As you may already know from the report of my ESC activities published within the monthly newsletter, I am Irid from Italy. I am 30 years old and I had the pleasure to be a European Solidarity corps volunteer at Views Office in Liege, Belgium from September to December 2020.
My ESC project was supposed to last 9 months until June 2021, but unfortunately, I decided to finish before, because I have found a very important job opportunity for my career and my personal aspirations and I did not feel so comfortable to continue my volunteering experience during lockdown. Anyway, even if it was a shorter experience, it was very important for my personal growth.
First of all, let me please introduce myself. I was born in Albania and with my family we moved to Italy when I was two years old, due to my blindness. In fact, my parents have understood that I could have more opportunities for my future by moving to Italy.
In Italy I graduated a Master degree in International Cooperation, development and Human Rights at University of Bologna. After that I started an Internship at an Italian NGO working on inclusive education and social inclusion of persons with disabilities in complex areas, such as the Palestinian Territories. Thanks to this organization, I had also the opportunity to monitoring some of their projects in Palestine.
During my bachelor studies in International and diplomatic sciences, I had the opportunity to participate to the Erasmus Programme for students in Estonia. It was not such a positive experience because I did not receive an appropriate assistance, but I consider it very important for my personal growth as I think in general, we have a lot of things to learn from negative experiences.
During and also after my studies, I have taken part in various Erasmus plus youth exchanges, some of them organized by Views. Because I believe in social inclusion and when I saw the approach of Views within projects for inclusion of blind and visually impaired people, I decided to try this ESC experience in their framework and change my negative feelings about my previous experience abroad.
For this reason, I applied for my ESC at Views Office as I had the opportunity to contribute to the monthly International newsletter of the association and at the same time I could also learn how to apply for an Erasmus plus project. Moreover, this experience has been very important for my personal growth: in fact, I learned a new language which can be very important also for my professional future, and I have increased a lot my personal autonomy which was quite weak especially in some domestic aspects, such as cooking and washing clothes.
My first impressions with Views and the city of Liege were very enthusiastic and full of high expectations: in fact, I love so much discover new cultures and meet different people in general and I was very interested in visiting a new multicultural town such as Liege, even if we had two weeks of quarantine in the very beginning of my staying.
For this reason, my ESC project has been modified since the beginning: we could not organize the preparatory meeting before the starting of the project so we decided to have a full immersion preparatory training of two weeks after my arrival in Liege.
Within the first weeks, I found some difficulties as I could not get lessons for improving my personal autonomy, due to the quarantine condition mentioned above. At the same time, anyway, I am so grateful to the Views staff as they contacted me and my colleague every day, giving us some suggestion for spending that time in a comfortable manner. Moreover, it was an opportunity to better know my colleague Jocelyn from France, volunteer at La Baraka and Coordination socio-culturelle de Sainte-Marguerite associations.
After the initial quarantine, I received a great support from Views collaborators for everyday activities such as Philippe, my French instructor, who organizes very nice and amazing French lessons; Carine, the mobility instructor who taught me how to reach the office and other important places such as supermarkets etc.; Tamara and Angelique who taught me daily living skills activities such as cooking, using a washing machine or changing the bedsheets. I am so grateful also to Anca, my mentor and project coordinator and Samantha, the new Views administrative assistant, who have supported me within the first days at office and when I contacted them for different issues. Moreover, they contacted me and my colleague every day during the quarantine and the lockdown period, in order to talk with us and ask if we need something. Anca has also shown us the city of Liege, she explained us its history and described us its most interesting places.
At Views office, as mentioned above, I managed the Views newsletter and uploaded its related articles to the website of the association. I was also supposed to organize some awareness activities on visual impairment for teenagers with the La Baraka association, but every activity was suspended due to the pandemic restrictions. I quickly adapted and started to help my French teacher organizing French lessons for beginners at La Baraka association.
Since my arrival in Liege all the Views staff talked to me in French and I am so grateful to them for that, because it helped me improve quickly my language skills.
Unfortunately, after almost two months of enthusiasm the new soft lockdown and the fact that we could not go out so much and meet other people, has changed my point of view and I did not feel so comfortable continuing the project. So, I decided return to my home country and try to study and focus on finding a new job before the end of the year. Anyway, I am happy I made the ESC volunteering experience although I wished it could have been a normal year so that I can go on with the project until the end.
In conclusion I strongly recommend an ESC experience to all young people and especially I recommend this experience with Views to all young blind and visually impaired people, because you will find such a friendly environment where you can develop your skills without any fear and its staff is so kind and competent. It is a great opportunity for working within an international environment with people from different countries and with different cultural backgrounds: the greatest way to develop our European citizenship ideals.
Last but not least, I am so grateful to Views Italy as well, my sending organization, who sent me to Belgium to join this experience.