of sustainable projects open new doors to improve your skills. In my opinion, everybody should try it! I am sure you will love it! Thank you for your patience to read my article about my EVS experience.
EVS (European Voluntary Service, changed to European Solidarity Corps) is a volunteering program under Erasmus+. Volunteers Centre Skopje was organizing the project together with Lastovica from Macedonia and System Generation from Turkey. This article was published first on the page of System Generation.