What kind of impact does organizing
activities with children have on international volunteers?

Workcamp: Refugee Center Linin, near Warsaw

My name is Elvira, I’m an italian girl who’s currently participating in a ESC long term volunteering project in Poznan, Poland, and in this year of numerous life changing experiences, I want to share with you one that had a lot of impact on me.
During the summer I had the opportunity to coordinate two of the workcamps organized by SCI Poland. Both projects involved activities with children. The one I’m going to talk about took place in a refugee center, near Warsaw.
It was a real challenge for me to coordinate this workcamp, because, unfortunately, I don’t speak the local language and a great part of the workers in the center didn’t speak english. Luckily they were all really kind and we managed to communicate even in a nonverbal way, in an “Italian style” I would say.
The goal of this project was to organize recreational activities for the children living in the center, because during the summer school break, the kids don’t have any activities going on which can break the monotony of life in the center (only the youngest children have the opportunity to go to the kindergarden in the morning and play games, draw and learn under the guidance of a teacher).
People living in a refugee center are all those people who needed to flee their own countries because of different reasons, such as wars, poverty, famine and adverse climate conditions and are seeking asylum to find better living conditions.
I had the opportunity to go there as a volunteer and spend two weeks with 5 other great volunteers, sharing with them one of the most incredible experiences I had in my life. We met 13 amazing kids there, with whom we played, laughed and simply spent time for 10 days collecting great memories.
My workmates were from Portugal and Mexico, and, while we could’ve used English as a common language to communicate between ourselves, it wasn’t for sure that useful to converse with the children who were from Chechnya, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. It was impressive to discover how easy it was to understand children and being understood by them thanks to a nonverbal way of communication, and how fast they managed to learn English words, and use them properly, only by listening to us.
We did different activities both open air, using the playground area, and inside, using the kindergarden space. We created an obstacle race, which they really loved, but also played games with balls, badminton, we drew and did the activity they enjoyed the most: face painting. The children decided they wanted to decorate our faces and arms, so suddenly we became a canvas on which they could express all their creativity and write lovely messages. Hearing them laugh out loud all the time was so precious and I’ll always preserve this as one of my great memories.
The whole experience was not only about spending time with the children but much more. The volunteers and I had the chance to share our cultures, during the free time, through cooking typical food from our countries or sharing music. We also had the opportunity to develop a sense of community and respect toward each other by living, cooking and cleaning together. Moreover we could spend some time in the nature, discover the places around and during the weekend some of us even visited a small castle while some others were discovering the city of Warsaw.
One of my duties as a workcamp coordinator was to make sure that the experience was positive, for the volunteers, the hosting organisation and the children of course. I had the opportunity to observe a lot and I saw, and had confirmation through feedback, that for each of the volunteers this experience had an important impact. Leaving the center for the last time was really intense for all of us because we really established connections with those children, and knowing that we were not going to play with them the next day gave us a feeling of sadness. But we took some private time for ourselves, to process all our feelings and keep with us all the joy we experienced in those days. That night in our last meeting, before the final departure, we couldn’t stop talking about all the cheerful moments we experienced in those 10 days and how each of us was taking home good memories to look back at.
From time to time I still go to scroll at those pictures and videos with a smile on my face and I hope to have more of such experiences in the future.

The workcamp took place in 2022

Poland, Linin

The story was written for us by  Elvira Amatuzzi