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Dream come true – ESC in Spain

Living in Spain has been my dream for over 5 years.  As a psychology student I was searching for some project where I can have practice in my field. One day while I was scrolling my Instagram I saw the post of Volunteers Centre Skopje for volunteering in Spain in an association that helps disabled children and adults and I was eager to apply. After a few months I was really happy to see I have been selected as a volunteer for this project. The preparation for my trip was a long waiting and document gathering process but I was really lucky to have the VCS team helping me through it. Guided by the fear and excitement of starting a new unknown chapter in my life I arrived in Barcelona airport where me and the other 4 volunteers from France, Germany and Turkey were welcomed by our director Judit and another volunteer that was already working there and from Macedonia, Jojo. He was really helpful and gave us a lot of information on what we should expect and what we will do during our volunteering. And just like that we started this new journey together.

My project started around 5 months ago in a cute small town called Tarrega, just a 1 hour bus ride from Barcelona. The organisation that I’m volunteering for has a big community and centers for people with disabilities. Hundreds of people are working to make the lives of these people easier and better. I am working in a special school for physically and mentally disabled children from ages 6 until 21, playing all sorts of games, taking walks, doing physical exercises, horse and dog therapies, pool activities and musical therapy. These kids have shown me a new world – one that celebrates the richness of human experience and the beauty of diversity. Through their unwavering spirit and joyful presence, they are inspiring us to overcome obstacles, embrace differences, and strive for a more inclusive and compassionate world. They have taught me determination, to have a positive attitude when I’m facing challenges, to be more empathetic and to have patience. Watching some of them progressing and doing things they couldn’t do when I first met them is making me very happy and fulfilled.

Getting used to taking things slow, siesta time, the Spanish and Catalan language, people not knowing how to speak English were kind of new to me but regardless of that my coworkers were very nice and welcoming and they all wanted to get to know me as much as I wanted to get to know them. My roommates (Louane, Luise, Yanis, Jojo and Ilayda) are the best and we are all like a small family. We go on trips together, to bars and parties, we play all sorts of games, talk about our work days and spend a lot of time together. I can say that I am very happy to have met them and I am sure we will be friends for life. We are already making plans on visiting each other once my project ends. Exploring Catalonia’s and Spain’s vibrant cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Girona, Tarragona, Lleida, Lloret de mar and their historical landmarks offered me a deeper understanding of its cultural heritage.

Moving abroad offers a unique opportunity for personal growth, cultural immersion and making a meaningful impact on the world for a volunteer. It offers individuals the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the world while gaining invaluable insights, skills and experiences. While I am at the end of my project with certainty I can say that I will return home with a life-changing experience I will never forget.

Ivana Nikjiforovikj

Our volunteer on the long-term ESC project with Associació Alba