Phiren Amenca

Volunteer Profile: Denisa Samkova


Denisa is doing her voluntary service in Buhl, France in a centre which supports refugee families.

Bonjour, I am Denisa and I come from Slovakia. I am 23 years old and since October 2013 I am doing service civique in the little town of Buhl, Alsace region, in beautiful France until June 2014. It is not the same program as EVS, but they have a lot in common. Why did I decide to go off to France for almost a year?

I read that there was an open call for Roma young people to volunteer in France for several months. I was very excited, because I have always liked the French culture, history and language. One of the criteria was that the person should be able to communicate in French and I learned French in high school. It seemed a little bit scary for me, but I like challenges and I started to work more on my French, I learned new words each day and I watched French TV channels. After I was accepted for the project in France, I got information about my mission in France and I was even more surprised how everything worked out for me. I was not sure what kind of project I would want to do at first. It would be either working with kids at the orphanage or with students at school. Finally, I was proposed to work in a centre which accepts refugee families, le Rimlishof.

This seemed a very good option for me, because I already had some experience with refugees in Slovakia. For a long period of time, I was an intern at Milan Simecka foundation, which is a human rights orientated non-governmental organisation that does lot of activities with refugees and educate the society about the Holocaust, minorities, etc. One day, I would like to be a human rights lawyer and I want to focus on international issues, and migrations laws are something that interests me a lot. I see this opportunity to work with refugee families as a big advantage, because I can learn lot of things, more than I could learn just at a university from a book. Le Rimlishof accepts “primo arriverants” (first arrivals), it offers them a place to stay and does lot of activities for them and there are many volunteers who come to help with different things.

Right now there are 13 refugee families that live in the centre. Le Rimslishof is a large area that has 4 buildings, all the families live in one of them. Each family has a single room and bathroom and they have a room for activities or French lessons and they also have a big kitchen which they share together. Two times a week there is food distribution, which is called Banque Alimentaire in French. How does it work? As I already mentioned, there are many French volunteers who come here to teach French, do activities with children and also volunteers who help with Banque Alimentaire. There is Banque Alimentaire de Haut Rein, an institution which collects different kinds of food from the stores, which are going to expire soon and we receive products and distribute it to the refugee families, here.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”] One day, I would like to be a human rights lawyer and I want to focus on international issues, and migrations laws are something that interests me a lot. I see this opportunity to work with refugee families as a big advantage[/quote] I started doing my own projects and one of them is Atelier Cuisine, which is cooking club. Every Tuesday me and refugee women gather together in the kitchen and we prepare something, we learn how to cook it, and at the same time we learn the ingredients in French. Many families here don’t speak good French, so every activity is also about learning and that is also my objective, besides introducing them to different kind of recipes and getting to know them better.

There are many children here of different ages, so I try to do activities with them too. We play games inside, and with little children we colour papers or do something fun. I am thinking about more activities to do with them, so it will come in  time.

The hardest thing for me at the beginning I think was the language issue. I spoke French before I came here, but it is something totally different to actually be in France and be surrounded by French speakers. I learn a lot of new things every day and now I don’t have any problems with the language, I got used to it very quickly. I have been here for over a month so far and it is a fantastic experience. I believe more exciting adventures and experiences are just around the corner.