my name is Elisabeth, I’m from Austria and I took part in the European Voluntary Service for 12 months in Finland. Well, I can clearly remember that day, when I had my flight to Finland on the 13th of August 2012. It was an exciting day – so many emotions, expectations, fears, hopes and doubts.
Due to the fact, that I worked before as an accounting clerk the whole work was completely new for me. But the reason, why I made the decision to do the European Voluntary Service was that I wanted to be part of something great, special and unique. My intention was also to give something and contribute my abilities. Of course it was also a chance to see if I would be able to work in a social field, develop myself and get to know myself better. Besides this, being in a foreign country gives you also the opportunity to learn something about the culture, history, get to know new people and the country itself. Finland is by the way one of the most beautiful countries I’ve every been to.
A huge change
My workplace was a Camphill community where people with disabilities live, so called villagers. It is located in a rural area in Hämeenkoski, near Lahti. Being there was not only to work there it was so much more, because I also had my accommodation there. This means that it is more like living in an extended family and that we support and help each other. Because of this, I got a better understanding of the whole philosophy and I could also build up a strong bond with the people there.
“I have to say, that working in this community helped me to be more open-minded towards people with special needs.”
Well, as a young person, who had a desk-dwelling job, it was a huge change. But after a certain time, it felt right to be there and share great moments with these people. One of my tasks at my project place was supporting and assisting the villagers when they were weaving, working in the garden and on the field, picking berries and apples, accompanying them to concerts and other events, baking, creating a photo book and also the annual newspaper, taking actively part in a kantele band and also Christmas play. I have to say, that working in this community helped me to be more open-minded towards people with special needs. Furthermore, I also realized that you don’t have to speak the same language for communicating with each other and I learned so much from them consciously and unconsciously – that is such a priceless experience which can’t be compared with anything else.
Besides my work, I had also the chance to immerse into another culture. Especially, my support person has given me an understanding of the Finnish mentality and way of life. Thanks to her, I’ve learned how to bake typical pastries e.g. pulla, ruisleipä and karjalanpiirakka and we did also some other activities for instance: ice fishing, skiing, doing handicrafts and an off road safari through the Finnish forest.
Summarizing, I have to say that this year here in Finland was the best decision I’ve made so far and I’m thankful for this opportunity and for all the lessons learned, experiences and all the people I’ve met through this project. One thing is for sure: I would highly recommend doing a voluntary year, because it really broadens your horizons and it is really worth it, because I’ve got more aware of the real values in life!
Elisabeth participated in Finland in the European Voluntary Service (EVS). Maailmanvaihto receives EVS volunteers for volunteer periods of 6–12 months. Would you be interested in participating? Read more about the EVS and apply!