Where the international dimension starts
Every long-term volunteer gets the chance to go to a special training at the beginning of their project. The training is organised by the National Agency of the country where they do their activity and it’s called On-Arrival Training.
It gathers volunteers that have recently arrived in your hosting country and aims to initiate the young volunteers into the experiential learning path of the volunteering world.
24 lost souls from Spain, France, N. Macedonia, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Latvia, Greece, Poland, Estonia, Romania, Armenia and Ukraine gathered in Murcia only to further leave to Coy, a very small village in the district of Lorca, where the magic was to happen. The place was wonderful with the landscapes offering a great contemplation invitation. Quiet, peaceful, on top of a hill, with paved narrow streets twisting and twining here and there. The place itself it’s said to have around 3-400 inhabitants.
You can easily imagine that our presence was not left unnoticed, especially during the nights when our laughs and presence were filling Jose’s pub and the way to it which I have to say it was not so close to our hostel during the night as it was during the day. So did the neighbours say at least.
But let’s get back to more serious stuff now – the training. In the end that’s what we came for. We left Murcia on Monday afternoon in a bus that gathered every participant. We arrived in Coy rather late and everyone was tired, yet the very first activities were waiting for us. We ad some getting to know each other games: what is our name and who is our role model, dancing and separating into groups to talk about specific questions about us, drawing our portraits and telling aspects that we’d like to share with the group.
The second day was already getting deeper in the subject. We shared our expectations regarding the training and started to discuss about the main roles of the parties involved in a volunteering project: the mentor, the NA, the volunteer, the host organisation, the sending organisation.
We then played a game which I like to call it “step forward” in which you receive a situation depicting generally a disadvantaged or a much advantaged person, in which shoes you need to imagine yourself. Several statements are read and if you identified from your role’s perspective, you make a step forward. At the end the discussions are around why some people can take the steps while others are left behind with barely moving or not moving at all. The game wants to bring out the inequalities, the lack or access to opportunities and most of all, how to we perceive the lives of the less advantaged persons. And more than just perceiving it, how can we act accordingly and not just during our volunteering experience.
Discovering what the European Solidarity Corps programme is about brought us separated into team. We talked about the important values of the programme for us and how we can promote them, a song through which to promote the programme, and an activity in the community to promote the interculturality and again, the programme.
The programme was rather intense, especially after so many discussions and touching quite personal topics, so Sona, one of the participants, offered to conduct a yoga sessions to release the tensions and bring back the equilibrium. This activity came perfectly in hand with the following one as it was now time to talk about the ways we learn, expressed through a drawing and shared in small groups.
We are now in the middle of the week where we started the day with Ginez, the Spanish teacher. My group was more into grammar explanations as the level of Spanish was more advanced. We got the opportunity after to present our projects through a poster – name of the project, target group, where it happens, activities, what is the core need – and a handcrafted object from modelling clay expressing the super power we need to do the project.
The evening brought us to the intercultural learning through a twisted card games that got all of us puzzled. In the end it seemed that this was the learning point as each table had different rules and we weren’t allowed to talk to each other. We ended up the night with a Spanish cuisine dinner, where Mirella, a master chef participant, joined us to teach us how to cook typical dishes for the Murcian region.
Getting close to the end of the training now and thus closer to the learning outcomes of the volunteering project. We thought of our learning desires and based on that we set learning objectives and a 30 days challenge, with our pair. We then discussed in groups about the Youthpass, the certificate that recognizes what you learn from the non-formal education, and the key competences that it recognises.
In the evening we moved to Lorca to the local youth centre where we found Aga, an ex-volunteer that was now working inside the centre. She told us about her experience in Lorca and as a volunteer, shared with us all the ups and downs of her experience and the way she ended back in Lorca continuing her job, as an employee this time.
The rest of the evening was free to visit around and so I did. We went for a big walk to see the old parts of the town and the most important buildings. I and 2 other volunteers decided to start walking up to the castle too towards the sunset. Indeed we reached the castle but by the time we did so, it was already closed for visits. Even so it worth the climb. The city seen from above, especially within the pink-purple background colours had a great view.
The last day was in my opinion the most interesting one as it allowed us to address the questions that we had in mind and were waiting for an external answer. What do we do in case of medical conditions, what if we lose our documents, how can we use the driving licence, how do we access the free days and many other questions like this arose and were discussed. A part of the questions were answered by the NA representative for Murcia region, which joined us for a while in the last day. The afternoon brought us more information, actually tips and tricks that we shared among us with the things we can do in Spain like where to travel, what to visit for few euro, how to spend the time in our cities and life hacks we can say for expats.
It has been a quite intensive, tiring week with many ups downs. The song “You are not alone” comes now in my mind as I feel at peace knowing that there are more volunteers here. A great majority of the volunteers are in Murcia for their projects so I am to see them more often.