ESC: Being a volunteer in Minte Forte February-March

Hello everyone!

Today we, Bea and Carmen, are going to take care of our first blog post for The Art of Mental Health Project. As it’s the first, we have a lot to talk about… but we will do our best to include all the meaningful experiences of these two months!

First of all, we’ll introduce ourselves, the EVS volunteers! So, in this international group we first have Gabriela, a Brazilian-Portuguese volunteer, then we have Tero from Finland, Garance from France, Kitty from Latvia and here writing are Bea and Carmen, both from Spain.

In this wonderful project, the 6 of us are using arts as a means for personal development of different groups of people. In addition, we are collaborating with 6 other local volunteers, so we are a multidisciplinary community with an interesting cultural diversity. During this period, we will have an added challenge to raise our objectives, this is the uncertain period and restrictions of mobility due to this pandemic situation, but we are doing our best to take advantage of this adventure 🙂

So! Now that you know us a little bit better, let’s start from the beginning. After two weeks of quarantine watching the falling snow from the window, we kicked it off with the Romanian lessons, some visits to the city center and walks around our beloved Mărăști neighborhood.

In the middle of February, we have an intense and interesting Training for Trainers, our first contact with the world of non-formal education and facilitation. After this, we had some weeks to prepare our first workshop for a follow-up session, working in pairs international and local volunteers. It was a scary and exciting first experience, and actually, really funny! After this training, we had another one about mental health and group management, in which we learned some fundamental topics and discussed how to deal with different social groups as facilitators.

Around the middle of March, the mentors organised a wonderful walk in the forest with the volunteers. It was a really nice plan for the weekend and we could breathe some fresh air, share some stories and get to know each other a little better. After our walk into nature, we stopped at the top of a hill with nice views and made a bonfire to get warmer and cook some food. It was reeeeally cool and pleasant!

The next week, we started to be warmed up enough to create and facilitate our first workshops online. These were for a high school and a school of Cluj-Napoca, working with kids around 12 and 16 years old. The first week was very challenging but after the first impressions and practices, it’s being interesting and enriching and by facilitating, we are learning more and more every week! (although with some many public holidays and other events, it has been interrupted, but we keep going!)

We have most of the activities online but to clear our minds and breathe some fresh air, our dear Romanian teacher, Cristi, organizes from time to time some informal lessons in parks or terrace bars, and for us it’s revitalizing 🙂

At the end of march, we had our On-Arrival Training experience! In spite of being an online version, it was refreshing to have this gathering of new people from a range of different places volunteering in Romania at the same time. It was comforting to share our experiences between us because we all happen to be in this particular circumstance of doing a volunteering project in the pandemic situation.

Aaand it was a busy and full week, because on the weekend we had a Team Building gathering in nature. We were spending a few days in a cottage surrounded by mountains and snow, with a relaxing and wintering landscape. It consisted of a weekend of coexistence between volunteers and coordinators to get to know each other better, reinforce our identity as a group and spend some time together doing diverse activities.

We had some really interesting activities about values as a whole group, putting together our experiences during our first workshops with schools, developing our corporal expression and learning a little more about non violent communication, between other topics. Without doubts, it was an amazing experience for all of us, with a lot of laughs, complicity and teamwork.

Regarding the first two months that’s it 🙂 If you want to know further, you can go to the April post, more or more things are happening!

Hugs and kisses from Bea and Carmen <3