About a month after my return to Italy, I find myself looking back on these four months that I will will carry with me forever and that have enriched me so much.
To best recount my experience, I would like to describe my typical week, in which every day I spent my time in a different facility, supporting different people with different types of disabilities.
For example, on Mondays I used to spend the day with very elderly people, and especially initially, I would play cards or board games with them. Then, when I became more familiar with them, they proposed to do some creative "crafts," with the one in the picture below, and a although I am the least creative person in the world, it was really nice to engineer each week and be able to communicate through these activities, despite the language barrier.
On Tuesdays, on the other hand, I used to go to a facility with people about 30/40 years old with both physical and cognitive disabilities, and in that case, together with another girl, we cooked for everyone (about 30 people).
Before dinner we used to go shopping together with some of the residents of the facility, then we would cook and after dinner (at 5 p.m., sigh) then spent some more time with them.
In the photo below I am cooking "flammkuchen," or the German equivalent of pizza, which in Holland they love very much, with bacon, onions, peppers and sour cream (double sigh).
On Wednesday and Thursday I had two very similar days, in fact both days I went to facilities where very young kids lived, almost all of them with autism or behavior disorders.
These two days were my favorite, because I was able to interface with people of my same age, whose main need was to do exactly what any 20-year-old. So we went shopping, to the movies, rode our bikes, played sports, we played games, or more simply spent our time chatting.
On Sundays, however, I used to take part as a helper in kickboxing workouts for kids
(definitely one of the most fun activities of my entire experience) and in the afternoon I also went to a facility for people with brain damage as a result of accidents.
At the and, there are the moments I will remember the most, the weekends (which for me were Fridays and Saturdays) and the free moments, where I really had the most wonderful experiences of all these months: the trips (even alone) around Holland and beyond, the miles and miles on bikes
(taking a lot of rain), the barbecues with my friends, my birthday organized by people I didn’t even know until 24 hours before, the
karaoke nights and those with a cup of tea and a movie, the museums, the festivals….
What has definitely enriched this experience so much are the people, starting with the other volunteers with whom I shared both the house, the project, and so many other adventures. Then, my hosting organization, which welcomed me with open arms to make all these months as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Finally, of course, all the people who even in the smallest way I have had the good fortune to be able to support, because they have truly given me so much!
In conclusion, as I flip through the photos and letters I brought with me from my trip, I cannot can only recommend this experience to anyone who wants to travel, meet people and new cultures, have a thousand adventures, and most of all give part of their time to other people!