Tabule Living Tables, Sharing Cultures – Kristi Tobreluts – 7 Months Volunteering in Sicily
Name of the project: Tabule Living Tables, Sharing Cultures
Date: 24.02.2021 – 23.09.2021
City/Country: Mussomeli (Sicily), Italy
Now that I am back in Estonia, it feels like I was never away. Almost nothing has changed here.
I have changed. It can be the fact that I’m full of vitamin D and I ate so many oranges and other fresh fruit and my body feels great – you know what they say, “healthy body, healthy mind”. From now on, I have sun only in solid form.
I’ve been quite busy, because I organized my life in Estonia from Sicily, but since arriving here I had to do all the rest, physical work.
Had to transport and mend my car,
go to see my new apartment, move my stuff there,
and have meetings with my new colleagues.
Also, my friend bought a new studio and organized a welcome party for me there, so I was forced to party 😀
About my work, I think I got this position because of my volunteering project. I believe my resume stood out, because Tabule was doing quite similar work. Now I work in MTÜ Rahvusvaheline Maja, which also has a restaurant called Köömen. The main mission is to make refugees feel more comfortable in Estonia. We want to make them feel welcome, part of the society, give them jobs and teach them estonian. We are doing this through food like Tabule, we cook arabian food in the restaurant and make workshops to teach other people as well. Recently our project was funded by EU (Mondo), so we are doing more workshops, and creating a book as a final result. I have the chance to be the project manager and be responsible for the creative part. I’m very proud to be part of it.
About Tabule and project work in general, I start with things that I’m not proud of.
First of all, I was so happy when I learned that we can grow vegetables and design flower garden in the Aromatiche di Girafi. I planted the seeds on our balcony, took care of them, made plans and maps, designed labels for plants. I like to think it was nobody’s fault, but we couldn’t plant the plants outside in the end. I can explain why if needed. I was sad, because my long-term project failed, I couldn’t grow vegetables and cook them. I bought indoor plants for myself to cheer up.
Another thing, which I can’t be proud of, is my level of Italian. First I was so motivated, I learned by myself watching videos, reading, talking to people and labelling every single item in the house to memorize the words. I must say I could have learned more, but as I understood that the grammar is so difficult, I kind of gave up. I could have small talk, ask what I needed, but I was not able to have a conversation about the Milky Way or enormous beats underwater.
Things I AM proud of, this list is longer and more meaningful.
The group of volunteers were gratified that I came. They said that I bring balance into the group and overall I felt like I’m in the right place. I was blessed with housemates who could leave me alone, but at the same time be there for me. I did the same for them. At some point. when lockdown hit hard, some people were not happy and one of them even wanted to leave. I’m proud that we as a group could still stick together and find new ways to deal with it.
I could be a foster mother for the sweetest little puppy. We had so much fun, although some people called him Cerberus, because he’s a pitbull. Actually he has the sweetest tender heart and I love him so much. Sometimes I wonder if he thinks of me and why I left. Thanks to him, I met other dog owners and got more information about local stray dogs, shelters and so on. I felt like it was not connected to my project so I didn’t volunteer in the dog shelter, but I was thinking about it.
My english/art classes with the local children. This must be my proudest moment. I don’t have any experience with kids (no relatives, no friends with kids) and I have never been a teacher, but I was successful in the role. I was afraid that they would act like small tractors and roll over my commands and my feelings, but it was not like that! Their level of English was not very good, but combined with art we managed to make them memorize a lot of things. This also helped me with my Italian. We also had summer camp, where I met more children and they liked me that much they even noticed me weeks later on the streets and came to say hello and ask how’s it going.
The Good Kitchen – the Australian chef Danny’s community kitchen. I am so happy I could be part of it. I helped with cooking, with the design of signs and everything in general. I think The Good Kitchen has a big impact for the locals, how they see food waste and helping each other in new ways. The food there is always delicious and I like the fact that it brings together like-minded people.
I was able to travel inside of Sicily and see most of the places I wanted to see. I made local friends who had cars so I was able to visit places where public transport can’t go. I also took longer hikes, the longest was about 4 hours. Sicily is sooooooo beautiful.
Another asset about this experience was the feeling of being rich and secure. I felt rich, because I didn’t have to worry about rent or food and every time I had an idea of a project, I could just ask for items or money needed from the office. Also about health, whenever I had some toothache or the vaccination process – I was taken care of. Mostly when the new pocket money arrived, I had something still left from the previous month. Something I’ve never experienced in Estonia even if working full-time. Besides money, if you have enough freedom and you can do whatever comes to your mind, I consider this the upper crust.
I feel like the volunteering experience should get more visibility and attention. When I was in secondary school, I had no idea that EU is supporting it. Other volunteers said the same, which led me to thinking that if needed, I can go to schools or youth organisations to talk about my experience. I already told most of my friends how wonderful time I had and recommended this opportunity.