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MEMORIES, CHALLENGES, CULTURE & CORONA

Volunteering in the middle of the pandemic

I think we all agree that the global pandemic has changed our lives. Restrictions, rules, distance and online activities, quarantine – this all has become a part of our every-day life. Many volunteers tell that they have needed to do home office and online activities. And when working and meeting in real life is possible, it’s highly restricted. Despite these challenges all the volunteers tell that they still are able to work and contribute to their projects – so the pandemic is not preventing them from working.

Of course the corona restrictions are impacting on our free time as well. It seems that many volunteers miss traveling and getting around in their new surroundigs. And I definitely agree – I would have traveled more in Austria and visited neighbouring countries if it would have been possible. In many places also restaurants, bars and cafes are closed, so it’s not possible to have a drink or grab something to eat with friends. Many of my interviewees tell that they have found some other ways to spend their spare time, such as watching movies, spending time home with the host family, flat mates or closest friends, cooking or enjoying fresh air and nature outside.

I think we can’t deny that the pandemic is somehow limiting the volunteering experience. But it’s important to try to stay positive. I asked my interviewees if they can find anything good in this situation and I got some nice answers: it’s more time for yourself, it’s more time with the host family and flatmates, friendships become stronger, we learn to adapt and to be flexible. Everyone has their own ways to deal with this challenging situation, but one thing seems to be important for all: close relationships. Friends, family, colleagues, flatmates – those are the people with whom you can actually do something. They can also give support and opportunities to share feelings and impressions. When social contacts, group activities and meeting new people are restricted, the focus turns to the people closest to you.

So thinking about what I heard from the interviewees and reflecting on my own experience, I would say that the pandemic is giving us quite many challenges. We just have to be able to adapt to the changing circumstances and find those positive things that help us to cope with the situation. There are still so many things that we volunteers can do! Like Angela says in the podcast: “Trotz der Pandemie freue ich mich sehr, dieses Erlebnis machen zu können! – Despite the pandemic, I’m happy to be able to make this experience!”

The voices in the podcast:
Juliane, an Austrian ESC volunteer in Romania
Philip, an Austrian ESC returnee who volunteered in Greece
Pamina, an Austrian ICYE volunteer in Costa Rica
Angela, an Italian ESC volunteer in Austria
Lili, an Austrian ESC volunteer in Italy