United in Solidarity – Triin Taal – 9.5 months volunteering in Portugal
Name of the project: United in Solidarity
City/Country: Lisbon / Portugal
Dates: 01.10.2021 – 18.07.2022
After graduating university, I had a certain plan to go abroad. I had no idea where to go or what to do there, so I started discovering different opportunities and found volunteering. As I studied psychology in university but I was not sure if I would like to continue and do my master in this, I was looking for a project connected with psychology. I found a working in foster home project in Portugal that sounded just perfect. I applied, had a interview and finally got the email about being accepted as a volunteer. I was so happy and excited!
I started working in the foster home with 13 teens from 13 to 18 years old near to Lisbon. Even though in the beginning I was a bit scared of working with „broken“ kids, this fear faded quickly. Kids in the foster homes are just kids wand want the same as any other kid: being seen, heard and loved. My main task there was to help to create a safe environment where the kids can feel protected and welcomed. Even if it may sound hard to accomplish, it is actually not that difficult. For creating the connection between me and the youngsters I did all my favorite things like dancing, singing, watching movies, teaching them to play ukulele, celebrating holidays, cooking, shopping and much more. Eventhough I was working, it felt like I was just having fun.
After 6 months, my workplace was changed and I started working in the kindergarten with kids between 3 to 7 years old. This was a whole new experince! I helped the teacher to prepare for activities, feed kids, put kids to sleep and wake them up, played with them, read book to them, danced, drew, colored pictures, helped them to learn numbers and calculating etc and they helped me to learn more Portuguese. The amount of joy that those kids brought to me every single day was just miraculous. I enjoyed my work there a lot!
I lived together with 6 other volunteers from Greece, Spain, Italy, Holland, France and Turkey. At the beginning it didn’t sound good but soon after moving in I started seeing the pros of living together with them. We became great friends if not to say family. We helped each other while being sick, cooked our traditional foods, ate out, went to play bowling, celebrated birthdays, visited beautiful places in Portugal and even new countries together. We created so many unforgettable memories and because of them I like to say that I didn’t get what I expected because I got more! I got friends for a lifetime.
The hardest time for me was surely Christmas. I decided to stay in Portugal but I regretted it much. Christmas without family, snow and gingerbread simply didn’t felt right. I was miserable and thought about quitting the project. Fortunately, I had a lot of people supporting me through this time and after that I came home to visit my family and friends. I was much happier and never thought about quitting again.
During the project I learned a lot about myself and other people too. I understood how much our environment, people around us and social norms form us while growing up. It made me much more tolerant and understanding. I saw new ways of living and figured out who I want to become. I have no regrets and the future has never been that exciting!
This Project was financed by European Commission’s European Solidarity Corps Programme.