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ESC Volunteers – Il primo mese di Weronika

    Hi, I am Weronika and this is my impression of volunteering in Orta Nova after the first month. After finishing my language studies I wanted to explore the south of Italy and fully immerse myself in the unique culture of my beloved country. Basically I couldn’t choose a better opportunity.  I caught an amazing contact with my roommate Weronika from the first moment, when we were searching the bus stop in Napoli airport, from where we were meant to start our journey with Beyond Borders. When we arrived at our new home in Orta Nova, our new coordinators welcomed us there. It was really heartwarming, they left us a welcome letter, food and gave us a house tour. I was surprised how spacious and beautiful it was. Decorated in a Greek/Mediterranean style with the huge kitchen, where we’ve spent a lot of time with other volunteers. Adam arrived later on in the evening and 3 of us And for a month we became a small family. And so the first day at the office came. And just as beginnings can be difficult and stressful, this one was an exceptionally pleasant experience. Our coordinators Sebastiano, Maria, Rocco and Carmine introduced themselves to us in an original way and made the office our safe place. We met the rest of the volunteers during a city game, where we had to perform various tasks and integrate with the local community. It was a unique experience, even though we speak different languages, all people were communicative and willing to help.

    From the first week I fell in love with the Italian lifestyle, siesta and the daily ritual of making espresso in a coffee pot. That’s something that I would like to smuggle with me to Poland. Local volunteers quickly took us under their wing, including us in Orta Nova’s life. I will remember for the rest of my life a delicious Sunday lunch at one of the volunteer’s houses and a walk around Stornara,  the unique city of murals. We spent the next few days preparing our car for an event at school. Part of this was creating an English corner with speed dating questions for event participants. Together with Weronika, I created my first poster in Canva, and although we did not have much experience with it, together we created a project worthy of Canva Masters. I remember our English corner very well. People were willing to talk and we quickly saw that regardless of the level of English, there was no language barrier.

    Over the next weeks, we helped in the Caritas kitchen in packing meals for those in need, and in the evenings at the food parcel collection point. This is one of my favourite parts of volunteering. Brigida and Maria working in the kitchen are women with a heart of gold and a lion’s temperament. As soon as we entered, they welcomed us with coffee and fed us, especially Adam, as Maria kept repeating, “Mangi is troppo secco!” We established a beautiful bond with Enzo, the coordinator of local caritas, who’s always greeting us with a big smile. I was assigned to the role of “secretary”, organizing old books which helped me to learn Italian. One of the most important points of our volunteering was the “Polish Night” event, prepared entirely by us. We expected a maximum of 30 people there, but twice as many came. For one evening, Orta Nova became a uniquely Polish place. The participants ate dumplings, tried to pronounce Polish tongue twisters, played games straight from a Polish wedding, and, above all, learned new facts about our country.

    The next point was helping to prepare the carnival parade of the Misericordia organization. For a week we could feel like artists, creating a parade float and a green monster from the movie Ghostbusters, which we called Shrek. The parade itself was an amazing experience. The city was vibrant and full of colours. Streets were covered with confetti thrown by children dressed as their favourite characters. The Ghostbusters vehicle got the city dancing. After that amazing week, we had free time to explore the beautiful Apulia region. I travelled to Bari, Matera, Alberobello and Polignano, making international friends along the way. When me, Weronika and Adam finally reunited, we watched the final day of Sanremo, a really famous Italian festival. It was a culturally-immersive experience. I can’t wait to see what the next month in Orta Nova is going to bring.