Empowered by Nature – Jan-Martin Vandrecht – Hungary – September 2019 (Short Term EVS)
Hello! My name is Jan-Martin and I am 21 years young. In September 2019 I participated in a short term European voluntary project in Hortobagy, Hungary. During those 30 days I had the opportunity to help out a local bird hospital and park; spend time with 14 other volunteers from all over Europe and many more locals; experience life abroad and discover Hungary and most of all, create memories that last at least a lifetime! My project was made possible thanks to Hang-Kep Egyesulet organisation which organised our stay and activities and Noored Ühiskonna Heaks organisation for sending me out to explore the world!
Hortobagy Birdhospital and Park.
This facility and area is built to operate and help recover different birds as well as animals who have sustained some sort of injuries in the wilderness of Hungary. Most commonly there are storks, eagles, sparrows, hawks and owls habiting this hospital. Most common types of injuries include electric shock from power lines, broken wings and other bones. They are operated if needed, also they are given antibiotics and they are being recovered and prepared with their release back to nature, if that is possible! In the park I saw also a parrot, deers, a swan, sheep, ducks, turtles, goose, pigs, horses, hedgehogs, a dog, cats, chameleon, pigeons, even a big talking raven called Negro, all of who had found their way from different locations to the park at some point for recovery.
This type of hospital is the only one in the whole country, maybe even Europe. It is run by a non governmental organisation The Birdhospital Foundation which has established this facility with private funds, donations and the money that is coming in from visitors each season.
During the first week our new volunteer family moved in to a big livinghouse. In the house we also met 2 other volunteers who were doing their long term project in the same facility. During mornings we did basic icebreakers and team building tasks to make communication easier and more comfortable. Our hosting organisation had planned awesome activities for us to get to know our local area and culture. Some of the activities included a bike orientation in the neighbourhood with a paper with locations to visit and mark; a “treasure hunt” style boat ride on the river; a horse carriage ride around the National park, where we learned most about local traditional workers such as sheep shepherds and breeders; and a full day visit to Debrecen, second biggest city in Hungary, giving us an opportunity to be a classic tourist for a day and enjoy local food and sights there.
We also had a chance to create our own work schedule, giving us freedom to choose on which days somebody worked and when was free time.
What was the work like?
There was three types of work that was assigned to our volunteers. Hospital, Park and Facebook promotion. Everyone got to do all of these during the month. The hospital workers went 7am in the morning to the hospital and completed everyday routine tasks related to the wellbeing of birds and animals. I got to clean tiny and big cages from birdshit and leftover food, switch water, do a check ring inside a big voliere designed to keep birds who can fly already and are few steps away from releasing back outside. I also got to feed birds and animals, literally stuff tiny pieces of chicken inside birds who were not able to swallow themselves.
Park work concluded everything to make the whole place look pretty, cleaning the territory, strip the leaves and excess grass off the ground, mow the lawn and also paint wooden elements of the park itself.
Facebook promotion team had to capture moments from the life of the volunteers and the Birdhospital and upload the footage to official Facebook page.
During my time as a promoter, i managed to create 2 short videos; an interview and an informational bit which can be found here: ( https://www.facebook.com/birdhospitalhortobagy/videos/512088739525780/
We had plenty of free time and it was great that we could choose our own free days in the schedule. I took my free time to walk around the village to discover the nature, also I had a good opportunity to practise disc golf throws! (shoutout to all the disc golfers – keep collecting those birdies :D). Moreover with 5 other volunteers we organised a 5 day trip to Budapest, a trip that was personally an awesome experience on its own – travel around during an abroad travelling experience! It was also normal for us to spend our free time in the hospital and park – since our first visit we fell in love with this place and its creatures!
What did this experience give me?
First off it gave me a chance to escape my every-day life, to take some time out of some habits and people surrounding me and to give me time to relax, which is very crucial and positive result for me as I am writing this article!! Secondly I rediscovered my passion for animals and especially birds! It was truly an enchanting and breathtaking feeling for example to stand in a tiny room with 2 huge Eagles watching every move you make, seeing them and other animals in their full size and power was something that I will personally remember for a long time! They have a type of sincere, wild and pure look in their gaze that just can not be found amongst human beings that often!
The third and maybe most valuable lesson for me was getting to know other people, tolerating the huge cultural differences in a tiny home for 30 days, learning to let go of expectations and make most of any situation that was present. Also got a great “taste” of independence in a new level, having to organise my own food and finances!
I had a bag full of expectations before going to this experience, I learned to embrace some of these and to let go of some others, for the sake of my own wellbeing. It was a learning experience, something more than just clean bird shit in the morning and hang out in the evening. Furthermore, it was a perfect test project for my upcoming adventure in December 2019 ,when I will be starting my long term voluntary program! I do not regret any decisions I made during my time there, it was definitely not a fun and easy and happy time everyday and that is why it was positive overally. Sometimes lose but always win! 🙂
This Project was financed by European Commission’s Erasmus + Programme