Volunteers' blog

Tomas: feedback about the volunteering experience

Feedback about the volunteering experience
Tomás Pinto Moura
26-02-2021

Volunteering in Estonia was an amazing experience.
To start off, I always felt extremely supported by my sending organization,
ProAtlântico, in the person of Isa Correia, by my hosting organization, in the person of
Julia Rätsep, by Vitatiim, in the person of Beata Lamauskaite and by my mentor, Dmitri
Lohmatov.

My hosting organization was Narva Keeltelütseum.
In the beginning, when the COVID restrictions were not that tight yet, I was rapidly
involved in several English classes at my hosting organization, with different age
groups, from primary school to high school. My initial activities concerned presenting
myself and speaking about my country, but later on evolved mostly to speaking
activities and supporting the students with their assignments during the classes.
Afterwards, when the COVID restrictions started getting tighter these activities started
taking place online.

Since I was living in Narva, comprised of more than 90% Russian people, I am not
quite sure I have experienced the Estonian culture, except when travelling around
Estonia. When I arrived, I was surprised that there seemed to be no one outside
compared to Lisbon, where I was coming from. There is this feeling that there is a lot of
space, but few people and most of them either very young or elder. However, people
really value taking walks outside and in the nature, which is quite amusing (including if
it is freezing cold outside!). Another aspect which impacted this experience was that
most of the people do not speak English. Gladly, we had the opportunity to take an
intensive Russian course, with an amazing teacher, which helped us to get around. Also,
people really make an effort to communicate, even though they do not feel comfortable
speaking English.

Narva is a comfortable city to live in, since almost everything is on a walking distance
and it has everything one needs to live comfortably. However, it has a very different
pace for those coming from capitals, even though it is the third biggest city in Estonia.
The best part of the experience for me were the people. First of all, being involved with
the kids at school and learning more about them and figuring out that we really develop
our personalities at a very young age. I also felt they were excited to be able to practice
their English with a foreign. Secondly, the close bonds that were formed with my fellow
volunteers since we were either living together or spending time together almost every
day. Considering we all have different backgrounds, I really feel I have learned
something with everyone and also have grown as a person.
I am grateful for having taken the decision to take this volunteering journey.

For future volunteers, my advice is to arrive with an open mind and ideas to implement
your own projects and be prepared for a lot of snow! I am sure it will be a memorable
time.
Tomas Solidarity for Sustainable Life