Carolina Salvador Robles, EVS volunteer at the Daily Socio-Educational Centre Pinocchio, offers us an enriching and touching witness about her solidarity experience in Panciu. The project she’s involved in is “S.M.I.L.E. – Sport Meets Inclusion and Links-up Europe” (ref. nr. 2015-1-RO01-KA105-013970), financed by the European programme ERASMUS+, and sees the collaboration of Asociatia Lumea lui Pinocchio with its Spanish partner COCAT.
A hot shower and a hot meal in a table surrounded by people talking in two languages I couldn’t really understand. This could be the first memory from a great trip I started in september and that still goes on. It’s always nice to be received with open arms in a strange place, a strange house which has become a home with enthusiasm and thrill.
When I started we were only two, and I found a holding hand to discover a new reality for me. I remember the first days, more than a dozen staring at my full of curiosity, asking things I didn’t understand. It became a duty, during the meal, studying the names from the labels in the children’s glasses. At least being able to say the names! Even though this never was my strongest point…
I remember now first weeks as if they were months, learning basic things that made me fall in the bed exhausted: how works the center, who makes what, meet new kids, the language… I was suprised by the fact that adaptation to this new culture is a long-term process in which I’m still absorbed.
Then, we grew. Two new girls arrived with bags full of enthusiasm and energy, and made me understand that, specially when you’re away from home, people you share your routine with become the main daily source of sodium chloride. Language is kind of a tread, but still this is part of volunteering. Now we’re just three for a big house, but making fire still is charming and, even though we’re not the tidiest people, we’re quite good in organizating our atmosphere in a good way.
Not only at home, we also share our days with the staff of the center. From cooker, caretaker, secretary, cleaning person, educators, other volunteers and also my mentor become the social circle in such a small place and you find a parallel project trying to get to know them better: their language, their sense of humor, their good days and also the bad ones. They’re the hand you go to when you have a problem, an idea or something good you want to share. As a volunteer, I think is important being the patch and strip for the association in general, for all of them, trying to contribute where is needed, and not only with activities related to the Project.
My favourite part, without a doubt, is helping or making activities with children. From the moment they get to the center to the leaving time they’re pure energy. It’s always a pleasure watching them eat in a hurry just to go out and keep on playing outside, no matter if it’s cold. Homework it’s not always pleasant. In fact, I’m grateful to my bad memory for letting me forget all of the hours I had to spend drafting spot lines with each letter from the alphabet. However, it’s really beautiful that moment when you can read in their eyes the satisfaction when they can write their names, when they complete an addition, understand a math exercise or getting a great painting from a white page. These little things make me remind how easily we forget the importance of the basics in our lives. Writing your name, such a thing!
After homework come “non formal activities”. Different handicrafts, making games or preparing a performance for Christmas. Every day is something new, different: origami about autumn, porcupine made of a potato, workshops of theatre, painting competitions, sport…
Even with all that is not fair limiting the whole work made in here in these lines. Getting to know the children, their families, their enviroment or their needs in different moments. It’s not always easy for the staff making this monitoring of the children attempting to help their families too, mostly counting on discrimination in a small city, reducing local help in many occasions. It becomes impossible explaining such a complex life lesson in a few witnessing lines, but I hope I got to pass on you some of these feelings I luckily have lived here.