Get to Know Yourself as a Volunteer!

Bringing new colours to the work of Budapesti Máltai Fiatalok, organizing activities for children, supporting volunteer meetings. Interview before the farewell of Natalia Puchajda, EVS volunteer about living abroad that changed her life.

What does volunteering mean to you after taking part in the life of Budapesti Máltai Fiatalok in the last 8 months?

This adventure has been like a holiday! I had a lot of different tasks which I have never done before. Before EVS, I thought that volunteering is more like giving yourself up to someone but here I didn’t feel it so much. I have just done what I should do and I rather felt that in the meantime I’m developing myself. In the end of May, in a hospital for children I painted a fox on a door as part of a volunteer project. At that time, I’ve just felt that it developed my patience and made me more calm. Of course, it wasn’t only me who was happy and satisfied but the children as well, which I could see on their faces.

Joy in Liechtenstein

Why does it worth it to be a volunteer?

You can meet a lot of people from different cultures and that’s amazing. You can get to know yourself and your behaviour in different situations. For example, I often was a leader and here I got to know that I really don’t like to be the leader. That is why I could be more calm, I was able to invent new things but I didn’t have to think so much about the frames of the event. I also could see how other leaders work, which was useful for me as well.

What can you learn during a long term volunteering abroad?

Obviously, I improved my English and I got to know Hungarian. Even if it’s not so perfect it’s really satisfying to use Hungarian in daily activities. I learnt to be alone more which is also good. And I am also braver and more self-confident than before. This EVS definitely prepared me to my new adventure which will come soon as from August I will be an au pair in Sweden.

Teaching kids

Can you share some good stories which you had during your volunteer project?

There were a lot of small things which are difficult to explain. What I definitely loved were the moments when I went to the Polish church in Budapest and half of the people in the bus were Polish. I could listen to the language which finally I understood very well. I remember that after one month in Hungary, a Polish couple was choosing wine in the shop. I explained them which kind of wine is dry and which is sweet. After they asked me about some wines because “you understand Hungarian”.

I have amazing memories from Liechtenstein where we were in January with children from the Hungarian social housing estate next to Ócsa. Children told me that they loved me, some of them even tried to speak to me in English to understand each other better. We found the time for dancing parties with kids as well.

Girl power

Three of us went on a trip to the mountains in the real winter weather in Liechtenstein. The local intern from the Kinderheim, where we stayed, should have been the most prepared but she had too slippery shoes, so she couldn’t walk and she fell down all the time. I also looked funny because this time I had a problem with my neck, so I had an orthopaedic collar. What a company! I think that being in Liechtenstein was one of the best periods of my EVS.

Having fun in the snow

Once I was with Jonas, another volunteer from Germany in the home of an elderly man. He was almost 100 years old and he was a really nice and kind person. I remember the atmosphere which was in his flat and I think it was amazing that I could be there for a short time.

I also remember when I showed the games like Virus or Snail during the activities in Ócsa or at the trainings and everyone liked it. I think that my experience from working with scouts in Poland was useful here.

At the II. Máltai Fiatalok Festival at Ócsa

How important are the new contacts with other volunteers or young people you made during your EVS? 

I have had the opportunity to get to know a lot of foreign people, not only Hungarians. I could meet people with different behaviours and learn other languages. I am happy that I met Polish people here. When you are not in your own country, you appreciate people who make you feel a bit as if you were home. I’m also glad that I met Jonas, a volunteer from Germany, we have spent a really good time together. And of course, I’m grateful to get to know my boss, Réka, because we had really good and fruitful cooperation.

What challenges did you have to overcome?

The biggest challenge for me was to live alone in a different country and to speak Hungarian to the children. Hungarian language is extremely difficult regarding grammar and pronunciation.

What message would you send to wannabe volunteers who hesitate to apply for EVS projects?

When I applied for this position I didn’t know how it will be but when I was chosen I was really excited! And it was a good choice for me and I hope also for Budapesti Máltai Fiatalok. If you have the opportunity, apply for an EVS! Amazing experience, new people, new challenges and time for thinking what you should do with your life in future. It works!

It’s never a goodbye, it’s a see you again!