An autumn full of news - my last months in Baia Mare
In the last few months of my project here, many things have happened. And many things have changed in me, in my relationship with the local reality and culture.
After seeing the realisation of the Sound Beats Time mobility here in town, I attended the project’s multiplier event. And I noticed a beautiful thing concretely: the mutual support between local organisations.
You see, a multiplier event is not just telling the public, the interesting people, what the project is that they have worked so hard for. It is preparing the context, unpacking boxes with the appropriate materials, talking to lots of people, inviting, answering questions. But in our case, during the local Street Delivery event, it was also interfacing with volunteers, collaborators, organisers from other local youth organisations, such as the guys from the local youth centre Asociatia DEIS. I liked how we supported each other, asking for help with the heavy stuff, telling each other the background behind the event, getting to know each other better. It was further confirmation of how much I like this job; me being a young person among young people doing things for young people.
In October, therefore, another important chapter of my stay here began: volunteer coordinator of a European Solidarity Corps project.
This task started well before their arrival in Baia Mare. Andreea and I held long reflection and dialogue sessions on the “Baia Mare Is Mine” project. The project, which began last year, aims to promote the rich local culture, traditions, nature and social network of the town and district. Highlights include a city guide, a 3D reproduction of old buildings, interviews with local women active in the city, 360-degree news, treasure hunts, photographs and much more. And in this much more, there were also collaborations with local associations such as Asociatia DEIS, the Butchers’ Tower (Bastionul Măcelarilor), which is a symbolic place to rediscover Baia Mare’s cultural, manual and artistic traditions.
But back to us, to the moment when we shaped the time the volunteers would spend here, defined activities, needs and how many people to involve in all this. I had never interviewed candidates before. It was strange and interesting to be on the other side. But in the end, here were my choices: Paulina, Ana, Tebea, Fabiola and Paul. Poland, Georgia, France and Spain. But also Adrian, Cristian, Dan, Alexandra, Georgiana and Carla, our local volunteers carefully selected by Andreea.
It was quite a challenge to bring together people with such different paths, ages and backgrounds. But fortunately, food and games came to our rescue! Andreea prepared the welcome dinner with lots of delicious typical Romanian food, and together we came up with ice breaking activities, but also classic board games. Actually, for the duration of the project, every week there were internal evenings to consolidate the group, to build confidence through games. Among our favourites was Mafia, organised by our volunteer, Tebea. To these were added film and cultural evenings.
Cultural evenings can be an important moment to give foreign participants a chance to present their own culture. In our case, food was the protagonist to everyone’s delight, accompanied by quizzes, trivia and lots of music. I loved watching the volunteers work together to organise them, and we discovered new facets and unknown flavours.
I think two were the most hard challenges for me: managing the flow of time and activities for the volunteers, and being coordinator and housemate at the same time.
In the first case, we wanted the first week to be dedicated to the city, getting acclimatised, exploring it, photographing its interesting details. While in the second week, we started with Romanian lessons to facilitate interaction between the volunteers and the local community. We also gave them the opportunity to tell us about their skills and interests in order to create a personal project for each volunteer. This took time and meetings to understand how to rearrange the schedule to get the best out of everyone.
Particularly for the foreign volunteers, who were completely at our disposal for working hours, we endeavoured to create a unique path for each of them, one that was a meeting of the project’s aims and their passions. And so it was. Each of them had a customised work programme. It was precisely the volunteers who eventually asked to collaborate with the other local associations, such as the youth centre and Bastion, because there they found spaces to compare and demonstrate their work, and I can only confirm how much on the other side, the organisers proved to be willing and open to our proposals.
There was a lot of work to do, we took on the role of intermediary between the volunteers and the other organisations, between the volunteers and the work itself, we tried to spur them on to give their best for themselves, because this experience is a great training opportunity. I learned, however, that I cannot solve or improve every situation, because there are many players on the field and many factors at play, and above all, everyone is free to learn as much as they see fit. Here I have learned to let go, that is also educational.
The volunteering project is over, the goals have been achieved, the activities have been accomplished, the volunteers have left to return to their home countries. Each of us today is certainly different from a couple of months ago, each of us has enriched our life baggage with new experiences, reflections, people.