Volunteering … You know those words that carry so much meaning, those that we say, but we don´t know the exact meaning of it. Volunteering is one of those words. I’m Sofia, I volunteered in Georgia and I’m here to tell you my story! Yes, because after 9 months there I can not say it was just an experience, it is a story that will always be marked in my life story. It all started in July 2018, I remember that in the days before travel I had mixed emotions, it was joyful because I wanted to do this volunteering, I was scared of adaptation, I was heartbroken because I would be away from home for a long time and at the same time it was the excitement of knowing a new place, of meeting new people, of living new things. I am the type of person who doesn’t like to create expectations so before coming I did not look much about the country or the economical / social situation that the country faced. I tried to know about its history but not about the current situation because I wanted to see it with my own eyes. And this happened. And I loved it!
I was welcomed in Georgia the best way that I could have imagined. I can tell you that the adaptation was not as difficult as I thought. Although the language and the alphabet is completely different, people always try to help and are very hospitable. I was fortunate enough to spend 2 weeks there with other Portuguese volunteers who greatly facilitated my integration and at the same time brought a bit of Portugal when I thought it would not come so early. It was summer and therefore was the ideal time to travel and get to know Georgia more thoroughly. The way I did it was totally unexpected. They said that getting a ride was safe and therefore that’s what we did. I traveled kilometres hitchhiking and it was one of the best experiences of my life. It would be unbelievable to do this in Portugal but there it was my way of transport to places in the middle of nowhere but with unequaled views, in the middle of the mountains, in the middle of the cities , no matter the destination, hitchhiking was the medium. There was winter with its rain and snow. The days have become longer, the going out of the house became more difficult, homesickness increased, and the motivation decreased. Not all moments were perfect, I had ups and downs but fortunately I also had people who made gray days into sunny ones. Their unique way of saying “Sofia, Let’s Go, Let’s do it!” motivated me, supported and often accompanied me so that I would not give up. At the end of these 9 months I just wanted to stay 9 more, the feeling cant be described. Time flew by and when I realized I’m in the last week of my EVS, I started to prepare everything and think about everything I’ve lived there. I began to say goodbye to people, to places, to recognize that those fantastic moments are not going to repeat themselves. The routines will change, I will wake up and I will not be in “my room”, I will not “see the same people” … Back to Portugal, meeting friends and family is a constant reminder that I am not there , and that hurts. If the mix of feelings you had at the beginning is confusing, now confusion is even greater.
It was intense months, I met wonderful people who will stay in my life forever, I had exceptional moments, I had the opportunity to travel through the unknown, I had the courage to go and I found a new home and a new family. And when you realize it, it’s time to say goodbye to one of the best experiences of my life, time to say “See you” to special people, time to say “I want to go back in time.” One thing I can tell you for sure, I finished this experience with everything I wanted and with much, much more than I expected.
Do I recommend doing volunteer work? Yes I do! But do not go there with the idea that you are going to change the world and that it will be so great that it will resonate for generations (sometimes it happens but is not usual). Volunteering is more than changing the world, it is, in your own way changing and touching the life of others. It is doing what you want to do only with the intention of helping without receiving anything in return, is to spread joy and good will when people have bad days, it is giving and receiving. No matter what you did, what matters is that you have touched someone and this will reflect in a smile, a hand out, a conversation. You do not always receive the acknowledgement in words, sometimes it is in the most varied ways and with the highest honesty.