It’s 5 AM in the morning and yes, this is the perfect time for me to tell you another story: the story of how I get into the volunteering and do not want to get out.
Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity where an individual or group provides services for no financial gain to benefit another person, group or organization.
Volunteering. n.d. In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 27, 2017 from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volunteering
I’ve heard so many times from the acquaintances who volunteered in various countries around the world and enjoyed it tremendously. So I was constantly curious, how volunteering works in Ukraine, my dear Motherland, who suffered a lot these years.
I started searching, «just googling it»; the most promising method is to find the organizations on the popular social websites and that’s it!
I found some: it was Youth for Peace and WWF community of Ukraine.
I hadn’t written them the very next second; I’m a person who analyses first and then dives deep into the ocean, so I waited. I didn’t want to be rude, pop out of nowhere and say something like ‘Take me: I’m so fine, you cannot reject me’ which was the characteristic I have never thought about myself in my entire life (the self-esteem is still low but I’m working on it).
I waited until the day “Youth for Peace” announced a call for volunteers! It was a week after when I filled in and sent them my application; I was still unsure, but I couldn’t wait any longer. They needed volunteers to help on Christmas lunches and the preparation before it. The Christmas was coming to the town of Kyiv and everyone needed a tiny miracle.
I was waiting and waiting, until the day of 21st, when one of the coordinators called me, asked if I am still ready to come on 25th of December and talk more about my willingness to help.
The thing that scared me a lot more was not the idea of the volunteering itself in the organization I didn’t know much about (though I did my deep research before even applying), it was mostly about the new people and new relationships with them.
To be honest, I was scared as hell, trembling while going upstairs (and not using the elevator) to prolong the time of arrival. I tried to be as slow as I can and turned the «turtle mode» on; unfortunately, my legs didn’t listen to me: I came a half hour before the meeting.
The first recollections of the evening: I was asked if I came to help to make sandwiches and I said «no», buffering like the old-fashioned equalizer on the antediluvian computer. My mind went blank. Hands were sweaty and I wanted to run away because I forgot what to say and started to address myself in 3rd person. I was so embarrassed, thank the heaven above Olya took me away and I was saved. Not for long obviously: there were more people to get acquainted with!
So many new faces and names; I would surely lie if I’ll say I recalled them on the very first evening. While the next meeting, I could say if I’ve seen this person before, but sometimes it was hard to distinguish who is who.
At first, she told me the history of the establishment and the community of Saint Giles, as people refer him in English, or Sant’ Egidio in Italian, who patronaged beggars, poor people, and others.
Later, she showed me some photos and videos about the Roma children and their community; couple videos were about the elder people who live in the retirement houses. Also, she mentioned about the couple projects they were in process of making.
Incredible, I still cannot understand how on Earth they manage to do events regularly and keep it all organized!
As time passed by, a couple of «freshly baked» volunteers which were noticeably older than me (not that I mind it) came by and we were introduced to our mentor Eugene for the task – to congratulate Roma children, who live in the suburbs of the capital, with the holidays and present them gifts.
We moved to the kitchen, we talked and we made the gifts, and we talked again: about the community, about the volunteering, about the life itself. I was the youngest in there at the moment and that was magical to be surrounded by a group of adults (funny, but I still can’t realize or take the fact that I am an adult too) who had their full-time jobs, completed degrees at the universities behind their backs, bright minds, creativity and strive to help and change the society; the fire in their eyes could burn the infinite number of enemies, but when it comes to the people they love it would just warm them up without causing any damage.
It is raining in here. Here is my ultimate playlist for the rainy weather:
- Tom Odell – Heal;
- Coldplay – Fix You;
- Young And Dramatic – Arrivals / Departures;
- Luke Sital-Singh – Dark;
- Radical Face – Letter Home;
- Novo Amor – Holland;
You should appreciate every second you spend on the planet Earth. There will be no identical memories and moments in life. Cherish them while you can.
Yesterday I turned 20 years old. I don’t feel happiness inside nor being more mature and experienced: it’s just a number to me and somehow I got stuck at my ‘Sweet 16’.
‘I am okay’, ‘I am fine’, ‘I am doing great’, ‘I am good’.
How many times have you heard this response from me? Anyone who knows me in person would say quite a lot. I’d like to count how many times exactly I say it for once.
It’s like a mantra now.
“I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine”
Like a magic spell. The one I want to happen, to become real. Maybe someday I will be convicted of witchcraft, but it doesn’t matter for now. As long as it works.
“I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine”
One more time to make sure you received my response. The polite question so is the answer. Everything to please and not to worry the total stranger, teacher, best friend. Anyone. Stay calm and do not worry about me.
Another round of “I’m fine” in order to make myself believe that everything IS fine, but I’m failing the task. Completely messed it up. Everything.
Fortunately, there are some days, when I am convinced I am okay. But those days pass. And every time, after the ‘happy phase‘ comes complete devastation and lack of wish to live.
I wake up and feel empty. Like someone sucked the soul out of me, the life, the motivation. I cannot move, I do not want to eat and drink. There are a lot of thoughts in my head; the chaos makes me suffer even more. I don’t want to breathe. I don’t need anything.
