Inside the cover of my mobile phone, I keep three colored post-its. These are the messages I wrote to myself during the final day of my "Servizio Civile" with the NGO IBO Italia. ("Servizio Civile" is a volunteer program sponsored by the Italian Goverment, where young adults between 18 and 29 years, dedicate one year of their life to a local or international organization).
If I remember correctly, on that day, they asked us to describe ourselves before, during, and after this experience.
For the pre-departure I used words like stiff and frustrated, for the during I wrote a lot of things, like communication, relationship, priority, appreciation, independence, people, don't run away. Wow!
I conclude with an orange post-it, not surprisingly my new favorite color (and of the blog), saying that I am grateful, I talk about emotional maturity and the anxiety of starting a new chapter in my life.
I finished my year of "Servizio Civile" on February 19, 2020, basically a year ago, and I'm not afraid to tell you that the strenght that I found to face this terrible last year (of pandemic), I owe it all to this experience. Honestly, without it, I don't know how I would have done it.
I have done my "Servizio Civile" with the amazin NGO from Ferrara (Italy), IBO Italia which, in addition to being managed by great professionals, is also one of those realities that leads you to believe in the goodness of human beings.
10 good reasons to volunteer:
- HUMAN GROWTH
You dedicate your time to others but, if you are placed in the right context, with the correct support from your organization, at the end of the experience, you are so mature that not even the Karate Kid Sensei can beat you! I, for example, have always had big problems with self-esteem, and during my 1 year-volunteer-experience, I worked on this, initially without even realizing it, then supported by the wonderful Indian local NGO, Reality Gives.
- PROFESSIONAL GROWTH
As above, it depends on the organization and contexts, but you learn a lot, a lot, a lot. For many it may be their first professional experience, for others it may very well have nothing to do with it, but you learn to do something, or you learn that you don't like it. You understand what you like and what you don't like to do.
- YOU ARE PAID (in the italian "Servizio Civile")
I honestly put this in my personal top three because, let's face it, volunteering abroad is expensive, and yes, the world of international cooperation has become a bit "radical chic". And therefore, if like me, you want to find a balance between fair income and experience, experiences like the italian "Servizio Civile", are an excellent opportunity. In Italy volunteers get around 400 and something euros, while abroad, the double. Flights and accommodation are paid.
- TRAVEL (OR AT LEAST YOU MOVE)
Perhaps this is closely linked to those who choose to volunteer abroad, but if I remember correctly the volunteers who did "Servizio Civile" in Italy also did a month in Romania, at another project. Anyway, yes, you have a certain number of days off during the year and you can visit many places, if you like it. And for our generation of eternal wanderers, this thing is tempting.
- RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS
I put it on the list of positive things but the truth is that it scared me a lot at first. For a year, you share everything with other people. It's tough, yes, it's tough. You learn to do it, yes. You begin to polish some imperfections of your personality, a lot! You will have roommates, international colleagues, local colleagues, "beneficiaries", local people, opinions from home. You begin to really understand the importance of dialogue and listening, and yes, even the rules. In short, you learn to relate in a mature and conscious way, and for someone like me who thrives on passive-aggressive reactions it is a great challenge to face.
- IT OPENS NEW DOORS
Many people I know started a volunteer experience like this and then stayed to work with the same organization, how cool! Or at least they started a real career, thanks to their experiences. And in your resume it will surely not go unnoticed (now forget that I'm unemployed, mine is a special case!).
- YOU GO FROM "ME" TO "US"
Ego, ego, ego, goodbye. All the points above are inevitable consequences but your year of volunteering is not really yours, it belongs to others. You devote a year to others, to the local and international community, to the needs of others. When you do it then, the word "I" or "Me" will also be a bit narrow, you will begin to look at everything in a more open minded way, empathetic, towards "we" and "us".
- YOU UNDERSTAND DIFFERENT REALITIES
You have the opportunity to deal with aspects of the world that may not be part of your normal day: poverty, vulnerability, social problems, inequality. You get to know these realities, and once you meet them, you necessarily become a more aware, responsible citizen, yes come on, a better citizen. But move on tiptoe, always.
- IT IS EMOTIONAL
You learn to experience strong emotions, contrasting emotions, of pure beauty and humanity: ok, in India and in international contexts it is easy you may think, but I was crying to hear the introduction of those who volunteered in Italy. Now I am even less ashamed to cry, to rejoice or to talk about poetry.
- IT IS FOR LIFE!
When you finish your volunteer experience, you can't wait to do it again. I'm planning a way to change documents and reapply. Of course, I'm kidding, or maybe not! It is an experience that changes your life, destroys all the certainties you had about yourself and the world: then it's great to rebuild yourself slowly, slowly.
Small personal note: it is very important to choose the organization with which to volunteer. I personally went to Ferrara before sending the application because I wanted to know IBO Italia.
My project in Mumbai won't be there this year but IBO Italia has many other projects: Italy, Ukraine, India, Madagascar, Perù and Tanzania. IBO Italia has educational projects.
-> Click this link to discover them all! Do not hesitate to write to me if you want more information, or to contact Elisa Squarzoni of IBO Italia (find all the info at the link).
È sempre emozionante leggerti….peccato io sia troppo vecchia x questa esperienza 😞 un abbraccio a tutti e due
Grazie mille! Sì, il Servizio Civile è un’esperienza unica. Sono convinta ci siano esperienze simili anche per i +30 🙂 Un abbraccione!