Volunteering Stories: Pepe`s Thoughts – by Pierpaolo

First thought I had when we had to plan the camps was “this is going to be hard”, and I have to say I was somehow right. It’s not that easy to prepare a camp, especially if you never did it before! But that is the reason why you have a team, once you understand that everything gets much easier.

I remember the first camp we had to plan, it looked so easy, think about activities, timing, materials, then do them, everything works fine and we go home. Doesn’t really work like that! As much good of a plan you have the most important thing is the plan B (and C,D,E…), always be ready to improvise and create. That is the best thing about the project in my opinion, we got to work with kids for long period of time and multiple times, so you get to know them, their behavior and preferences and that helps to create activities more suitable for the group. Plus going to rural areas really gives you a bigger picture of where and with who you’re working with.

For sure there was stressing times where we didn’t know what to do, but those were the moments we learned most, came out with ideas and new games to try. And for how much we thought “this is not that good” actually it was, kids were learning things we never imagine we could teach.

The project is fantastic, I wish I had the opportunity when I was a kid to have this. I come from a really small village in Italy and working in rural areas brought me back home. And that aspect really made me be more involved in what I was doing. I seen myself as a kid and imagining being in their shoes, meeting people from other countries, different languages and costumes, being there just to have fun and try to teach something in the meantime.

One of the first challenges you get to face in you’re first months here is to manage you’re money to get the most out of it.

We get enough money to live, go out some times and even travel, but all of this if you’re able to cut some expenses and organize yourself.

For my personal experience I’ve always been the kind of person that does that, coming from a not rich family I always tried to save my money so I could get what I wanted. Here though, I learned even more how important is to think about future things you would like to do, so that you can be as much prepared as possible.

So I will share some tips on how to leave cheap and still get to do a lot of things.

First of all, and that is the one that helps me the most is eat more veggies (or just don’t eat meat)! Not only because it’s good for your health, but mostly because they are super cheap! There are two fresh markets in Baia Mare, where you can get local food for really great price and if you’re brave enough you can even play with prices and get a discount. So, save money, get local food, stay healthy and learn Romanian too.

One great tip is to travel by hitchhiking. That might sound “dangerous” for some people but It’s actually really common in Romania and the neighbor countries because of their past. I travel all the way to Istanbul between hitch hiking and BlaBla car (a carpool website), met some really kind people and spent 20€ in total. Passing true Bucharest and Sofia so I had the opportunity to see three capitals and their culture. In my awesome volunteering team two girls went from Baia Mare (RO) to Belgrade by hitchhiking. And that’s one of the great things about Romania and “Eastern Europe” countries in general, people are kind and willing to help. So don’t be scared, get a nice sign, get your smile up and you thumb out, somebody will stop for you!

And if you don’t want to pay even for hostel or hotel, well Couchsurfing is an option but even better is contact the volunteers from the other associations around Romania! Awesome way to meet people sharing your same experience and great way to create a travel network.

Those are the best tips I have learned and used that gave me the chance to use the most out of our monthly allowance, meet great people and make great friends.

 It’s crazy how much you can do with so less!

9 Pepe Testimonial (2)

Pierpaolo is a one of the volunteers who participate in the Rural Summer Camps project, hosted and coordinated by Team for Youth Association. During 6 months, he and other 3 volunteers were working together in order  to give to the kids from rural areas in Maramures the opportunity to learn and discover things through non-formal activities.