Volunteer Profile | Annika
Hi, I am Annika and I’m 25 years old. I’m coming from the Netherlands and at the moment I am a volunteer in Ukraine. In the Netherlands I did a Masters degree in Child and Education Studies and a Bachelor in African Languages and Cultures. After that I worked a year as a homework assistant.
For many years I had the feeling that I wanted to do a long term volunteering service, but for some reason I never did it, until last year, when I thought: it is now or never! So I decided to do a volunteering year via the Dutch sending organisation Togetthere in Ukraine. Not exactly the first country I would think of, but the description of the work sounded really interesting, so I thought: let’s do it!
From August 2013 till July 2014 I am living and working in Beregszász, a little town in Ukraine, near the border of Hungary. Together with three other volunteers I work for the organisation KRÖDÉ (Voluntary Program of the Reformed Church of Transcarpathia). My work exists of three parts, of which visiting elderly ladies is the biggest. Every week I visit seven elderly ladies. These ladies are poor and often quite lonely. My task as a volunteer is to give them at least once a week some company and attention. Twice a week I also visit the elderly home, where I visit the thirteen elderly men and women who are living there.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Now I am getting better at speaking the language, I also get the feeling that I can really do something for the people, that my visits make sense.[/quote] The second part of my work consists of bringing lunch twice a week to elderly people. With most of them I also have a (small) talk because these people don’t often have the opportunity to go outside and visit friends or family.
The last part of my work consists of helping with after school activities in the Roma school. Three times a week we draw with the kids, teach them some English and play in the yard.
All those activities (visiting, lunch bringing, playing and teaching) take place in Hungarian. Yes, in Hungarian, because in my region – Transcarpathia – there live many Hungarians. The church for which I work is also a Hungarian church. After 3.5 months my Hungarian is improving, but it is still at a very basic level. That makes communicating sometimes really hard, but it also can really give a kick when you suddenly realize that you understand a lot of what people are trying to tell you. Now I am getting better at speaking the language, I also get the feeling that I can really do something for the people, that my visits make sense.
One of the reasons to start this volunteering year was for me to figure out if working in the developmental aid sector is something I want to do as a profession. Until now, most of my experiences have been positive, but I also faced some problems– namely in communicating and in cultural differences. But I learn from it and I hope that in the end of this year I will have a good picture of how it is to work and live in a community and for an organisation that is similar but also very different from what I am used to.