My first approach to intercultural volunteering was as a reporter. Interested in the topic, in the middle of 2013 I decided to assume the role of objective observer and began to collect stories and then translate them into a documentary.
The hypothesis that guided my research, and whose veracity I intended to check, was the idea that these experiences are transformative and represent a turning point in the lives of those who choose to carry them out.
Upload met was so south and the crush was instant. The project brought together the two things that I find most exciting: voluntary work and travel. It was they who introduced me to volunteer so I could interview them and later gave me the opportunity to live closer intercultural volunteering.
So it was like a 7 May I arrived in Croatia and by chance had a luxury welcome. My arrival coincided with the celebration of San Duje, patron of Split, and the city received me dressed party. That night different bands gave concerts and a massive lottery was organized in Riva, which Rambla Split. Thousands of people circulated through the streets of the city celebrating and buying typical wooden kitchen utensils sold for this date, as amulets for good luck.
The night ended with a fireworks show, I could see from Matejuska, a dock where boats moors and often the meeting place for young people. With such a spectacle as scenery, I had my first meeting with volunteers Help. Catarina Germany, Lorena from Spain, Kelly Scotland, Piero of Italy and France Nícolas; I also had all Croatian friends who had known since they were in Split.
The next day I went to meet the offices of Help and experience the same feeling I feel every time I'm on the terrace of Subir al Sur. The comfort of feeling like home. Help is an NGO created in 1991 to help Serb refugees during invasions. But once the war remained open for the fight against HIV. In their offices run parallel two programs: Harm Reduction and Youth Information Center.
The main goal of the first program is the prevention of hepatitis and HIV. To get this working with vulnerable populations, as persons prostitutes and drug addicts. To reduce the risk of contagion it provides them with needles and condoms and clinical analysis for disease testing offered. All this is also accompanied by strong campaigns to raise public awareness.
The first heard about the service proveeduría needles for drug addicts use intravenous, try to imagine how would this public opinion in Argentina. I suspect it would be a controversial issue and a lot of people would oppose, arguing that this would encourage drug abuse. I arrived in Split fascinated to know how the Croats saw the implementation of this program and I found to my surprise that it is also a controversial issue for them. But nevertheless, beyond debate, Statistics show that since this service is performed the spread of hepatitis and HIV was reduced considerably. sufficient evidence to continue the program. I wonder whether Argentina would be enough evidence. Would you support our leaders efficient projects, or demagogic and electioneering purposes is inclined so that public opinion say?
The new service delivery needles is done in Help not only does not encourage drug abuse, but tries to fight. In the office where the needles are removed, on a billboard all information about the various clinics and specialized centers offered to treat the disease. And if the addict request, Help agrees to meet in less than 48 hours, a place to be.
The Youth Information Center is another program that develops in Help. Through non-formal education it is to encourage young people to have greater commitment and play a more active role in society. high school and university students participating volunteer. It is on the basis of this program, through the SVE (European Voluntary Service) o EVS, its acronym in English; foreign volunteers offer classes in their native languages in offices Help to promote intercultural, an attitude towards the meeting of cultures that goes beyond mere respect for differences and puts the focus on integration.
I can not overemphasize that I see with profound optimism, the fact that an organization created to protect refugees from war, arose partly because of the clash of different cultures, who they fought to have their nation and prevail over the rest; work today in cultural integration. I think it is a triumph of reason over hatred, and speaks of the maturity of this people rever a very recent history.
But definitely the most fun activity, also designed to promote integration, It is the intercultural night. A meeting organized by volunteers to share customs, music and traditional foods of their countries. They are also invited to the event students volunteer, what is really interesting, because this turns out to be an ideal opportunity to practice test and put what they have learned. How many language institutes students could have this opportunity? The small fee they pay for learning languages is a nominal fee used to cover the costs of materials for classes. Help EU subsidies received, the Ministries of Education and Health, the municipality of Dalmatia, and even receives contributions from private companies. For them the classes are not a form of financing, because Help is a non-profit organization, it is a voluntary service offered to the community.
In turn, the volunteers attend classes in Croatian, to facilitate their stay in Split.
Katharina, German volunteer, that surprised the number of people who wanted to learn their native language. Currently has 4 courses and is delighted with her work: "If someone came to offer 1 million dollars to give up my job in volunteering, I would not do it."
Pierluigi is also convinced that this is one of the most enriching experiences that he lived: "Meeting people from different places is a way to grow, not only in the profession, but as a human being "
Ryszard Kapuscinski, Polish journalist who traveled the world as a correspondent, He said: "There is a connection between our personal destiny and the presence of thousands of people and things whose existence we know nothing and that influence our life and its development".
These exchanges teach young people to think like citizens of the world and be aware of that connection mentioned Kapuscinski.
I think we know and experience the vastness and diversity of our world, also it teaches us to be humble. Travel teach you that the only way to know ourselves and know our own culture, It is through knowledge of other societies. Because when we get in touch with a different culture, we begin to become aware of our habits acquired. We develop a critical awareness, able to question and challenge. As time allows us to see things in perspective, the tour gives us the perspective of space.
A key aspect of intercultural dialogue, It is that there are no static cultures. Culture is dynamic by definition. Changes in the process of adapting to new situations. And it seems that individual level, volunteers also experience deep and positive changes.
Katharina, for example, He says he feels more independent and confident, Since coming to Split.
Kelly, from Scotland, He says that being with people from other places helped to see things from another perspective and allowed him to have a more open mind.
Personally, and if only has been in Split by 21 days, I take a word, that word is more than a lifestyle. The word is slowly and means slowly. I see myself repeating to myself and remembering the wonderful people I met on Help, every time I win in Buenos Aires city anxiety and push me to live at their own pace. Because while in big cities is run by inertia, It runs to get anywhere; Polako is enjoy the journey.
Thanks Subir al Sur and Help for letting me walk this path and be part of this unforgettable experience.