My story with volunteering stems from way before officially being one! Although I’m born Croatian, who lives & studies in Croatia, I was raised up in Lebanon – a country which knows no political peace, social justice or economic security in more than 4 decades – this is the main reason why I enrolled in an International Relations undergraduate program, which I hoped would assist me in comprehending why life is such and how can we improve these conditions.
Blog post by Taha A. Haikal
During my studies, we in Europe experienced what’s known as a “migration wave” – mainly caused by the war in Syria, which was already a hot theme in our college studies. An opportunity opened up at the Centre for Peace Studies, in Zagreb, to join a team which deals with refugees. My thoughts were distributed as follows:
lt would be most human to welcome these people, show some hospitality, especially those who got asylum, and get to share their stories, because all living souls regardless of our backgrounds matter. Also try to collect some real sense, first hand wisdom on how to prevent such inhuman catastrophes from repeating again, and how to react when they do.
It would be great to learn how NGO’s function in general and how does the link of communication between them and the government work!
It would improve me as a person to collect some experience, by working side by side with then random individuals, now dear friends … and give my sense of responsibility and level of dependance a check – put myself in a position to acquire a necessary dose of knowledge towards taking the next step in my career.
Through a couple of educating seminars immediately at the beginning of the volunteering journey, I was able to check box 2 above, the one that specifies the work of NGO’s, specifically the one I signed up for. And through extra instruction lines and workshops from and with our supervisors, I was able to check box 3. In addition, a couple of field trips which resulted in a direct contact with the refugees, box 1 was checked.
When it came to the actual process, we were divided into sections: educational integration, cultural integration, employment integration & legal integration. My participation came through the cultural division. We had projects in Zagreb, like organising a refugee picnic, or preparing, welcoming & registering guests who attended the Centre’s conferences that tackled such theme; and we sometimes travelled to certain locations. For instance, in the village of Novi Marof we held a lecture on dealing with the falsely spread stereotypes on refugees to a group of high school students; in Croatian Kostajnica near the border with Bosnia, and in a joint project with the Center for Rehabilitation and Social Care in Croatia, we organised an event where a group of refugees shared their national cuisines with a home for the elderly people by cooking them a lunch.
At the Centre we had an unwritten rule that stated after every project we participate in, we are obliged to write a report on it. That was, I’d say, the most fun or exciting part of volunteering, because when you get the assignment, whatever the prior turn out scenario in your mind is on how this will fold, there is always an element of positive surprise that jumps at you, and with us noting it down, it kinda lingers with us. We really do get the feeling that we are impacting our surroundings and giving our share of correspondence to a better tomorrow for our generation.