sexta-feira, janeiro 25, 2019

SOCIAL BOND - Christina

Little did I know before coming to Portugal that my work in Fundação Liga would be so fulfilling and inspiring, and yet it is only the first trimester of my EVS experience here in Lisbon. A work day is never the same and the activities in which I participate vary from the numerous projects and initiatives that the foundation is engaged in. Let me give you an example of my day today: it is Monday and I am in a hurry not to miss the contemporary dance class that starts at 10 am with prof. Rafael. People in wheelchairs, boys and girls, with different mental conditions, dance altogether in a creative swirl and follow every instruction of the professor. I am there, of course, not only to enjoy the dance but also to help and assist the participants. Stretching the arms and making gentle gestures, movements of all sort come from all corners of the room and I am so impressed of how creative and energetic everyone is despite everything…

One hour passes really fast and then I head to the cabinet of the director of the foundation - Dra. Cristina Passos where an intense preparation for the 20th anniversary of Club Senior takes place. Today is the first day of a weekly celebration of the club and we have prepared a lot of different activities for the participants of the club, which by the way,  is a club of 37 very sweet ladies and gentlemen from the age of 65 to 94 years-old. I help both Dra. Cristina Passos (also the coordinator of Club Senior) and Thatiane Mattos (the technical support) in the creation of a quiz that covers fun facts about the club’s history. Like, for example, “Who won the “Miss Senior ‘99?” or “When was Club Senior created?”. I feel extremely honored to be part of this project and I help with all I can do to make this club even greater. Some weeks ago I even proposed my own project within Club Senior - a weekly intercultural club discussing interesting aspects of the Balkan and Latin-American culture which I am both proudly part of :). Last week I had my first introductory session about some interesting things that I thought people will be delighted to know, like the fact that in Bulgaria people nod when they say ‘no’ and they shake their heads for “yes”. We all practiced the movement with the ladies and the gentlemen and I should admit that it was quite fun.

After lunch everyone from Club Senior gathered in the official hall in the building of the foundation and we were all grouped in teams to compete in the quiz. I was a “madrinha” or a godmother (!) of one of the groups and it was quite entertaining helping my team to try to remember what actually happened during those 20 years.

Tomorrow would also be an exciting day because there will be a “cake competition” for the people of Club Senior followed by special performance of the club’s choir and a ceremony that would pay tribute to several people who played important role in the life and activities of Club Senior. And of course snacks and drinks will be served for everyone.

So far, I feel really welcomed, supported and accepted in Fundação Liga and I am very pleased to find that a very strong and committed work is being done for the empowerment of people with disabilities and people with special needs. The organization’s main objective is to provide vocational training and employment for this particular part of the society and has various projects and programmes that stimulate the personal and social development as well as ensuring accessibility and autonomous life to all clients of the foundation. Fundação Liga functions also as a social enterprise because a lot of the products that people produce like “papel mache” dolls, colorful notebooks with designs painted by some of the most creative people with “disabilities” I have seen, fabric book covers and many more, are all created in the numerous ateliers part of the CAO/ Casa das Artes programme.

But perhaps what really is a huge motivation for my voluntary work in Fundação  Liga is the fact that I learn a lot of good practices and successful case studies about the work done for people of all conditions and ages. Hopefully, I could one day use all this experience and try to change the reality and life of many people back in Bulgaria. 

quinta-feira, janeiro 24, 2019

EVS experience, Social Bond (Ioana Enache)

The short version is: I love the work I’m participating in and I love doing a volunteer project in a foreign country. The long version is… a bit longer.

I am from Romania and I am taking part in an EVS in Lisbon, Portugal. It is a long term EVS, lasting for nine months (from October to July), with a very ambitious but equally important objective, that of promoting social inclusion. The name of the project is `Social Bond`. My sending organization is Asociația Dominou, my coordinating organization, Associação Rota Jovem, and the host one, Alem. The institutions I work at are APIA (Associação de Protecão à Infância) and Associação de Actividades Sociais do Bairro 2 de Maio. Both are in Ajuda, in the outskirts of Lisbon. They are both kindergartens, so my work involves working with children from one to six years old.

The pallet of activities is diverse. On Monday we have music classes, on Tuesday, yoga, on Wednesday, dance, on Thursday, sports education, and on Friday, storytelling through interactive methods. Meanwhile, I help the educators with daily tasks involving the children, such as helping the kids eat or putting them to bed. I also try to bring my own culture into the world of little one, explaining to them where Romania is situated on the map or making analogies between words the Portuguese and Romanian language have in common.

My voluntary work brings a lot of personal rewards and I can only hope I give back the happiness I receive every day. The kids are wonderful and there is much to learn from them. Not a single day passes without a small but important lesson to be learned. Another positive aspect for me is learning Portuguese thanks to reading children stories or learning children songs. This way it is easier to acquire the Portuguese vocabulary.

Besides the benefits involved in my work, taking part in an EVS plays a big role in my intercultural knowledge. Since I arrived here, I got to discover the fascinating culture of Portugal. From history to cuisine, I am fascinated by it. Given the fact that my EVS is a long term one, I take my time in understanding what makes Portugal unique – from saudade and fado to surf. Moreover, there are other cultures I discover through the volunteers I met. Everybody comes from different countries, but it is surprising to realize how similar we are despite our differences. One of my favorite parts consists of linguistic differences. We speak English most of the time, but with some of them, I get to practice my French and Spanish while also learning Portuguese at work. I am grateful for this opportunity, one that I don’t think would have existed without the EVS.

Going back to the work I am doing, I appreciate that my volunteering project allows me to work with a multicultural group of children while also feeling that I am becoming part of their community. I am happy to spend my time in the education field and to participate in a project in which people are aware that education is not an element of luxury, everyone should have access to it. The overall feeling is that we are all learning from each other. Doing volunteer work daily emphasizes the importance of being kind, enthusiastic and open minded.