Volunteers’ Voices 4/2013: ICYE volunteering

 

Editorial: Looking for the Happiness Trail

In August 2005 I stood at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, put my hand in my pocket and realized that I no more had my home keys. Actually I did not even have a home: everything I had was an airline ticket and a red suitcase. My home had been packed into boxes and taken to the warehouse. I had taken a break from my studies and resigned from my job. The freedom felt like lightness on my shoulders. Even though I was nervous, I smiled happily.

I wanted to go to Asia; it had been clear for several years. Through long reflections and suitable coincidences a leaflet of ICYE Finland had found its way into my hand. What if I really could? I was chosen to an interview on the day of selections for new volunteers, but almost missed my appointment due to a bus strike on that exact weekend. However, I decided to take control over destiny and drove my bike through snowfall to the nearest train station. When I finally arrived with hours of delay, my name had already been removed from the list of the people to be interviewed. Luckily, I got my chance as the last interviewee of the day. They asked what I would take with me and what I would leave home; I promised to pack my toothbrush and to leave home my mother. It was a peculiar day in many ways. On an impulse I promised to consider leaving for a country I only knew by name: Taiwan.

I told my parents that I would become a volunteer only after I had already been accepted to the program. I told them on the way home, just moments before the train arrived to its destination. It was a rather onesided discussion; no questions, maybe slight wondering and signs of approval. Volunteering abroad was my choice. Mine. And then I went – first home from the train station, and months later towards the South China Sea and another, new home.

I had considered going on a student exchange many times, but I had also felt like I needed something else, a wider prospective into my life filled with studies. New thoughts, environment and challenges, that was what I needed – and that was definitely what I got. I spent six months in Taiwan as a dance and arts teacher at a kindergarten. There I was Liisa from Finland: the one the local newspaper wrote about and who appeared on television. My Chinese was lousy, but I got through everything with a smile on my face. When the earth shook in the metropolis, I trembled as well, and when the wind was blowing I bowed in it. And yet at the same time I learned to trust – in myself, above all.

Time has passed since the moments in Taiwan, since the typhoons and even the earthquakes. However, those experiences among many others gave me a positive outlook on life that even the darkest autumn cannot fade out. That is because happiness and strength of will come from inside. And what comes to the memories – they will continue to bring a smile on my face all through my life.

Liisa Veikkolainen
Chairperson, Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland

 

In the issue

2 Pääkirjoitus: Onnellisuuden jäljillä
5 Kolumni: Mistä puhun, kun puhun vapaaehtoistyöstä
6 Ajankohtaista Maailmanvaihdossa
Teema: ICYE-vapaaehtoistyö / Theme: ICYE Volunteering
– 8 Päivä vapaaehtoisena Costa Ricassa, Meksikossa ja Etelä-Koreassa
– 15 ICYE Suomessa ja maailmalla
– 16 Kaksi kurkistusta Intiaan
– 22 Life from Costa Rica to Finland
25 Vapaaehtoisten viikonloppu
26 ICYE around the World: Life-Changing Experience
28 Tule mukaan toimintaan
29 Ilmoitusasiaa: Tilaa Maailmanvaihdo juhlajulkaisu & MaailmanVaihtoa-lehti uudistuu
30 Lehden toimituskunta
31 Tapahtumakalenteri