EVS Stories: A #blessed girl – by Maria João

Why? Why me? Why this project? Why Romania and not another country? Why? There are so many questions about the reasons and motivations that took me here and to this experience, but I think many more answers I will find for it.

My name is Maria João, I am from Portugal and I have been in Baia Mare since the beginning of September, in a project called “Life Skills for Rural Education” in Team for Youth Association, in which, together with Ana Rita, another Portuguese volunteer, I participated in English classes in village schools around the city, performing with the students activities to help them learn English in the funniest way; in high schools, promoting intercultural experiences and volunteering; and in kindergartens, collaborating in the animation of children and teaching them simple words in English. In addition, I have had the opportunity to be volunteer in an Association that develops therapy for children with Down Syndrome, held thematic seminars where I can explore topics with which I identify myself or simply get involved in other events that are emerging in Team for Youth Association.

And my family and my friends ask me: “Are you enjoying? How’s it going? What are you doing? How are the people?”

So… I could not feel more involved and close to the children in the village schools and in Ioana Maria Association, with the young people in the high school, with the professionals in any of these places and even with the people of Baia Mare who welcomed me like I didn’t expect. They give themselves every day when I go to the local market, to the supermarket, to the gym or simply at the bus stop! English and Romanian can be a problem for both parts… but in the end what matters is the language of the heart!

At school, the children welcomed us nicely. Even though they do not speak English very well they do everything to spend as much time as they can with us, they offer us gifts full of affection and especially, they make us feel part of the group and we realized our playful activities helped them be closer to the English language. And high school students make us feel like one of them. We share and debate in an enthusiastic dialogue in which we exchanged cultural experiences.

Volunteering in Ioana Maria Association was a pleasant surprise. I had never had a direct contact with Down Syndrome children or their families. It seems that sometimes we make a seven-headed bug about the fact that this could happen to someone close to us. The parents of these children taught me it’s all about love. And for a child love is unconditional, regardless of anything!

About the language… well! I came with many fears because my English was a little forgotten, rusty, thrown aside… But from the moment I realized that I had no other way of communicating, day by day, I felt more comfortable. And I can always count on the help and understanding of everyone!

Well, then maybe you can answer a few ”why”-s. I believe that nothing happens by chance. That everything has the hand of God. And He put me here to show me something! That’s why I’m feeling #blessed for so much I already lived and learnt!

After 2 months I feel that Team for Youth is already a part of me… each one have helped me to grow and learn, have supported me and made me feel at home! Thank you for that!

I learned that we are each other’s family and that if one moment is important for one it is important for everyone. And in this way we build true friendships!


I learned that volunteering is much more than I thought (I think I’m still figuring it out)!

I have learnt to like autumn. It is true. The nature that surrounds us is capable of making us passionate by so much beauty: it’s the colors, the trees, the wind… And I feel that now I’m beginning to learn to enjoy the winter… it will probably be a harder process, but I believe it’s possible … let’s see!

I feel like I’ve learned a lot in just 2 months… but I feel like I still have a long way to go. I want to learn more about this country that welcomed me, about the people and culture. I want to learn more about the culture and history of the other volunteers, who are also sharing this experience with me. I want to understand how to continue this project after returning to my country or wherever I go! I really want to learn about my own country and the values I carry within me. I want to learn to live more and more in harmony with others and with differences! Learn to learn from others! I want to learn to smile regardless of the weather outside! Learn to dream more, to create more and to put all this in action!

I want to grow! And if I want, I think I’ve grown a little! And here I go!

Maria Joao Ribeiro (Portugal) is hosted in Baia Mare by Team for Youth Association, in the “Life Skills for Rural Education” project, a European Voluntary Service, financed by the European Commission, through the Erasmus Plus Program.