Oh The Balkans!
Being a volunteer in Serbia was nothing like I expected, and I am more than blessed it turned out that way. During my search for a volunteer position I came across Indigo and I reached out for help. They collaborate with grassroots NGOs, which is from my point of view one of the best possibilities to help local organisations. The local NGOs do not have enough time or money to invest in recruiting volunteers and potential volunteers have difficulties to find local NGOs without a good knowledge of the local civic society. So Indigo is the perfect link.
I was matched with a local NGO operating in Serbia and after the first talk with Edin, one of the Founders, I was convinced to make the right decision. Anita, one of the Founders as well took great care of me even before my arrival in Pirot. She managed to rent me a place to stay so I could feel at home and got me in touch with the other volunteers in the City.
My first lesson as a volunteer started even before I packed my bags. The government made changes within the camps so all the kids I was supposed to teach moved to a different city and I had to adapt to the first spontaneous change. Little did I know that my time as a volunteer would hold a lot of lessons, adventures and great people for me. I met the most hopeful and enthusiastic people in the Camp. I learned a lot about the culture of Burundi and Congo, about the current situation in Eastern Ukraine and I had the most memorable chats about relationships, love and the future during an Art Class. I felt incredible joy seeing people being empowered and hearing laughter in the class room. I met people so enthusiastic and hopeful I never thought it possible. It was more than fun to think about new lessons and to see my students learning new things and believe in themselves.
Besides all those positive encounters I experienced some negative aspects as well and I think that every volunteer will experience some similar feelings. Since the Balkan Route has been closed for some time now the situation for refugees didn’t get any better. The countries of the European Union are playing a huge role in the situation for the refugees. We are constantly failing in providing the right kind of help and in acknowledging the situation. Some days I was hugely disappointed in the decision-making of my own country. My own work and the work of every volunteer out there didn’t make any sense to me since I knew that the politics wouldn’t change within the next few years. But I can assure you: you will overcome those days. You will get up in the morning and go to work and you will feel hope again. The hope for a better life, the hope for open borders and the hope for the best.
I am deeply and profoundly moved by the strength and positive attitude of the people I met, and I am beyond thankful to be a part of this amazing organisation and movement.
A special thank you to Indigo, who made all this possible in the first place. Your help and assistance along the way made everything much easier. To everyone out there who has not decided yet to become a volunteer: take this chance and make the world at least a little better. We cannot change everything, but we can invest our time and passion in those who are in need right now.