Greetings from abroad: Assisting at vocational school and leading football training

What’s up with the volunteers of Maailmanvaihto? Two of them share their greetings. Joya traveled to Finland for European Solidarity Corps volunteering from France and Katariina Väre from Finland to Bolivia for ICYE volunteering.

Joya: From Toulouse to Pälkäne

I wanted to join international volunteering because… Last year, I volunteered and really enjoyed it, so I wanted to do it again. I wasn’t ready to start studying and I hoped to gain more experience of working with people with disabilities. I wanted to learn from the experience and share what I know. Being abroad is a great opportunity to see different ways of teaching and how people live.

I ended up at my voluntary workplace because… I wanted to work with people with special needs and disabilities, and there weren’t many options in Finland. In my previous experience, I was working with adults with disabilities, and this time I wanted to work with a different group like kids or teenagers. That is what I am doing now: volunteering at Aitoo Vocational School which offers education and training for students with disabilities or special needs.

My relationship and cooperation with my mentor is… Great. There is trust and communication.

I think that inspirational cooperation in volunteering builds on… being open-minded. It is difficult for close-minded people to have good relationships with people or experience fully. When you stay in your own world you do not experience much.

Challenges and opportunities of working with children with disabilities: Any teenagers get frustrated easily. At school it is difficult to talk with some students because when they aren’t understood from the first try, when they don’t have the right words, or something doesn’t happen perfectly, they get frustrated. Sometimes I don’t know how to manage the situation and tell them “It is okay. We can take time to work on it.”

These situations teach you empathy and patience. I am not a patient person. It is sometimes hard for me when they do things slowly and I just need to wait and observe without saying anything because it is still good for them to do however they are doing.

I get surprised and happy to see that someone shows me different parts of the world and different points of view. They have different objectives and ways of thinking than me. Even though sometimes life is a bit hard for them, they are always happy, open-minded, and embrace life. I am happy to engage with them.

For those interested in volunteering abroad, I wish to say… That it is an amazing opportunity. Even though your experience isn’t what you had in your mind, you still learn new things the whole time. For example, the last place I volunteered in, I finished early because it wasn’t the right place for me. But I still keep the positive experience and good memories. You meet new people and learn new languages. I really love the idea of going back home and sharing all I learned from this experience with my family and maybe encouraging people in my country to visit Finland and experience such great things.

Interview: Dilbar Aliyeva, photo: Joya Ferrini Gration

>> Read also the interview of Katariina Väre (in Finnish)

The story has been published in MaailmanVaihtoa – Volunteers’ Voices 1/2024.

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