Labukas, dear readers...
Here is my best colleague Ionut's story about his EVS.
“Nosce te ipsum....”
My name is Ionut Balahur and I am from Romania. I applied for a EVS project after long searches, changing minds and fierce battles with the fear for the unknown. Thus, I decided to get out from the comfort zone, to let my past behind and to apply for a project designed to work with youngsters in one open youth center named „Vartai“.
Before volunteering in this project, I didn‘t know anything about youth work, and in my mind sounded like nonsense: „youth work, yeeahhh… mush!“. At that moment, in my head was that youngsters will do whatever they want, even if they make mistakes, in the end, they will realize what's wrong. They‘ll try to repair or just learn something from mistakes and they will start all over again, but for sure they will not accept any advice from me. In reality, working with the youth is very complex work, the past of each individual youngster differs from one to another; if some person had a fulfilling childhood, another one could have faced social problems, anxiety, low self-esteem, abuse, etc.
I associate my leaving from home with the road I need to cover for discovering myself. And I was not wrong with this association, because to get to know yourself is the first request of our intellect; it is the foundation of knowledge and wisdom. Those who don‘t know their weakness, cannot be stronger, the ones that don‘t know their real needs, will not try to satisfy them. The ones that don't know what it means good and bad, shortages of any kind cannot think about their care and healing. Succeeding into self-knowledge and self-control, we can easily succeed to distinguish truth from lies, fiction from reality, possible from impossible.
With these thoughts, I arrived to “Vartai”….. I was impatient to see and to feel the energy of this place. First, wasn't welcomed by a friendly yard, rusty weeds grown up randomly, a few garbage bags scattered around….
It looked like a ghetto scenario, but I didn't get scared; I realized is the first impression and it’s pointless to judge. So, I just kept on going trustful, down the stairs to a labyrinth. The steel door looked like it wanted to say something to me, but I’m not sure what…. Stairs kept going down into a nice basement, with arcades made of bricks and stones. My first thought was a question, so I just wondered “why they named this place “Vartai” (The Gates)? They should have better called this place “Rusys” (The Cellar)”. I understood fast my thought, and I realized that was a prejudgment. I had the feeling that I can’t leave away this nasty habit, to judge after the first impression.
Inside is warm, the shabby couches are comfortable. On the walls, are hanged pictures from different events with youngsters, volunteers and workers of the youth center. All these painted posters, hilarious mottos, the birthday’s panels of the loyal youngsters that come regularly to “Vartai”, signs with house rules and other things, shows an intensive activity, every day when the club is open.
On the shelves are cramped many board games, plenty of cariocas, acrylic paints, papers, magazines, whatever you want, for those moments when inspiration strikes you on and you want to create something. One international volunteer, had the amazing idea of arranging a mini library, where the books stay together with clay figurines, made by those youngsters interested in art workshops.
A special place is held by the tennis table, for those who like this game. Everyone stays in line and waits dutiful his turn, to play against the winner. For me, this game is awesome and since I spend time in “Vartai”, I improved a lot my playing skills. Through this game I managed to get more close to some youngsters. When I play ping-pong, I connect very fast with the opponent, a connection without words, just using body language. The opponent's character is revealed as it is.
“Vartai” is a friendly space, opened for any suggestion, for any activity. Therefore, many activities were organized here: ping-pong, playing cards, darts, table soccer tournaments and art workshops, free discussions or thematic discussions, movie evenings and many other activities.
A fascinating place is also the music hall. The hall is equipped with acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, djembe, flute. If you are a music enthusiast, all these instruments are waiting for you to create music.
The club is frequented by a rock band. It is their place to rehearse. The music is noisy because is related to death metal/trash spectrum, but it gives a special color to this place. I may say is relief music, music that discharges your anger. In my opinion it’s a therapy.
Because I posses basic skills in guitar playing, I decided to teach young people that are enthusiastic in this field. Thus, every Thursday evening I have two or three clients J
You can find free tea always at the youth center and every Friday is cooking day. So, if anyone comes on this day with cooking mood, he is very welcomed to do it. Don’t worry if you do not know any recipe from your mind, here you can find a cookbook written by young people that pass by.
The character of the youngsters that come in this place, may vary due to a different past. Here may happen all sorts of dramas, together with becoming the kingdom of laughter; although they are united as a group, young people have their favorites and naturally created particular groups. Some do not like others, and some are loners, others need attention, others want to be leaders. All these behaviors are part of group dynamics. However, these behaviors diversify and give color to this venue, where all are equal. It reigns atmosphere that makes you feel safe, even if sometimes this safe atmosphere may be disrupted by some events. These events are taken over by the “Vartai” workers and transformed into non-formal learning tools.
With all characters gathered in "Vartai", it would be difficult to maintain calm atmosphere. Some frustration could come up to surface when everything looks calm, so you could be surprised. Dramas could happen during cards games or a friendly discussion. Therefore, the youngsters are accustomed by the social workers with regular individual meetings. If once, you feel anxious or nervous, you can confidently ask to speak with the worker in charge. Huge benefits for brain and soul; you may become aware and you may start to feel better. On the other hand you may get an impartial advise or you may discover something about you.
“Vartai” stairs going down to the basement, are the stairs going to your inner. The way until there could be arduous, involve a lot of work with selves, but with a little bit of support you could get to know yourself.
The tools are now in your possession!