Experencia de voluntariado en un centro eco de una aldea croata

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A continuación os traemos la historia de Carlos y Claudia, nos cuentan la experiencia que vivieron en el eco centro de una aldea croata llamada Latinovac.

CARLOS

“Mi experiencia de voluntariado con Eko Centar Latinovac ha significado una gran cantidad de aportes positivos a mi vida y la forma en que percibo el estilo de vida rural y la sustentabilidad. Antes de venir al pueblo, mis expectativas para este voluntariado eran altas gracias a la ficha informativa de todos los candidatos recibir después de la aplicación, pero nunca podría haber imaginado cómo esta experiencia iba a cambiar mi opinión acerca de mis pensamientos y de mí mismo.

Llegar a Latinovac fue como aislarse del resto del mundo, ya que el pueblo tiene apenas alrededor de 50 habitantes, el transporte público es casi inexistente y no hay tiendas para satisfacer sus necesidades. A pesar de que existían estas desventajas, te acostumbras muy rápido. Los voluntarios estarán mayoritariamente trabajando en la propiedad de Eko Centar, cuyos coordinadores son siempre amables y dispuestos a ayudarte en cualquier tipo de problema. Todas las mañanas hacemos un círculo para discutir cualquier posible problema y hay una evaluación semanal para valorar las cosas buenas y malas que sucedieron durante ese período de tiempo. Los coordinadores siempre están abiertos a nuevas ideas para mejorar las actividades. Gracias a estas reuniones me sentí escuchada y respetada.

El día a día en el Eko Centar suele ser tranquilo y lleno de buen humor. Hay muchas actividades físicas involucradas, como limpiar el área, cortar leña, hacer jardinería o apoyar a los campesinos. Dado que los voluntarios a corto plazo son hospedados por los aldeanos, a veces te ofrecen desayunar o incluso almorzar a cambio de tu ayuda en su jardín, lo que también es una gran oportunidad para vincularte con ellos y hablar sobre diferentes temas de sus vidas. Poder entender su pasado y lo que está pasando Croacia fueron elementos cruciales para mi experiencia. Por supuesto, hubo días dedicados a actividades no físicas, como lluvia de ideas y realización de vídeos promocionales de la Fiesta de la Primavera, preparación de actividades vespertinas para los jóvenes que viven en Latinovac y alrededores o aprendizaje sobre permacultura. Estas actividades también fueron bastante divertidas, aunque la lluvia de ideas requiere mucho tiempo, energía y paciencia para tener éxito. La Fiesta de la Primavera podría considerarse el pináculo de todo el voluntariado, ya que fue el evento más complejo de organizar, pero también el más reconfortante. Ver cómo cientos de niños y adultos se unieron en el pequeño pueblo para participar en las actividades, merendar, charlar, reír y hacer un día memorable fue increíblemente hermoso, así como los comentarios recibidos.

Lo que realmente me impresiona es la sensación de comunidad que creamos. No solo nosotros, los voluntarios, tenemos una relación increíble entre nosotros, sino que también me siento conectado con el desarrollo del pueblo y con la gente de esta área. Experimenté la falta de privilegios y los diferentes problemas ambientales de esta región croata, pero también la generosidad y amabilidad de su gente. Eko Centar Latinovac me ha traído la oportunidad de experimentar otra forma de vivir fuera de las ciudades, en la que realmente sientes la conexión con tus vecinos y la naturaleza. Recomendaría sin dudarlo el voluntariado aquí en Latinovac, especialmente para aquellos que estén interesados en entender el estilo de vida rural y la sustentabilidad, junto con un toque intercultural.

