Volunteering – Experience with an Italian Family

  • Post category:Travel / Volunteering
  • Reading time:9 min(s) read
Monte Isola, Italy
Monte Isola, Italy

On my unplanned travel, one day I realised that my next destination is Italy. I looked for some volunteering projects and found a project to speak English and do some work in the house. I have never really lived in Italy before. I was not sure what to expect and how will I fit in. The family lives in a village, about 20 min away from the main town by train. I did not know how the village would be and how people would be. Country, city, village, people, culture and language; all will be new for me. I felt almost the same when I started my travel to come to Croatia. Now I felt again that this is my first travel. But, I am glad that I made this family my choice and they also accepted by request.

Place

Volunteering workshopAs I entered Italy, I could immediately feel a change around me. It was hard to point out exactly what. Most probably, it was a mix of everything. Architecture, signs on the roads, on the shops, people, their movement in the city, colors and arrangement of houses; everything felt different. As I moved from station to station to reach my final destination, I also realised that Italy has a lot of people from other countries. They seem to be equally spread out at places; big or small alike.

Feed time for chicken- volunteer workFinally, I reached my destination and I was happy to see the small train station with only 2 platforms. The house was on the other side of the village about 2 km away. It was the last house on the street and I could see vineyards and slopes of hills. Landscape was beautiful and had lots of walking and biking paths. Nearby there is a lake and nature reserve. The house was a big one with sleeping rooms on 1st floor, supported by a large living and dining room, kitchen and other utility rooms at ground floor. Outside there was a big garden, small farm for vegetables, a chicken coop, a compost, workshop and garage for about 15 bicycles! I got to select a bike for my use. As I am not a bike person, I picked the bike that I thought was not too sophisticated for me and it worked. What I saw while moving with train in cities and stations, I got a feeling of too modern and business like environment everywhere. In every shop and building you feel like a stranger, who can and should be there only for the purpose and leave. However, I was happy that this house that picked me was opposite. A simple, warm and accepting house, which made me comfortable from the 1st night.

People

Volunteer time for ceramic workMy host was waiting for me at the train station. Thanks to the size of the station, it was not difficult to meet. We reached home in 5 min and was soon introduced to all the people of house. House had a dynamic number of people even for every meal of the day. It was based on work schedule, school, college timings and other plans. It took me few days to actually see all the people of the house and connect them with names that I kept on hearing. The house not only hosts volunteers, but also host bikers and scouts. They also work with a social organization CARITAS to help people in need. During my stay, they were supporting 2 women in the house. One of them has a young boy and was expecting a next one.

volunteer for part of the artLady of the house, herself is an inspiration in herself. I almost never ever saw her sitting idle, even to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. She always have or find something to do. From morning till midnight, there is always something happening. She does and manage cooking, food, garden, compost, cleaning, runs a ceramic workshop and gallery, gives courses and runs events for ceramic sometimes, started to give French lessons in school, works in a helping center in the city apart from interacting with hosts and social workers. This is when she is struggling with her tendons and ligaments due to intolerance to gluten. I learned that just about 2 years ago she was moving in a wheel chair. I am glad that I got a chance to meet her, know her and hopefully learn a little bit from her. I did not have much chance to talk to the man of the house due to language differences. Nevertheless, he is a warm hearted person. He loves bikes and almost have a bike shop at home. During my stay he bought one mountain bike and a Unicycle. He helps in the house work whenever he gets a chance and is another never-sit-idle person. They have 3 boys, 1 in school and 2 are studying in colleges in other cities. All are scouts and elder ones are always on the move between house, college and scout work. Youngest one is a silent one, but he keeps the house musical with his piano. It was little strange in the beginning when he suddenly starts to play around midnight. But, later I was used to and would miss it when he was away for scout meetings. Last one of the main family is the granny. She was little distant on the beginning, but soon she started to like me. We did not speak much, but I never received so much “Bravo!” for just lighting a fire or moving chairs.

With other 2 ladies who were staying in the house, I did not have much conversations, but we shared smiles with each other. Got a chance to play with young boy. He is very attached to the house and people, especially to the eldest son. I also had a chance to welcome and see the new born. I left when he was not even 1 month.

Activities

Volunteer time for Lawn mowingThere was no big activity as such, but I did many small things together with the family. I cut some wood for fire, helped to set up ceramic kiln when there were some special items to be done. Helped in moulding clay for ceramic work to make houses, leaves, butterflies, trees etc. I spent most of the time in the garden in tilling the soil and clearing it of weed, stones and nails. We managed to setup small “Green boxes” of about 1x1m size and a small green house of 5m length. We sowed potatoes, green peas, onions, salad, spinach and beetroot. It was good to see the seedlings coming out. Almost at the end I spent some time to mow the lawn and dig out a tree root. I created a simple website for them with blogs. But, till the time I was there, it mostly remained a template and kept waiting for the content.

In my free time, I played ping pong, went out for walks and biking. I had a chance to see the landscape change its colors when spring came in. When it was raining or I was lazy, I just stayed at house, close to fireplace reading or trying to learn or just kill time on youtube etc.

There were some activities that were planned, but we could not complete, but I hope they get done with time.

Experience

Welcome the Spring in italy
Welcome Spring- Italian style

I was a little anxious when I came here with usual uncertainties. But thanks to people of the house I was comfortable very soon. I got a chance to taste home made Italian and French food; pasta, risotto, torte and much more. It was an experience to be on the table for meal, where family makes a prayer and looks for things to thanks for the day. Although, it may be tagged as a ritual. But I realized that, today on the name of modernization and in the struggle to fight against old religious rituals, we are also forgetting to be thankful for what we have.

Learned a little bit about ceramic work and gardening. Learned how to make orange jam and candies; I hope that I can remember it when I need it. Got to see how spring is welcomed in this part of the world. It was interesting to see that places are different, procedures are different, but fundamentally the reasons are same. We want to forget the old, the bad ones and welcome new colors, new flowers, new fragrances, new warmth and share smiles with our loved ones and friends. The fact that it was organized by the Alzheimer house and small kids came to share that moment made it a special experience.

I had a lot of time to be with myself without any work and targets and timelines. I could see things happenings around me and as an observer a I liked it. Some of those moments, I also observed granny and Alzheimer people. I wrote already about that in general. But one of those days, granny suddenly came to me and hugged me. She did not say anything, but she had a smile on her face that made my day.

Walks around the volunteer houseI had many discussions with the lady of the house while we were practicing English. Had some cultural exchanges with the family. We can get lost at times in the speed of life while we are trying to make something of it. But, when an Indian, a French, a Moroccan and Italian sit on a table and share a meal, it is a moment to cherish, a moment to remember and a moment to share a smile.

I do not know if I was able to contribute enough for my stay to help the family. But even if I was not, I hope that next time we meet, we share a smile, a laughter again while finishing the remaining tasks.

Love
Arundeep

A Grandma who had serious hearing problems for a number of years went to the doctor to be fitted for a hearing aid that would return her hearing to 100%. The grandma went back for further tests a month later and the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.” To which the elderly woman replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!” 

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