volunteering as an attitude
Text: Rute Barbedo
Why did you chose Estonia to do your EVS?
More than three years ago, I studied at the University of Tartu and I was singing in an Estonian choir. I really liked the experience… Last June, I was sitting at home in front of my computer and I saw a new picture on Facebook about my good old Estonian choir and I just felt how good was my life in Tartu, in 2009. I thought: “I have to go back.” And immediately after, I read that Elva Väikelastekodu was looking for a volunteer… „Working with children in Estonia? It sounds really good”, I thought again!
Working with children was a priority for you?
I like working with children. Sometimes it can be very hard but I like it.In the last three summers I worked as a children animator in Tunisia and in Crete. My job was colorful. So, I wanted again a job where I could take care of children and practice languages, as Estonian.
What are you learning from this personal experience?
Being a volunteer is sometimes like a Monopoly game: you have to know the rules, you have to be a good player and you must know how to economize more money. Also, I’ve learned about tolerance, patience, creativity, empathy… I hope that I can use my learning experiences later in my private life and in my next workplaces as well.
How do you see the way children live in your orphanage, in Elva?
Until December, children were living in quite old buildings and they didn’t have much privacy. Then, they moved to four beautiful new houses and now they can live like a family. Every house has its own equipments and children have more space. I think they enjoy their new life.
Maybe they miss their families sometimes, but it’s much better for them to live in this orphanage because here they are secure from any kind of trouble [as they come from socially difficult backgrounds].
Do you think the volunteer can make a difference there?
I really hope that the answer is “yes”. I think most of the children still don’t understand what is my position in the orphanage. Some of them think that I’m just a big brother…!
Some moments can be hard, but fortunately I have more time to play with the children than the people who are working there and maybe I have new ideas as well. I taught them some Hungarian words and how to make an origami flower. There is also one girl talented for music and I want to teach her more about music.
My project will end in June, but I think if I come back sometime to Estonia, I will definitely visit the children and my colleagues.
You’re one of the few volunteers who speaks Estonian. How did you learn it so fast?
Well… I’d studied Finno-Ugric Linguistics in Hungary, so I had Estonian language as well. I like this language and the people, so if you have a motivation, you can learn much easier and faster. I heard about some people who are living here for more than 5 years and they still cannot speak it. But I really have to say I think my Estonian is still not so good… 🙂
Looking back, what are the most outstanding moments of your EVS?
There are some children who are usually very lively and they cannot understand that it isn’t funny to play with the light or the door or that I’m not a horse or even that I cannot pull more than two kids with the sledge at the same time. 🙂
One of my favorite activities in Elva is the ceramics course for children. I often help children with their homework and usually I enjoy to be a teacher…
But my funniest moment was not exactly connected to EVS… In January I went to a choir camp for two days close Tartu. We were in the sauna, boys and girls, and everybody was naked. Well, sometimes sauna can be very hot and you have to go out… When I was sitting there just with two other people, my brain was empty. It was my birthday, but I totally forgot that it was probably already after midnight. So, somebody opened the door and ten naked people just started to sing Happy Birthday in Estonian. This was the funniest and strangest birthday I’ve ever had in my life!
Do you have plans for the future?
Next year there is a big event in Estonia, the Song Festival. I hope that my choir can participate again, because I want to join them. So if I can find a job in the next months in Tartu, I will stay in Estonia for one more year.
I also want to travel, to improve with my guitar and, in five years, I want to have a family!If I win the lottery I will buy a big house for the next volunteers. And I would buy some nice things for children and organize them a special trip to Hungary!