Volunteering in times of pandemic: What a great opportunity!

We spend our lives planning our days and making long-term plans. But sometimes the most unexpected surprises you, and in the best way. Something like that happened to me three months ago. Let’s get situated: the year is 2020, there is a pandemic (I think), and we are all in lock down at home. You make plans because you want to feel productive. But all your plans crash when “boom!” October arrives and the second wave of the virus hits your life. Everything you had planned is cancelled. Suddenly, without even looking for it, you see through social media that there is the possibility of volunteering … in Turkey! At first the excitement and desire run through your body, until you realize once again: we are in a pandemic. But hey, why not give it a try?

Two weeks later I land at Ankara airport, and I smile because I still have two months left. Everything has just begun. The next day, while I’m enjoying the city, my Erasmus friend -Yusuf- invites me over for a couple of days to Malatia (where he studies), a city in central Turkey that I think I was the first Spanish person to visit. A 10-hour trip to go there and 10 hours back. And the funniest thing is that it has been one of the best experiences of these two months, who would have thought! But everything had just begun. Back in Ankara, I met the other volunteers and coordinators. It was my first volunteering experience, but when the first thing they do is offer you food and share adventures, you understand the spirit of this way of seeing the world.

From that day on, you start meeting people from all over, you try to speak other languages, you get to know new cultures and personalities… How enjoyable it is when the atmosphere is that special! Also, that is something that shows when you’re carrying out the different activities. Specifically, we did a lot of group activities, and that’s what I liked the most: from English Conversation Clubs to Multicultural Gastronomic Nights, including Turkish classes, and I even became a Spanish teacher!

Apart from these activities, we went every week to a center for young people with functional diversity, and we worked to raise awareness in the Turkish community about the environment. It has been a wonderful couple of months, in which I have gotten to know and connect with people of all nationalities, who always seek to know you more and help you. Although it is true that a pandemic is not something you can set aside (and some of the activities we carry out were quite restricted because of it), we always tried to adapt our work to the context in which we found ourselves, and that is to be admired. For this and much more, I have no regrets for not thinking twice when, in mid-October, I discovered this opportunity.

And last, but not least: thank you very much for everything, Ana. If someone reads these lines and dares to volunteer, they will have a fantastic mentor who will help them with everything.

Quique

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