Learning and Growing at Vanhamäki Activity Centre

My name is Catriona Christina Dinnegan. I am from County Westmeath in Ireland. My EVS journey began when I found the organisation Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland. I became very interested in becoming a part of their voluntary opportunities.

In order to be able to join in the EVS, I needed to have a sending organization in Ireland. Thus, I joined in the organisation VSI Ireland and agreed with them that they would be my sending organisation. I really admire both organisations and I am very proud to be one of their EVS volunteers.

Organic farming at Suonenjoki

My interest in Finland is because I have always dreamed of spending time learning here and also next year I will become an Author of Finnish Children’s books. The reason that I applied for the EVS opportunity at Vanhamaki Activity Centre is because it is such a special place in the community. The centre is situated in Suonenjoki, a rural town of some 7 500 inhabitants.

Vanhamäki Activity Centre

Vanhamäki provides activities for its visitors and runs an organic farm, horse stables and a foster home. When I was selected to be a part this project I was so happy that I was in tears because It is such a wonderful opportunity.

“On this project there is a team of four of us volunteers, and when we arrived nearly a month ago we were greeted with open arms and kindness by everybody in our community here at Vanhamaki, and it feels like our new home.”

Vanhamäki has welcomed EVS volunteers already several years, but I am the first Irish EVS volunteer there. My tasks include helping out with organic farming which is very enjoyable and a valuable learning experience. In the centre’s Syke-talo building there are events for schools and local community of Suonenjoki, and I help out at these events. I really enjoy doing this. Everyday is a chance to learn and enjoy being a part of a community.

Skills and understanding

On this project there is a team of four of us volunteers, and when we arrived nearly a month ago we were greeted with open arms and kindness by everybody in our community here at Vanhamäki, and it feels like our new home. I am enjoying spending time with everybody here and of course the animals that live here.

I have noticed my confidence growing more everyday. I feel I am already becoming a better version of myself and I am becoming the person I have always aspired to be. My time here has already changed my life and is a chapter of my life I will always be so proud of.

“I feel volunteering in a community helps both the volunteer and the community, which is why the European voluntary service is so important to further learn and grow together.”

I feel volunteering in a community helps both the volunteer and the community, which is why the European voluntary service is so important to further learn and grow together. The EVS is such an amazing opportunity for young people to learn new skills and spend time learning in another country. Another important part of being involved the EVS projects is that it helps to build friendships and teaches us more understanding of each other across Europe.

I feel that because of this wonderful opportunity I now have more of an understanding of my European citizenship, and of course Finland will always have a special place in my heart.

Catriona Dinnegan

Catriona participates 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!