Carlos Garrido”

CLAUDIA

“After 5 years of intensive University path, I was feeling trapped in a sort of hamster wheel. The expected next step from my loved ones was continuing my studies with a masters in a prestigious University, and from there I would be jumping to the labor market to spend 80% of my time at work, earn an amount of money that is barely enough to survive on and continue the cycle until the day I retire. But every time that I imagined this idea, I had the impression that it was not me having agency about my future, but life pushing me to the ordinary way of what “has to be done” in a Western society. In this sense, it was not easy to allow myself to imagine different scenarios where I could keep learning in an alternative way to memorizing words like a parrot and throwing them up on a piece of paper. In this process of questioning what my purpose was, I concluded that I wanted to be trained in non-formal education and bring value to the community in a direct way. And that’s how my adventure in different Erasmus+ projects on social inclusion started, which then led me to a 2-month volunteering in my now beloved Latinovac.
I was afraid that I could get bored in a 50-inhabitant village with no bars, no supermarkets, no entertainment and being surrounded most of the time by 12 volunteers and 3 coordinators. I had the fear of missing out the interesting things that I could have lived in a bigger place: going to cinemas, theaters, restaurants, participating in social activism, meeting very diverse people etc. To be honest, I even counted on the possibility of leaving if I found myself so unmotivated and listless. As an intrepid and curious person, I didn’t think I could ever fully adapt in a rural community, with a minimalist lifestyle, scarce social and cultural options, and few services. Fortunately, and to my surprise, that never happened. I would never have imagined that the peace and fulfillment I had been seeking for so long would be found in a remote village in Slavonia, far away from the reality I had known so far.
When I reflect on Latinovac, I smile when I think of the friendliness and extreme generosity of the inhabitants, the beautiful starry nights with no light pollution, the melody of the little birds in the mornings without the car horns, the cute little spiders and snakes that are somehow part of the community, the green paths where you can run while breathing fresh air, the little houses with their typical smell of firewood in winter, the smell of the countryside, of hot stew and damp earth after rainy days, the peace of mind of having spaces to meditate, do yoga, write poetry or have a deep nap under the sun. I also have fun thoughts like flushing the toilet with a stick to accompany the water pressure, wearing clothes you would never wear in the city without worrying too much about how others will judge you, riding a tractor and waving to the villagers, making compost out of cow dung, washing dishes in basins while listening to techno music, telling stories over campfires and baking bread on tree branches, dancing in the old abandoned school as if it was the most successful discotheque in town, or being invited to eggs, milk or coffee by the locals and communicating in a mix of Croatian, English and sign language.
On the other hand, focusing on Ekocenter, beyond being a beautiful place with cute small buildings and spacious gardens, is an organization that is sustained by the passion of 3 impeccable coordinators and an amazing cook. Talking about the cook, she has the power of brightening our souls not only with her remarkable meals, but also with her daily hugs and compliments. Mario and Ivan, the coordinators with whom we spend most of our time, are simply extraordinary people. I have been in many Erasmus+ projects, but I never saw such a personal and professional investment before. Apart from his great skills in doing bonfires and organizing logistics, Ivan is a very interesting interlocutor from which I have learnt a lot about history, deep reflections and life experiences. When it comes to Mario, it is an objective fact how charismatic and passionate he is at explaining, communicating, organizing and instructing. His serenity and sense of humor make us feel that everything is very fun and easyg-oing even when the organization has a lot of work to do. Finally, Danijela, our mentor, is the material representation of sweetness and kindness. Adding to the fact of being a fantastic cook, she is always there to listen to us – even in her free time- to help us feel comfortable and satisfied here. Her evaluation sessions are always really meaningful and she takes really seriously all our suggestions and constructive criticism.
As a summary, coming to work in this center has meant much more to me than the physical and mental activities that you can read about in the infopack. I have discovered that I love doing physical activities whose fruit is immediate and whose direct impact on the community can be seen. Used to writing useless documents at University, I have really enjoyed cooking with local products, cutting wood for firewood, planting food, helping the villagers with their chores, organizing festivals and activities etc. It has made me much more connected and satisfied with the work and I could give it a usefulness that I did not see in the academic world. However, what has added value to my time as a volunteer have been my dear co-workers and supervisors as well as my host family in Latinovac. Although it is very rare to find 15 people in the same place with whom you feel at home and with whom you feel you can share both your moments of happiness and your vulnerabilities, it has happened to me here, in a remote Croatian village, between the months of April and May of 2022. A word that summarizes all my emotions here is GRATEFULNESS, and I will try to keep it with me wherever life will bring me next.

Claudia Gallego Ariño”