volunteering as an attitude
Text and pictures: Rute Barbedo
When a volunteer comes to Käo, he must know there is a whole world of special cares and new details appearing to his life. Most of the times, children and adults – who have severe mental or multiple disabilities – in this day care centre (divided in two different units) communicate in a different way, with no words. So, first of all, there’s a new grammar to learn.
This year, Päevakeskus Käo received two volunteers: Katrin Karlsböck, from Austria – who works in the children centre; and Christin Wulf, from Germany, – who deals with adults. Although Katrin is only 20 years old, she must be prepared to fulfill her daily tasks and be emotionally strong. “She helps feeding children, washing the dishes, doing daily tasks, and she also participates in some of the lessons”, tells Epp Saareppu, coordinator in the center. For this, “language is never a problem”, she adds, but “the work is hard here”. “They are not pretty children, they may not like you at all, they can kick you and scream”, but the strongest reward you can here get is their love, with no hesitation. When we visited the kitchen, one of the boys just came running to hug Katrin…
Epp works in Käo for 12 years but the first time she has dealt with a volunteer (not a full time one) was in 2009. “He was supposed to be here just for one month, but then he stayed for six. After him, we thought we should have our own volunteer.” A big help and fresh air to deal with the 40 children in the center.
Life in KÄO is about senses. The building near Mustamäe, in Tallinn, tells it: there are many physical exercise equipments, rooms with names of fruits, handicraft works based on different textures and colours, objects to train hand movements, spaces for music and art lessons, a salt therapy chamber and a smart room where we can find computers, games and special books where words are draws.
But we also feel this way about the adults center. Early in the morning, the conversation circle begins. It’s time to share the plans for the weekend. Some of them seem really enthusiastic about it, but, of course, others have communication barriers which turn their answer into a difficult task. Christin is always part of this circle and she participates in Estonian, with a great effort behind, of course. “They all already know my name and my face here”, she states. And although these persons have severe disabilities, “they are quite independent” also. “So, my responsibility is to give them support in daily tasks and show them how to do things”, she explains.
Although Christin is 19 years old yet, before coming to Estonia, she had already worked in this field. “In Germany, I don’t see people so motivated to work in this area, and I would like to take some motivation there”, she hopes. At the same time, she likes “to be responsible for the others”. “I know quite well how is like to feel excluded and I also have people in family working in the same area”, she justifies. So, with no doubt, the EVS experience in Estonia is a bridge to pursue her dream.