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New blood flows into Amazonas

Hello there, stranger. My name is Bran, and I am the new Amazonas volunteer from Slovakia. I will be here in Zagreb with all of you for almost a whole year, and I am looking forward to posting a new article every month. Hopefully, my studies in English language prove useful, and I will be able to breathe a different kind of life into these articles. My first article is about our arrival. So, you will get a little bit of insight into our project. Also, you will get to know more about the new volunteers.

Birds of feather

“The home is behind, the world ahead.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

In the first weeks of September, the four new volunteers participating in the European Solidarity Corps project ‘Building an inclusive society vol. 2’ made their respective journeys to Zagreb. Here, in Amazonas, they will all create and participate in activities and events with the aim of building a society that is inclusive. These activities and events include Tribo Moderna, capoeira with children, language classes, non-formal workshops, and the Solidarity blog.

All four of them come from different countries; they all have different backgrounds, interests, and approaches to life. Despite all of their differences, big or small, every one of them applied to this project of building an inclusive society, and together they all embark on a journey to make it into a reality.

Apples and oranges….and grapes

I decided to ask the other volunteers about their expectations and fears regarding the project and their stay abroad. Their answers give us little insights into their personalities and what each of them values and gravitates towards.

A blank canvas…has unlimited possibilities.”
Stephanie Perkins, Isla and the Happily Ever After

Born in North Macedonia, Marija, a true aesthete, grew up with Croatian songs and movies, so Croatian culture is close to her own. Moreover, she feels at home in Zagreb since she has already spent 2 months living here, during her short-term ESC project.

“I came here with a clear mind, and I just want to see how I am able to handle everything. I want to focus more on the media part of the project. That is the area that I want to grow in the most,” said Marija, “so my fears are related to that process. I worry whether I will be able to communicate everything that is on my mind. I have ideas, and I hope that I will be able to implement them.”

If you go anywhere, even paradise, you will miss your home.
― Malala Yousafzai

Being the only volunteer that has not yet lived abroad for an extended period of time, Angel will have to face trials and tribulations of his own.

“I expect doing things that will fulfil me. Amazonas is about helping people, and I want to help people. I fear that some of the things might not be for me, the type of person I am, and that this will make me unhappy,” said Angel. “I hope that I can cope with living far from home. Also, I hope that I will be able to make friends here. I worry about missing home, missing friends, and missing the things that I have in Spain, even though I know they will all be there once I come back. I am afraid of not being happy.”

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Our final addition, who has exploration and traveling coursing through her veins, comes from Italy. Having volunteered and participated in multiple projects all around Europe, Nadia’s fears and expectations reflect her experience.

“Besides learning how to work with different age groups, I want to have my own project and carry it out successfully. I want to create a workshop that reflects me as a person. I want to make the activities in it enjoyable for other people,” said Nadia, “I have no actual fears. For me, this is just exciting because I know I can do whatever I want.”

On the shoulders of giants

“Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

I took this opportunity to ask a former Amazonas volunteer and my friend Valentine some questions regarding her own experience. I met Valentine during my Erasmus+ mobility in Athens. She is the person that introduced me to Amazonas. I would not be here in Zagreb if it was not for her.

Having finished her European Solidarity Corps project in Amazonas only a few months ago, in July, her journey could serve as a predictor and a lesson for us, the new volunteers, or anyone else that is about to start their own respective journey.

I asked her to reflect back on her own arrival in Amazonas and Zagreb. I wanted her to tell me about her expectations and fears when she first got here.

“I wanted to gain skills for my future, both in work and studies, and I wanted to find myself; find what I wanted to do in my life, especially for my master’s since I had just finished my bachelor’s. I also wanted to make friends and connect with the local community because I really wanted to be immersed in the culture of Croatia. There were some fears regarding not finding friends,” said Valentine, “but my biggest fear was connected with the implementation of workshops because I had never done that before, especially in English.”

After she finished explaining her initial expectations and fears, I inquired whether these expectations and fears came to fruition or not.

“This year in Zagreb made me realize how much I like working with non-governmental organizations. Thanks to Amazonas and Zagreb, I found a field that corresponds with me, and now I am in Paris doing work that I really love.”

“What happened with the workshops was that once I started doing the activities, I also started gaining confidence in that area. Workshops eventually became something that I was really happy to do. The people in my workshops became my friends,” said Valentine, “and then it was not work anymore, but spending time with friends and learning from each other. At that point, I just wanted to make more and more workshops. Now, I miss creating something like that every week.”

“I would say that my journey in Amazonas exceeded all my expectations. I made friends, traveled a ton, and became close with the community. I may not have been Croatian, but I truly felt like I was a part of the local community. I did projects that I am really proud of, especially the short movie and the charity concert, which was a great conclusion to my stay. This year in Zagreb really inspired me, and for that I am so so happy,” concluded Valentine.

Nothing ventured

Valentine’s experience paints a pretty picture. However, no two people are the same, so our journeys will therefore look different from hers. Nevertheless, all of us will have time and space to grow as people. It is up to all of us whether and how we seize the opportunities in front of us.