Lauris Skenders, education department project manager, from Gulbene Municipality, Latvia
Volunteers work in Gulbene despite COVID-19
Gulbene region in Latvia is one of the most active volunteer attractors and organizers of activities in the country. It was no surprise that Gulbene Kindergarten was the first in Latvia to receive the European Solidarity Corps quality mark. With COVID crisis in March 2020, Gulbene volunteers reacted differently, there were some who went home, but some remained in Gulbene municipal institutions for volunteering.
This time we want to tell the story of two European Solidarity Corps projects “Stronger together” (with young volunteers Lea, David and Sven) and “Involved = Active” (with volunteer George).
At the beginning of March, the work of the young volunteers David, Sven and Lea in the European Solidarity Corps program project “Stronger together” took place as usual – interesting and active work with preschool students, pupils and people of Gulbene region. The activities of the closing events of the project in the organizations, flights home were planned, until at one point everything became completely different.
The global pandemic made major adjustments to our daily lives. The previous forms and activities of cooperation could no longer take place in person. Cancel project? The young people decided: “No! We will stay and continue the project, gaining new experiences that open up other forms and opportunities for learning at work, just like people all over the world!”
Well, everyday life was completely different, but no less interesting and fulfilled. Volunteers electronically prepared and sent weekly assignments in English and German to their students in the Gulbene district library and preschool educational institutions, created video lessons for students, and learnt Latvian together with their teacher online. With preschool on-call groups, young people play outside, where there is physical activity and the Latvian language is spoken! In their free time, young people travel near and far around Gulbene by bicycle. May we all have the health, strength and enterprise to use this time as an opportunity for work, remote communication and self-education!
The second project, in which the young George had to volunteer, also had to adapt to the new circumstances. George learned to work differently. He was not allowed to meet students and school adults in person, but he took part in a Zoom class with a class, prepared materials for informal activities when the students returned to school, made a Georgian “house”, an outdoor wooden domino, created a project photo wall, helped restore the nature class, as was also a conversation partner and assistant to the workers he met at school during the summer. He was among us and, although we were not allowed to organize activities in person, many people were met on a daily basis, words were spoken in different languages or volleyball was played together.
This is the experience of Gulbene municipality.
Admission of European volunteers during a pandemic, of course, most activities are prohibited and restricted, but it is also possible to work.
Thanks to the volunteers from the projects:
- “Stronger together”
- “Involved = Active”