Can you imagine a life full of volunteering? Me neither. At least not until exactly one year ago, when I had to decide what I want to do after graduating from high school. Like many others of my classmates I didn’t really know if I should start working or go to university. Because of that I decided to go abroad to be a volunteer in Romania for 8 months. A lot of my friends from my hometown asked me why I am not just working in a factory for one year to earn a lot of money and meanwhile I can decide what to do with my life. But what’s the point of earning a lot of money if you are not satisfied with the work you actually do there? Living in Romania to be a volunteer is more than just a normal job. Even though we are going to schools and kindergartens to teach the kids a bit of our knowledge, we are definitely not teachers. We are volunteers. It’s on us what we want to give the kids to take along. It’s on us if we want to teach them something with a fundamental basis or if we just want the kids to have fun in our lesson, to get a bit of variety in their normal school day. It actually doesn’t matter that much what we prepare, because the children are already happy when they see us coming inside their classroom and they know we are going to spend one hour together now. Even these kids are often surprised, why we are coming to Bucharest to spend our time here, sharing our skills and knowledge with them. Besides the schools, we are also in charge of the clinical animation in 4 different children’s hospitals in Bucharest. Through our creative ideas, which are dealing with crafting, drawing and playing, the kids can forget that they are in a hospital for a moment and are allowed to live their lives. During the Christmastime we additionally had a campaign for these children. My colleagues and I collected toys and games, which the kids in the schools didn’t need anymore. Afterwards, during the last week before Christmas, “Santa Claus” surprised the children in the hospitals with these toys as their Christmas presents. Maybe you know that feeling, when you give someone a present and he/she is just overwhelmed and happy that you thought of him/her. Imagine that feeling around 20 to 50 times per hospital and just because you collected toys and games, which other kids didn’t need anymore. There is nearly nothing that could describe the happiness of these days. Next to these three topics we are working on our own and group projects too. Everyone can decide what he/she would like to do to improve our environment a bit. Starting from making a theatre to raise funds, to collecting food and clothes for homeless people in Bucharest, everything is possible. But being a volunteer with A.C.T.O.R is much more than just doing your “job”. It’s about meeting and living with other people from different countries, with different backgrounds. You have the chance to get to know them and learn from them, for example about their attitudes or their values. Because of that, you automatically improve your English, you have the chance to widen your horizon and you gain more knowledge about other cultures. During the time you spend together and the challenges you have to overcome as a group, you get closer and closer and afterwards you realize that you made a lot of new friends, with whom you couldn’t imagine living anymore.
Another big advantage of the life as a volunteer is traveling and getting to know a country like Romania, where you probably wouldn’t travel to without this project. I had to hear a lot of prejudices of Romania from my friends and family at home, but nobody even saw this Jana Leimlehner Volunteering Life country with his/her own eyes. I am amazed by the beauty and history of Romania and I hope I can influence my friends at home a bit to think like me when I come home. For me, one of the biggest reasons why I came here was that I wanted to be more independent and learn how to be organised without anyone pushing me. You are forced to schedule your time by yourself, because nobody tells you when you have to prepare for a lesson or for your projects. Next to that, you also need to learn how to run a household and live with 3 to 5 other people. This can be challenging from time to time but if you have good overview through all these things, you will learn how to manage everything. It might take some time and might be confusing in the beginning, but you will learn how to handle different situations! It is not always easy to live that far away from your family and usual environment, but if you risk to leave your comfort zone, you will find out how nice it is to get to know yourself better. Additionally you get to know a lot of different people from all over the world, who you will share months of new experiences.