To be a volunteer – Martin from Czech Republic

Today we would like to present you Martin from Czech Republic who was a volunteer in our project from Septermber 2018 until October 2020. Enjoy!

I am Martin, volunteer from Pilsen in the Czech Republic, now already feeling like a half Bulgarian. During my EVS I was 29-31 years old, so in the limiting age for EVS. I stayed in the project in Shipka 14 months – since September 2018 until October 2020 (and one more month after I spent enjoying Sofia, the city I fell in love with). 

When I am writing about my volunteer experience, everything should be told from the beginning, because everything is connected. I became a volunteer in 2013 for the project Pilsen, European Capital of Culture 2015, after seeing a call on Facebook (and since them, everything what I was doing was thanks to Facebook). I didn’t even know, if I want to join them for longer time and I didn’t really support this project at that time. But after a first meeting with our great volunteer coordinator I fell in love with this project, culture and volunteering itself – and it remained forever and became my new lifestyle. 🙂

Thanks to volunteering I met many new friends, participated in great events and I was getting always deeper and deeper into the volunteer community. My new friend explained me, what’s a workcamp and how to join it and I visited a first information meeting in my sending organisation and I kept going to many interesting events, workshops or trainings which they organize. I did my first 3 weeks workcamp in France, which was the best volunteering experience ever and it became my holiday content every year. After few of them I wanted to move my volunteering on a higher level and all people around me were speaking about the experience with EVS, so I decided to try it as well. 

It was quite difficult to find some project, because there isn’t many which I liked – in culture or with manual work. I wanted to go to Germany to practice my German (but in the end I totally forgot it), but it wasn’t successful. So I was trying projects around whole Europe and not only there. And one day I received a quite belated message from Bulgaria – I almost didn’t remember, that and when I applied there, but it worked well, they chose me and I came there. 

My best memory and most worth experience happened already in the beginning, or more accurately before the beginning. I came to Sofia directly to the on-arrival training. It was a great week where I met the best people, found new friends and learned the most important thinks about the EVS: to go sleep late and to drink alcohol (or better to try it, it doesn’t have anything in common with drinking 😀 ). This skills can be useful for getting to know people, but in Shipka or in my future life almost useless. 

But the really important thing that I learned and experienced (and it was one of the main reasons why I was doing an EVS) was to be with people. To live together in one home, spend time with friends, go to some trips or parties. It didn’t happen many times and with people from our project it was very seldom, but at least sometimes I had these nice and unique experiences. It’s also nice and useful, if we have a network of people around the country, which we can visit. So when I felt lonely at home, I could go to Sofia or somewhere else to visit some other volunteers. Even if the relations at home wasn’t always perfect, I felt like in a family, like we all were brothers and sisters. 

I was almost thinking, I won’t learn anything else during the EVS, because usually our work was based on my normal skills and nothing special. But then, in the second half, it changed. One friendly and inspiring girl came to live with us, who had deeper interest in permaculture and many other interests and thanks to her and our new friend from a neighbouring project I started to have interest in permaculture. She explained me some basics and mostly shared her passion for it and I joined the permaculture project. In the end the permaculture became my new hobby and I decided to start my own permaculture garden, which is right now the impact into my life. Except of this I also learned with them, how to relax and enjoy the time by doing nothing, for example on a beach, what I didn’t like before.

And I am always forgetting one thing, which I learned, because it already became a part of my normal life. It’s my English – before I was always saying, I don’t know English, but when we used it every day, I could use it like my native communicative language. Of course it’s not good, you can see it, but I don’t have a problem to understand people, texts or movies, I even can think in English easily and some time afterthe  EVS it was still more comfortable for me to speak English than Czech which I almost forgot. My Facebook is completely bilingual English/Czech (because more than half of my friends are from another countries), I am writing articles (like this) and reportages in English, reading books about permaculture, doing courses… 

And how else EVS changed my life? It’s not possible to say it now, because it needs to grow – like the garden, I am doing it, but I don’t know, if and when we can see some success and if it will stay my new lifestyle. Also current politic situation doesn’t allow us to travel or to do volunteering and meet new people, so I can’t develop myself and my skills. I would like to visit my new friends, who are living around Europe, do some permaculture trainings or visit other gardens and mostly to continue with going to the workcamps (maybe more focused on my new interests). I would also like to enjoy more culture, not only like the organizer. In Kazanlak, I was visiting almost all the cultural events which were happening during the year (because there weren’t many), but at home, where we normally have so many opportunities, I usually don’t do almost anything (because it’s difficult to find somebody to do it with). 

During the year in Bulgaria I became Bulgarian. I didn’t want to leave I felt guilty to escape from my new home country. I learned little bit the language and a lot about the culture and history, which we could meet on every step. This fact could have impact for my future: if the Czech politics go in a bad direction and they leave the European Union, I would move back to Bulgaria, living in EU is the most important for me. But also in normal times I like the country less than before and something pushs me to go abroad as much as possible (but I don’t have enough time already). My first idea was to do EVS in some western country to learn, how public space can be better, architecture and life on higher level. But living in Bulgaria gave me more. I learned, that everything doesn’t have to be perfect and less is sometimes more. We don’t need to spend so much money to have everything beautiful and perfect…, we can do it just basic and useful way and save the money or effort for something more important to be happy and enjoy life together. In Bulgaria we could see broken streets, not maintained equipment, but people sitting outside, speaking together and living on the streets. It’s something impossible in the Czech Republic.

Now, right after coming back, I started my first job in the field of my transport studies (which isn’t usual to do what I studied) – in a little company which makes projects of transport buildings. And in the same time I started the garden, for which my parents didn’t have time already. Now just like a zero stadium and rebirth of the unkept garden and “house”, hopefully next year it should turn into real permaculture. 

I would definitely do the EVS again, it was great experience and it’s nice to be so long somewhere else. But better in a big city, than in a village/little town. It was nice to live almost in the nature, but I need the city life and to be able to explore some new place or street every day. Even if Shipka is part of a bigger city, it’s still too small for me. But it’s also easy to live there, because we can know easily everything, what’s happening there. 

Our project wasn’t the best. It could be much better organized and I expected much more. It was maybe partly also up to us, if we would act more like a group to decide to do something, it would be better, but our group was divided from the beginning and it had a bad impact. But thanks to the influence from different directions it was worth it and it gave me a lot. And I hope, it will still continue on a theoretical level and I will be able to use more from this experience later.

Thank you for this great opportunity and the meaningful year of life with people!

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