Report from the ESC volunteer project in Barcelona

All good things must come to an end… It’s a journey not marked by miles traveled, but by lives touched, stories intertwined, and the profound impact we make, often in the simplest of ways. As I reflect on my volunteering experience, I’m reminded of the transformative power of giving back, of the moments shared, and the lessons learned along the way. Join me as I delve into the essence of this journey, exploring the joys, challenges, and meaningful encounters that have shaped my path of service.

My volunteering in Barcelona officially commenced on June 15, 2023, but the journey truly began well before that date. In April 2023, I made the decision that I wasn’t ready to spend my youth confined to a corporate job. I felt a calling to experience more, to witness beautiful places, and to contribute meaningfully to society. Recalling a friend’s experience volunteering in Estonia through the European Solidarity Corps, I applied without hesitation for the “Picture it – Build your future” volunteering program at Fundació Catalunya Voluntària.

It was a risky decision to leave behind six years of life in Poland and a stable job for a year in Spain, but deep down, I knew it was the right choice.

Successfully selected for the program, I completed all necessary trainings and, with the assistance of FRSP, embarked on my journey from Poland. Upon arriving in Barcelona, I was warmly welcomed by Lara, a fellow FCV volunteer, who familiarized me with the city and introduced me to the daily work at FCV.

As a volunteer, my main responsibilities included:

  • Managing the foundation’s social media accounts (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Mailchimp)
  • Graphic design for reports, posters, websites, illustrations, logos, etc.
  • Writing articles and publications
  • Representing the foundation nationally and internationally
  • Organizing events and supporting FCV activities
  • Participating in training for social workers on immigrant inclusion
  • Preparing sessions to improve the quality of life for refugees and migrants
  • Conducting interviews for partner organizations dedicated to addressing social exclusion
  • Designing toolkits, infopacks, and calls for partners for various projects

My typical workday involved immersing myself in the realm of Social Media Management, as my goal was to deepen my knowledge and eventually monetize my skills. I seized every available opportunity to learn something new. Barcelona, with its multiculturalism, possibilities for development, and engagement, offered a plethora of youth initiatives, workshops, trainings, seminars, lectures, and courses – all free of charge. Beyond my FCV responsibilities, I dedicated several hours each week to attend meetings on content creation, social media strategy development, copywriting, inclusive language, and political engagement. In doing so, I forged valuable friendships and established a network essential for my future professional endeavors.

Throughout my journey, I received unwavering support from my sending organization and the individuals I encountered along the way. Yet, it wasn’t just the constant learning that made my volunteering unforgettable. Trips, cultural encounters, local festivities, and celebrations enriched the experience further. Despite having visited Spain before, I rediscovered the country anew. Catalonia, with its azure Mediterranean waters, cliffs adorned with lush flora, and sun-kissed landscapes, welcomed me like paradise. I swiftly adapted to the climate, despite a few sunburns, thanks to the warm hospitality of the locals.

Pan con tomate, calcots, and escudella became my favorite Catalan dishes, while La Diada, Navidad, and La festa major de Barcelona became cherished social events and holidays. Fortuitously, I learned more about Catalan traditions during the on-arrival training in Coma Ruga and gained insights into Spain as a whole during the mid-term evaluation training in Mollina, Andalusia.

My volunteering journey was as passionate as flamenco, as diverse as paella, as rich as the Catalan language, and as soothing as the life of an Iberian. With tears of happiness and gratitude, I concluded my volunteering program on March 31, 2024. I am confident that the lessons learned, skills acquired, and invaluable connections made will resonate in both my personal and professional life.

Thank you, Europe!

Mariana Helysh