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2020 - LE.MO.N.

Volunteering during a pandemic – a life experience

Kamil from Poland - ESC volunteer in Hendaye, France

Many people might find participation in the project during the pandemic as something uninviting or even disturbing, which turned out to be not so much a wrong statement, but also one of my personal motivators for taking the actual action. 

I still have a lot of time to sum up the whole experience, because my third of twelve months in Hendaye – a small border town in France, has just begun, but even today I can say that the project is primarily about learning a new culture, people and language. 

I would describe the very beginning as a quick clash with reality. A conversation in French lessons with dialogues that you knew before, and the experience of a normal “living” dialogue that you can barely understand are two separate worlds that should not be compared to each other. Over time, the words start to gain meaning, and what was previously incomprehensible becomes obvious!  Moreover, the French belong to the group of one of the nations most identified with their language – pointing out mistakes by them is therefore a kind of norm, but also a lesson. 

The period of the pandemic has become a kind of a driving force for changes

As part of the project, the main aim of which was to raise awareness about the EU in a given region, my tasks are now related to conducting classes in primary schools and organizing cultural events for the inhabitants of Hendaye. The period of the pandemic has become a kind of a driving force for changes, and thus the adaptation of tasks to the prevailing conditions. In my case, my work moved to virtual reality, which allowed me to establish stronger contact with other volunteers in other cities and to prepare new projects – mainly those related to school institutions throughout the Basque Country, so that in the following months (January and February) I could start other projects. 

So far, my main surprise about the project is how the residents of Hendaye react to foreigners, giving us – volunteers – a great opportunity to act so-called a free hand in taking action, and how we can implement ourselves within the project. 

There will be time to sum up the entire project, but today I can say that it is an adventure that brings with it: new acquaintances, language learning, which is usually not easy, and hundreds of life experiences.