I’d have never thought that one day I would have visited Count Dracula’s castle in Transilvania; Romania wasn’t in my plans, but I have been there and this happened thanks to Erasmus+ project. On October 16th-25th I took part in a youth exchange in Busteni, Romania, with the topic “volunteerism vs voluntourism”.
The project saw the participation of 40 young people (including group leaders) coming from 8 European countries: Romania, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, and Latvia. Excluding 2 travel days, we spent 8 days in Busteni, a city located in the mountains in the north of Romania, carrying out group activities and workshops related to the main topic of the exchange, getting to know the volunteering situation in each of the participating countries, sharing points of view, ideas and discussing potential solutions to the voluntourism issue, which seems to be quite popular during volunteering projects promoted (or not) by the Erasmus+ project. Even if most of the workshops have been implemented in the main venue of the event, some activities have been organized outside in the city: in this way, we had the opportunity to visit Busteni and other places around it.
The facilitators of the project Tolia, Bogdan and Fabi were always with us, introducing us to very interesting, creative and original activities, following us through the whole way of the the project, from its beginning till the last day. Our facilitators turned out to be super friendly, comprehensive, open-hearted and minded: they have been able to show us aspects of the Romanian culture, that probably I would have never appreciated if I wouldn’t have felt comfortable as I did.
This project contributed to show me many of the possible ways to volunteer and consequently to do good deeds to people, but to yourself first and helped me to figure out what I’ve already done to help out people and what I’m actually doing. Personally I don’t think that only big changes can make one feel proud of himself, but especially the small ones can help a lot. Big challenges such as changing job or moving to another city are not always the solution, but those spontaneous and small actions like spending some hours on Saturdays volunteering in WWF, dedicating some of your free time to talk with the new volunteer just arrived to Latvia and eventually to help him out, etc. – can step by step gives you an amount of experience that will make you into a better person. Through your actions, you will feel better and more confident with yourself first, even knowing that those same actions of yours are firstly aimed to help someone else.
During this youth exchange, I’ve interacted with almost all of the participants and I listened to many of their experiences; for me, this project has been about a lot of stories and inspirations. I’ve spent real quality time speaking with people very different from each other, with different origins and cultures. Through the stories that they decided to share with me, I entered in contact with dudes who are somehow planning their future, following a dream or just living and enjoying the moment without searching for anything in particular, but just waiting for better experiences to come.
Thanks to this project I feel I’ve established real connections! Some of the people who entered my heart revealed to be good listeners when it was my turn to tell something about me, and ready to eventually help me in those moments of misunderstanding. I’ve seen in many of them potential new friends, whom I hope to see again maybe during another Erasmus+ project or just for a visit.
Last but not least: once more I have the confirmation that Erasmus+ connects people