In this article, through my words I will try for you to take a grasp of how I am spending my time on a short-term European Solidarity Corps project, which luckily brought me to a very unusual destination over the Atlantic, a small island country known as Aruba, 9000 kilometers from home. At the same time this place has actually become my new home, and all of this comes with a great cultural shock and experiencing the zone out of comfort.
It is not very easy to leave everything behind and decide to go abroad in a country that not many people even know exists. But then, in my opinion it is also not very difficult to adapt to a tropical island with a lot of sun during the time of the year where usually it is very cold in my home country and in Europe. At least when you are open-minded and ready for new experiences, it is easy to adapt and feel as much integrated as possible in the new society. As soon as I saw the call for a volunteer in Aruba, I was sure that I would apply, and after a long process, I am right here today, writing this article for Voices. It has been exactly one month since my arrival in Aruba, where I came to volunteer in a local organization that, among other things, works with the organization of youth projects. My desire and perseverance, determination to try new things, but also the exceptional experience of the topics related to the volunteer project, brought me to a new short reality, which so far meets and exceeds my expectations. For those who don’t know, because many times when people asked me where I am, they didn’t know where Aruba is – Aruba is an island that is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in the Caribbean Sea and only tens of kilometers from the coasts of Venezuela and Colombia. With a population slightly larger than the city where I grew up, and an area of about twenty kilometers, daily temperatures over 30 degrees, lots of sun and tropical plants, Aruba is a really specific place as a destination for volunteering. Even after arriving here, I was shocked by how humid and hot this place actually is, and then also came the real culture shock about everyday life on the island.
Regarding the work, I am a logistic assistant, which means that my responsibilities are mainly related to logistical preparation for the upcoming youth exchange that focuses on helping the empowerment of local projects. Usually I work from the office of my receiving organization CEDE Aruba, but my tasks also mean a lot of moving around the island and learning new things and skills. This is also helping me to learn the island much quicker and to have a lot of interaction with the people here. Besides me, there are two more volunteers, for administration and social media.
What is interesting for me is that everyone here is a polyglot, as most people speak either 3 or 4 languages at least, which gave me the opportunity to also practice both my English and Spanish. Besides these languages, Dutch and the local language Papiamento are also widely spoken on the island. This experience comes in my gap year after graduation. If you are asking me, it is the perfect time to do such things. If you are also interested in doing such a volunteering project, organizations such as VCS will gladly help you benefit from some of the many project opportunities being shared on a regular basis.
My conclusion and message for the readers of VOICES Magazine, will be that the world is full of opportunities, so grab them and create a new reality, because beautiful things are happening when you allow them to happen, far from the comfort zone, in new places and with new people. You can pick between many types of volunteer work and many different places, but believe me, whatever you choose to do, and wherever you get the chance to go, you are going to love the experience, because that is what every volunteer is going to tell you!
Bojan is our volunteer on the short-term ESC project in Oranjestad, Aruba
Project partner: EU Projects Aruba