European volunteering: a collection of moments that will stay with me long after my return home!

Friday 10 November 2023

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After bidding farewell to university life, I found myself on a new adventure that took me to the sun-soaked streets of Palermo. This two-month escapade was no ordinary post-graduate vacation; it was an unforgettable intercultural experience. After the warm welcome of our mentor, I had many joint programs with the other volunteers, so within just a week it felt as if we had known each other for years.

The volunteering activities supporting local centers became the pulse of my experience. I have had the opportunity experience three completely different realities. As I graduated as a psychologyst it was particularly inspiring to play an active role in the day-to-day running of ITACA, which is based on the Clubhouse model. I was able to take part in many joint activities (such as cooking and gardening together) with the staff and members with various mental health difficulties. At Centro Astalli I was able to gain insight into one of the most important social phenomena in the region, namely integration and working with immigrants from outside the European Union. During my time at Parco del Sole I helped with after-school activities for children. I was able to develop my interpersonal skills, such as empathy and patience, while playing music, playing games or doing the homework together. It was more than just work; it was a journey of understanding, collaboration, and making a tangible impact.

Sharing a living space with six other volunteers turned out to be a highlight of the experience. Our humble abode transformed into a melting pot of cultures and ideas. Late-night conversations on the terrace, shared meals, and the occasional friendly debate created a sense of camaraderie that extended beyond national borders. Living with diverse perspectives was an education in itself.

Palermo (and Sicily) were not just a place of work; they were waiting to be explored. We went on lots of day trips and longer trips around the area, and visited a different beach every week.  Each day in Palermo brought with it a new page of memories. Whether it was the impromptu gatherings in the local piazzas or the shared triumphs and challenges at the local centers, the experiences etched themselves into the tapestry of my life.

As my two months in Palermo drew to a close, I left not only with a heart full of gratitude for the experiences but also with a newfound understanding of solidarity, cultural diversity, and the impact of collective effort. The European Solidarity Corps wasn’t just a project; it was a collection of moments that would stay with me long after my return home. Or as I always say: that was something!

Máté Petró

Volontario ESC – Sharing solidarity 2023

Youth Unit