Jekaterina Maslova – EVS in Associação QE

My experience with EVS was set in the sunny capital of Portugal, where I spent 6 months volunteering in a beautiful, warm and welcoming centre for mentally disabled people.

I got the opportunity for this Project thanks to a good friend, who so kindly advised me to talk to Marco, to get some understanding of what EVS is and the possibilities it would give me. Since I was doing my last year of high school and struggling with choosing my next step, in what direction to choose the university degree, I decided to go somewhere far away to find myself by travelling, learning about a hidden minority in our community by helping them and building a close relationship with these people.

To be honest, I was very scared of doing this Project. And that for multiple reasons. I was moving out of the house I grew up in for the first time, living in a foreign country which language I did not speak, being in an International community and especially working with people who have mental disabilities, as I had never encountered them before in my life. But still I was excited to the maximum, I was ready for the experience.

Of course when I moved there, I was extremely happy. All that sun and warm weather! Coming from Estonia, where already in September it was cold and rainy, here, in Lisbon I could go to the beach. The City is amazing, a big old town part, a lot of houses covered in colored tiles, narrow streets which are floored with cobblestone, happy, smiling people. I fell in love with this culture and I have to say, I took some of the Portuguese mentality to myself as well, which I find makes me more happy and not sweating the small stuff, enjoying life much more fully.

The Project itself changed my perspectives a lot, not only in how I see people with mental disabilities, but in general, how I communicate with all people. I feel much more love inside of myself and others. I see the importance of showing affection and care towards the ones round us, because to someone just a simple embrace might make their day more meaningful. I got to the point that I see them just as normal as any other person in this world, they became my friends, who I miss and was happy to see every day when I went to the centre. They teached me a lot about being my authentic self, showing emotions and not caring about what others might think, as they had all of these sides perfectly represented in them.

I think I grew a lot with the help of this Project. I became much more independent and able to think my thoughts more clearly and understand my wishes. I got a better realization of what the world is like outside of my safe little home country. The biggest realization I made was the one I was looking for when choosing to do this Project, find out what I want to do next. And I did. Thanks to this I decided to enroll on a degree in psychology, which I have understood, I have always been very drawn to.

To anyone who is searching for themselves or their purpose, I can say with full assurance, that doing a Project like this is the best way to do it. It’s a very diverse experience, which will be filled with a wide range of situations and emotions and I think only by stepping into this discomfort, we can find ourselves and our purpose.

This Project was financed by European Commission’s Erasmus + Programme