The feelings you cannot explain, you cannot delete, you cannot undo.
Like a big black hole that tears you apart and sucks you into another dimension – the dimension of total wastefulness and hate, anger, and sadness.
I am one of those who likes to hide it all but when the time has come it’s like an abruption of the volcano, a supervolcano of emotions. It will destroy everything on their way, it would not be merciful.
So if you want to ask me the real question, do not ask ‘How are you?’ because you would receive the same response as usual. You just need to hug me and tell that everything will be great, fantastic; tell me that I do not need to give up.
Sometimes I feel like I want to. Sometimes I do it and try to push the reset button to start again. The thing is: I do it all the time because it hurts so much.
They say it’s okay to have problems, but till what extent is it?
There a lot of times I suddenly experience some flashbacks from my past and try to rejuvenate them in my mind. It’s hard but possible; sometimes I spend a lot of time trying to distinguish if those were real things or were they just the fake memories. Those precious moments give me a chance to restore events of the past.
Somehow I grew up a person that collects and values those pieces of information; they are unique, full of happiness and quietism. I try to remember as much as I can: places, notes, feelings, special people, events that happened and made me a person I am today, those which shaped my personality, good and bad ones, in a ratio of 3:1.
Memories can actually tell a lot about a human: if a person tends to store more positive images of past or negative ones. “You can make some deductions through those“, – Sherlock Holmes would remind.
And back to the topic, the places. Actually, this flashback was triggered by a sudden trip to one of my favorite places on the Earth, a place where I feel peace inside myself all of the time, my grandma’s village: the place I visited a lot during my early years and later on, where I’d get to spend my whole summer holidays, village Ostroushki.
The village is situated on the left bank of the river Vit’, which is the distributary channel of the Desna River. The number of the residents is really low: according to 2001 population census there were 160 residents. A few decades before, there were up to 500 residents. Due to the urbanization phenomenon which started to rise its power since 1970th, the new generation moved to cities nearby, Novhorod-Siverskyi and Shostka.
Even though many local residents have relocated to cities years ago, a lot of people come here in the summer; these people are the two (or even three) generations of those first residents who moved to cities in 1970-1980th.
First memory, the earliest one – the time when our whole family gathered together in the Easter’s Eve. I was 3-4 years old, my mother gave birth in November to my smaller sister, so did my uncle’s wife, they’ve had a daughter also. I cried and cried, because I was really pissed off. I can’t remember what caused my non-stop crying, but I was hoping to go home faster.
My uncles and aunts gathered from all over Ukraine: some came from Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, some from cities nearby. My grand-grandfather was alive at that moment, a person who survived an injury in World War II and returned home safely after the war finished. The dog was barking and I was crying almost in unison with it, it seemed we made a perfect duet.
The second part of memories, when I was 5-9 years. At that time my grandparents lived there and cared for my grand-grandfather, so it was the first time in a year I had a chance to see them.
The summer, hot days spent outside the house. Days of the leisure changed to the days of work in the grandma’s garden, 1.5 acres of fertile land, which was huge for a family of ours. Nonetheless, the strawberries and other fresh fruits and vegetables motivated us to go and help our parents. After a lunch time, we usually went to the river to swim. Oh, what a beautiful time, the best time of the summer!
There were some days when we spent our whole days there, we brought snacks with ourselves, swam until we were done, built some sand castles, enjoyed the times while we could.
The third one, when I was 10-16 years. We were growing up, our parents became elder. Some days after we finished our studies at school, we finally could buy a ticket and packed our clothes. My mother, my sister and I were going to grandma again. We were waiting not only because it meant finally to see our grandparents, but our friends there who came from Russia and the southern parts of Ukraine.
We played until the darkness, until parents had to call us, until the mosquito’s bites were all over our bodies. We went fishing almost every day. We rode the bicycles and competed with each other, we hide when the cows were passing the streets and went home. We fought with each other, created some horror stories and scared each other. We played cards and tic-tac-toe game on stock-fish, we ran until we fall down and scratched our legs. The magical times, the felicity of our childhoods.
Sometimes I ask myself a question: “How did we grow up so fast?”
It seemed like it was yesterday we have gathered the strawberries my grandma hoped to conserve for the winter time and went for a walk to the river, but stayed and fished for some hours.
It seemed like it was some hours ago we have waited for the truck to come and for the time when we could buy an ice-cream and a fresh loaf of bread.
It seemed like it was 5 minutes ago we grew together, each upcoming year were curious to see how much we changed, waited for each other, became more mature and shy as we all together were becoming adults.
It seemed like it was a second ago we didn’t gather anymore in the village of ours, the land of our ancestors.
Times have changed, the village became so tiny, the fences of our homes inclined and today we gather rarely, only to share our grief at the funeral of someone’s relative. The roads of our lives haven’t crossed for ages as we became mature adults.
Sometimes it makes me sad, sometimes the memories of the past give me a second breath and make me calm, giving that feeling of warmth in my chest. But one thing never changes – I am thankful for each second of that time, I really am.