Sep 14, 2011

Few of us out in the world!

Three Red Cross Youth volunteers in Croatia

It's already been 3 days since we landed and I'm still afraid that the emotions will take over my words. First of all I apologize for taking so long to tell the news, but the week was too intensive to sit down in front of the computer and think what to write, it was impossible. The few hours of sleep and many hours of activities didn't allow it!
I don't like to start from the end, but in this case the end is the best way to describe it all: On the last day we cried! And yes, I could just leave it here, you already have an idea how it must've been, but let's go back to the beginning!
A little bit in doubt 3 of our volunteers together with 2 other volunteers from an organization from Coimbra decided to leave for Croatia for a Youth in Action exchange. Although we had a 100% confidence in the program this specific Action raised some doubts: subject matters, the dates, travels, the number and ages of the participants, and the nationalities as well. All the little details made us wonder if we'd even manage to leave... BUT WE DID!
The 19th of August we arrived in Croatia with a desire to be the Youth in Action. We were received by a volunteer of the host organization, Robert Pofuk, who was not only to an excellent guide, showing us every corner of Zagreb, but also turned out to be, and I believe I speak for all of us, a great friend impossible to forget! After a short but intense visit to the capital, Pofuk travelled with us to Novi Marof, a little village where all the Action took place and which I believe surprised us all. The endless search for it on the Internet, the pictures that only showed a little street lost somewhere in Croatia, with a handful of houses around... The intense search resulted in one of the most characteristic places in the world, interesting because of its freshness and dynamics!

That night we didn't sleep in Novi Marof because we arrived a day ahead of schedule. Instead, one of the members of the host organization (which I hope will become our partner in Youth in Action activities) kindly invited us to his apartment in Varazdin, the ancient capital of Croatia. That night we were kept busy by the music festival and the artisan market that were held in the city.

Next day we headed again to Novi Marof, this time to stay. When we arrived the groups from Romania, Croatia and Serbia were already there, the only one missing was the macedonian one, which soon joined us. After the first meal together, the evening continued with numerous introducing dynamics. Thanks to these I can after all these days, despite the constant changing of groups during the week, name everyone who was present. Without forgetting anyone, but missing everyone.

The whole week passed in pretty much the same routine. At 8 in the morning a bus waited for us at the Josko hostel, the place where we were accommodated. It took us to the Cultural Center of the city where we ate and had some of the activities. Following the breakfast was always the “energizer” which, whether we wanted or not, woke us up for the day ahead in a very funny way. We spent most of the mornings at the Center, doing group dynamics, debating volunteering or presenting work of the previous day, but the afternoon was always full of surprises.

The days were divided in 3 big themes: Culture&Tradition, Sports&Nature and last one, History&Arts. Each of the various thematic groups (which were always very original and fun) would meet one local organization that developed some sort of work in one of those areas.  This way we did everything from dancing, painting, making paper flowers, fishing, making candles with plastic cups, mowing the lawn, cooking to FLYING with a great pleasure!

The main objective of MZM (the host organization) was that with this exchange, the quiet village where they were based would turn into an active, dynamic, multicultural place and, above all, that the aged population started believing in the next generations and in the crucial role that we, as young people, can play on local development. I don't know if I can speak for them, but judging by what I witnessed and most of all what I experienced, this aim was fulfilled in 200%. The connection that was created between us and the inhabitants of Novi Marof was remarkable for everyone. Their happiness for having people asking them questions, young people wanting to know about traditions, trying to capture every moment in digital form, they inviting us to parties... This made them believe in the fact that the world is much more than the television dramas, and that there's still hope!

As for us, I think this was just one more proof that YES, IT IS POSSIBLE to “do more, do better, get way (way, way) further”. Just want it – just go! Although the doubts caught us on our guard at the beginning, the mentioned tears left us with the certainty that we want to return, that we want to meet again, talk and tell, yell to the world that WE ARE NOT AFRAID TO ACT!

Not everything can be said in this text. Not only because it's impossible to put feelings into words, but also because of the wish that all of the JCV volunteers would one day, hopefully soon, have an experience like this (the Red Cross Youth in Action is willing to send you, just tell them where and when!).

When it comes to me, I just want to thank all the members of MZM who taught me the real meaning of team work, the “25 magnificents” who I can after 9 days call my friends. Especially I want to thank my two colleagues, friends from the Red Cross, Chisoka and InĂªs, for the fact that we are and we want to be THE WORLD!

                                                                                                                           Cristiana Garcia


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