Volunteering in the Mystic Place of Koli

I have been volunteering here in Finland for one month now and I will narrate for you the beginning of my extraordinary adventure in Koli, one of the national parks of Finland. My volunteering period began the 6th of January when I arrived in Helsinki before moving to Koli, my home for ten months. A new experience in a new country, a new culture in which people do not speak my language.

This is a kind of a challenge for me, because in France we just speak French, not English. But I am here to improve my English and also to discover the splendid nature of Finland while offering my help and skills. I can once again test my adaptation capacity, a hard but educational and rich exercise.

This project is totally different from the previous volunteering I have done in Madagascar. For instance, the climate differs, and the cultural environment in Africa is a unique one. Volunteering in Madagascar was the best experience in my life: I discovered a wonderful country with generous people and an amazing way of life in spite of all problems the country has with the poverty.

After returning from Madagascar, my only wish was to go abroad again and share my experience with new people while discovering a new culture. I had this opportunity to go to Finland, and since I have skills in landscape layout and I love nature and hiking, after deep reflection, I decided to take on this project.

I have different tasks here in the magical winter universe of Koli as well as at the cafeteria of the nature center Ukko. I help to organize events and to develop smalls projects. I also propose new ideas, help in outside work etc. Trough volunteering here I can try many things, test new activities and of course meet new people.

I think that it is important to go abroad and see with your own eyes the cultural differences and similarities and the context, and it is better when you can work with local people. With all these elements, everything makes sense for me because you can analyze and compare different ways of doing and learn – a real opportunity for creating souvenirs, learning by doing and discovering yourself much more.

The beginning of my experience was not simple, I was a little bit lost because I did not know this type of environment: the very cold weather, the Finnish language, being alone in a middle a nowhere. At first I felt frustration and loneliness but I was prepared for that, I knew that I should carry on volunteering even with these feelings.

After a few days, a few weeks, it already felt so relaxing to just enjoy the silence and admire the color of the trees, feel the freshness of the pure air, hear the taping of woodpeckers and gaze at the magnificent landscape of lake Pielinen. It is so appreciable to feel the purity and to see the light of the sun come brush the tree branches, a calming feeling for me. Koli, a particular place which has many stories and legends and special wildlife, where you can see a fabulous landscape change over the seasons, a perfect place for enjoying the nature.

That was the beginning of my story here, a beginning full of discoveries and personal feelings. After a few weeks I had an occasion to meet new people in Koli and students in Joensuu. With them I talked about the Finnish and French culture and language, tried the sauna and also drove snowmobile in the forest to collect firewood! I am now feeling happy to be here, I can experience new activities like snowshoes hiking or ice fishing and make the most of a fire while talking with friends in a snow-covered meadow. Now I know that I will meet a lot of extraordinary people and I have got many things to do and much to learn about the local culture. I am sure that I will hear incredible stories.

This adventure is unique to me and will be full of surprises for sure. Nine months to enjoy the country and Finnish people!

Simon Le Cléach

The story has been published in the Worlds of Experience Newsletter No. 48 the newsletter of the ICYE Federation.

Simon participates in Finland in the Eramus+ Volunteering – which has changed into European Solidarity Corps (ESC) Volunteering. Maailmanvaihto receives ESC volunteers for periods of 6–12 months. Would you be interested in participating? Read more and apply!