Mid-term Meeting of Our ESC Volunteer Dora

Přečtěte si článek naší dobrovolnice Dory o setkání s ostatními dobrovolníky ESC v půlce jejího pobytu v ČR. Jak setkání probíhalo a jaké podle ní mohou být přínosy neformálního vzdělávání? A jak jí osobně toto setkání změnilo život?

I am Dora, an ESC volunteer at Mladiinfo ČR. ESC is an abbreviation for European Solidarity Corps that sends young people of the age of 18-30 abroad to volunteer in different fields and finances all their expenses.

In the middle of January, I went to a mid-term meeting of some ESC volunteers in the Czech Republic. We were 17 volunteers and 4 trainers, for 4 days living and learning together about each other and ourselves in the beautiful surroundings of Bystřice pod Hostýnem.

Reflection

During the evaluation process of the meeting, we were asked if the training had met our expectations and many people couldn’t answer because they had come with no expectations. I was among them.

The first thing we did was discussing the name of the gathering. It’s not training anymore but a meeting. You might imagine it as buddies getting together for a beer or two but in fact, it wasn’t just an occasion for friends to see each other again. We have been given the environment to reflect on our ESC, life in the Czech Republic and our future aspirations. 

The trainers were even trying to prepare us for the future – we simulated job interviews that we might have after we come back home and start looking for a job. Most of us hadn’t had a lot of experience in interviews and we all know how stressful they are in the very beginning.

I guess during the simulation some of us got ready psychologically, others could reflect more on their experience and thus understand better what they want, what they are good at, and for the third kind of people it must have been a play because they can’t tell yet what do they want so when they are asked where they want to work, they just invent. 

It’s good to reflect and dream. Reflect on the past and dream about the future. One friend told me that it’s also a kind of mindfulness. But sometimes reflection and dreaming become a lagoon surrounded by an atoll. The sun shimmers on the water but the water is still. It doesn’t reach the ocean and doesn’t know anything what’s on the other side of the atoll. That’s why conversations are so precious.

Photo: personal archive

Conversation

Non-formal education is very different from what we usually have in school. The so-called teachers encourage the students to express their needs and let the creativity glow. Why I say ‘so-called teachers’? Because there is no stratification between the trainer and the volunteer. Because it’s a conversation.

The very basics of conversation is honesty. That’s all you need in a conversation. Also trust, good listening. A conversation doesn’t mean someone’s talking. It means someone’s answering. And in order to answer at first you need to listen. 

In the meeting, I felt that I was listened to and that I wanted to share as well. We were given a whole afternoon for our own workshops, which shows immense trust in us. We knew how to appreciate this trust and gave our effort and energy to share our experience in the best way we knew. I made a creative writing workshop, others conducted discussions about environmental issues, women’s rights, language learning, alternative teaching, nomadic way of living, we even had a tantra meditation session and my favorite part was a music jam session.

Photo: personal archive

Music

Music is one more wonderful way to connect people. It’s not quite a reflection and not quite dreaming. It’s a complete presence. I think when we make music, sometimes we are like dolphins – we have our secret communication that is not expressed in words, that is unspoken but very real. Understanding each other without words. 

I know that this mid-term meeting was about reflection and about setting my goals, maybe making a plan of implementation. However, I am afraid that plans always change and the funny thing is that the word ‘plan’ has a contrary meaning to the word ‘change’. So in the end, not the reflection but music stayed with me from the mid-term meeting. I realized that in my life I want to do something with music. Maybe the idea behind it is even bigger than I can understand now.

Photo: personal archive

So in the end, I realized something about myself. It was not in the plan, it was something different than we were expected to learn; however, I think it met the goal of the mid-term meeting. Because in my opinion and from my experience, one of the most important ideas about non-formal education is that learning is not just knowledge and skills. It’s also knowing oneself better. This learning includes a lot of conversing and listening to others.

You can read more about volunteering and volunteers’ life here.

Tento projekt je financován z prostředků Evropského sboru solidarity.