My name is Ifigenia Stavrou, I’m 25 years old and I am from Cyprus.
I studied Sociology and I would like to do my master in School Psychology, before to do this step, considering that the volunteering will help me to develop and improve myself in a several levels, as a person who always trying to improve myself by participating in different activities, loves the kids and help people in general, when I have seen that MOJU had an open call and after I informed about the main objectives of the project such as helping young people to improve the level of their key skills, including the disadvantaged, social inclusion and solidarity, particularly through creating opportunities for mobility for learning purposes I felt that this volunteering project totally fits on me.
When I informed that I accepted I was feeling so enthusiastic and I was looking forward to start and meet the kids.
Going in one country that you have never even visit before could sound a bit scary for some people, but for me constituted a challenge, I believe it is necessary to venture beyond the comfort zone to risk the road less planned and predictable, joining to that challenge it seemed to be the right way to try my limits, take my life in my hands, help people that need it, discover a new culture, meet new people and learn a foreign language. Arriving in Olhao a small city of “fishermen” I felt strange it was something different of the place that I used to live, after I met the locals and discovered the place I started to appreciate more this peaceful place and enjoy more every little thing.
The truth is that in the beginning it wasn’t that easy for both sides, for me because I was far away from my home but more because I wasn’t able to speak the language with the kids. After one month or maybe less I could already see that the kids start feeling more comfortable with me. When I was helping them with the homework, they were joining in my activities and they wanted to spend time with me I started feeling really satisfied and more sure about myself and what I came to do in Olhão. During the one year of my volunteering service in Portugal the everyday communication with both foreigners and local was a wonderful opportunity for me to gain valuable experiences and knowledge about intercultural and multilingual communication. Living and sharing an apartment with other volunteers and interacting daily with foreign habits and cultures forced me to adapt to things that were unfamiliar and unusual for me and gave me the opportunity to grow and develop as a person. Being friends with local people and working with kids as a volunteer gave me a wide ranging and practical understanding of Portuguese history, culture, society and reality.
Now I’m just surprised about how fast the relationships can be that strong between the people and how easy is to communicate with people even if you have just the basic level of their language.
Even if I was far away of my country and my family and even if working with kids it’s not an easy job I feel that the love of the kids could fill that gap, I strongly believe that the only thing you need if you want to work with kids is to be patient and put yourself in their shoes to empathize in order to understand them and spread the love!