Being a European Solidarity Corps volunteer has many perks, and one of them is a chance to attend two volunteer training sessions. Having completed my on-arrival meeting last summer, it was time for me to attend my mid-term training in February, which came a bit later for me. I already had 10 months of my ESC behind me and a lot of things to look back on. I also felt anxious because there were many things I still wanted to fulfil while at IYNF and had only a couple of months to do it.

The atmosphere that greeted me on my second European Solidarity Corps volunteer training was vastly different from the one I experienced during my first. I was in a room full of very confident young people, who understood the program and who understood each other very well. I was an outsider in this group, literally, for I had missed my original scheduled mid-term training with my own group, due to some unforeseen circumstances last September. I was put in a new group of people who were already friends, but it did not take long for me to feel welcome and accepted.

After a successful social walk session

I was very close to missing this mid-term training as well. On the morning of my trip, I was not feeling very well at all. Having the habit of always pushing through my own symptoms of illness, I boarded my bus and my train regardless of how I was feeling. There was another reason, of course. This might have been my last chance to have my second ESC training and I was determined not to miss it.

The most surprising thing about CZ – for me, it was apparently, the barefoot walking trend…

The first evening, we were asked to share more about our experience as a volunteer. And this entire period was a rollercoaster – filled with both engaging and inspirational achievements as well as demanding challenges. My volunteering year was simply saturated with value and it was impossible to summarise the experience in an indifferent way. On the inside, I was very emotional but luckily the weight of my engagement was not visible on the surface. It would have been fine either way because I was fortunately a part of a very emotionally intelligent and welcoming group and we managed to establish a safe space from the beginning.

Sharing is caring – celebrating ourselves and our achievements with snacks and sweets

One morning, we got to visit a small non-profit initiative of Hustopeče called Narana. It started as a second-hand clothing store where all the profits were donated to charity, but after that it grew into an educational centre for various workshops for both children and adults. This small organisation is founded and managed by a handful of Hustopeče young moms who had a lot of passion and desire to uplift the community and offer educational alternatives to their children. I found it to be a very inspiring story and the visit was definitely in alignment with our program and values.

Just your little volunteer at the top of a lonely hill, getting a picture with a sunset

During the activity, we had two opportunities to spend some time outside. The first one was a social walk where we had to talk to each other using guided questions. The second time was a longer hike around the hills and I found it challenging because I was still very sick. The hike was really beautiful and we got to see the whole town from various different points, and since the hike was in the late afternoon, we got to see the golden setting sun. The only downside was that I lost almost half of the photographs and videos that I made that day so many beautiful captures were lost.

More views from the hilltop

As a proud IYNF volunteer and one of the creators of the toolkit, I did not miss the chance to present and promote our “Take Me Outside” first aid kit from the 2022 cycle of activities. Since we were given free space to conduct our own workshops and presentations I took the chance to say a few words about our cycle, purpose and one of its main outcomes – the actual toolkit! I shared my creative vision, tested a couple of activities with other participants and gladly gave up my own copy – because I did not bring any copies to give out. If you are wondering which toolkit I am talking about, click here to download it from our website or here to order a physical copy.

A glimpse of our toolkit with a little friend I met on the way

During the final evening, we were given an interesting task that I always wanted to do but never had the chance. We were asked to make a vision board for ourselves, either about the past or the future. To create the board we had a lot of stationery, magazines and scraps but not a lot of time left. Whenever I express myself creatively, I am very perfectionistic and like to take my time. That is precisely why making this board in an hour was a big challenge for me. It ended up being intuitive, containing a lot of keywords and images I like. It is possible that I was able to express a more genuine version of myself because I allowed myself to make choices without thinking too much about them.

This final exercise helped me conclude the meeting on a more bright and hopeful note. It made me summarise my wishes for the future and the upcoming period and made me focus on making them happen, rather than fearing the constantly passing time. I still felt insanely nostalgic and anxious, wondering what will come next for me and my involvement with IYNF. But I realised that I am determined to continue collaborating with IYNF and promoting its values, because, at the end of the day, those values are also my own. Apart from that I became determined to make my closing two months the most impactful and meaningful here at IYNF and to use my remaining time in the most productive and inspiring way possible.

Article by: Maja Tešić

Just a part of my mid-term team, chilling on the hilltop