She is 23 years old and comes from sunny Barcelona. A graduate in Psychology, with a sharp eye for the little details, passion for photography and never ceasing enthusiasm and curiosity to try new things (or to ask you another question).

In today’s interview we are happy to introduce you Sara, one of the 6 ESC volunteers in our team, part of the project “Volunteering circles”.

Hello Sara, will you tell us – is this your first volunteering project abroad?

Yes, it is. In Barcelona I was participating as an activist in the Amnesty International group of my university, but this is the first time I am doing a volunteering in a foreign country. Also I had lived abroad before because I did Erasmus during my third year of university. I was living in the Netherlands for 6 months and, actually, it was there where I found out about EVS. I was with some friends on a tour, we met a group of people who turned out to be EVS volunteers in Poland.

Nice and was it difficult to find a project to volunteer?

At the beginning I started looking for a project by myself. I would enter the European Solidarity Corps website and spend hours looking for projects. I remember that I was super picky, so I was like “not this one, not this one”. When I finally contacted an organization through the ESC platform, they didn’t even reply, so I started to look for more information and I saw that you actually need a sending organization from the beginning who helps you to find a project and everything is easier. Then I found out about Service Civil International Catalunya on Facebook and I saw they had some projects so I decided to contact them. A week later I had an interview, more like a meeting to see what I didn’t know, and what type of volunteer opportunities exited (there is more than ESC). In that same interview they mentioned that there was this project in Bulgaria. It looked really interesting and I had been in the Sofia before so we tried to see if I could still apply for it. My hopes weren’t high because the deadline had passed, but few days later they told me that I could send my CV and motivation letter. After a while my coordinator contacted me and we had the interview. Everything was in the last minute, so I felt very lucky and happy.

Did you have any hesitations whether to join this project or to find another one?

Actually no, because as I told you I applied for this one and I got in so I didn’t have any other project or plan in mind. I have to say that I really liked the project because it is very diverse in a sense – you have cinema, you have working with refugees, you have promotion of volunteering… and lots of activities that are in between. I was also looking for a specific approach, something that it looked like I could participate from the inside, because there are some volunteering projects that are only about being in the front line but in which you don’t take decisions at all. I wanted to be part of the decision making because I would like to work in the field of NGOs, social justice and human rights. I wanted to perceive first hands how it is to work in an organization like this, before continuing my studies.

Do you enjoy the activities you are involved in?

Yeah, I do. Of course there are always exceptions as there are a lot of different tasks, but usually you get more involved with the ones that you are more interested. I came thinking that I was more interested in the refugees’ circle, but then when they explained more each of them I felt that I was also interested in the circle about promoting volunteering.

Something that helped in that sense was that, in the beginning of the project we made a task division list and we put our names on the tasks we wanted to take part in. The tasks I’ve been more involved in have been promotion, content creation, communication, organization of events and management. Of course all of these related to the social field. It is really different the communication for company that sells yogurt, for example, than the communication for an NGO.

You are also very good in photography. I saw you at a lot of events doing the shots.

Thank you! Yes, I really like photography and I have a reflex camera which is really similar to the one of our office. So since I knew how it worked, most of the times I ended up being the photographer of the events. I really enjoy it, so I rarely get tired of taking photos. I also started to get curious about video making, so I’ve started to develop this skill a bit.

And how do you find the life in Sofia, was it difficult to adapt here in the beginning?

Not really… Bianca (fellow volunteer) and I arrived in the middle of July. It was very warm and we didn’t know so many people. A lot of people in general in the city they were in vacation, so it was pretty empty. In that aspect in the beginning I was like “uff”. Later when the other volunteers arrived it got better as you meet more people, you start traveling more and visiting other cities. We went to Varna, and we met some volunteers from other organizations across the country. As for the city, I had visited Sofia before in a trip and I really liked it. I don’t know exactly why, it’s different and that makes it interesting.

Was there anything challenging for you in your work, in your life?

In the middle of the project I had some family issues, I couldn’t go back to my family, it didn’t make sense just to buy a ticket, it was from one day to another, so I stayed here. It was hard, because when you are abroad sometimes it feels like you are in a parallel world, you think that back home the time doesn’t pass, but the thing is that yeah, it does and when you realize that it is a bit weird. On a personal level it was a hard moment, but I went to visit them a few weeks later so it was okay.

Do you feel that you had changed during these months?

Totally, yeah. I guess you don’t notice it so much in yourself but when I was back home some people told me that there was something different. I guess that is something that always happens when you travel or you get out of the comfort zone. You develop somehow, of course you change. I guess maybe you gain maturity and tools to work professionally. Also when you meet people from all over the world and with different backgrounds it always happens that you expand your mind more and you discover new ways to approach different subjects. I think it makes you more open in general.

What are your favourite activities during your free time?

I like trying a lot of things, I remember I tried yoga a couple times but I didn’t succeed (laughing). Then I also I tried ceramics, because I had never tried it in my life so I was really curious. I found a place that is really close to my house, it is a studio run by a woman. She taught me how to use the wheel and everything. It is really cool to experiment ceramics with your own hands. I hope I will able to go at least once again.

Have you tried something typically Bulgarian?

The food for sure: shopska salad, parlenka, sirene, liutenitza, tarator… What else… On the arrival training we had to dance the horo, but I don’t know if it counts because I didn’t dance so well, but at least I tried. We traveled a lot around Bulgaria and I guess that when you talk with local people and you spend time with them you also experience the culture. We also took classes of Bulgarian at Edno school. They taught us the language, but they also explained us some cultural things as the kukeri, the symbols for protection and Baba Marta.

What was the most interesting thing you got to know about Bulgaria?

Maybe the people. The few bulgarians that I met are pretty cool. I don’t know how to describe it exactly. In general the young people that I met have a nice sense of humour, they are friendly and easy-going, I don’t know, I like them.

What are your favourite places in Sofia?

Let me see, there is a vegetarian restaurant that we discovered that I love, Dream house. I have only been there a couple times but I like how cozy it is. And the parks, I have lots of good memories in Borisova gradina, laying on the grass with my friends. I’m sure there are more… probably a place with food or beer (laughs).

Are there any tips you would like to share with the future volunteers?

For what I have experienced and also heard from other organisations – I would say apply, do it, but first get well informed about the organization. Try to contact previous volunteers from the project. Each organization has its own way of managing itself and handling situations. Apart from the experience and the work you should have clear what are the things that they are providing, because I know that some volunteers had bad experiences with the accommodation for example. So in order to avoid it, try to become informed beforehand. But apart from that – do it, do it (smiling).

With Dasha and Gyuzel (also volunteers in the project)
going to watch “Lion King” with Biance (another volunteer in the project)
Halloween party at OPEN SPACE
on a trip to Macedonia with volunteers
with the participants in the Human library in Plovdiv
during the promotion of “DOBROFEST”

The project “Volunteering Circles” (2018-2-BG01-KA125-048262) is Co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union and Human Resource Development Center (HRDC).

 Posted by Monika at 11:25 Volunteer activities

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