offLINE project start – Meet the volunteer Melanie

Being part of the world of EVS for over 3 months now, I finally sat down and put my thoughts on paper, questioning, reflecting and realising a multitude of things:

Time keeps its own weird pace. Graduating from school this summer I searched for volunteering opportunities abroad and somehow landed in Sofia, at Smokinya Foundation as the fourth volunteer of the offLINE project. I was never involved in the NGO field before, so I didn’t really knew what was awaiting me. Turns out I still don’t know properly but being a steady member of a team living, working and creating together made me realise how easy it can be to put your ideas into action once you fully commit to them. At the same time, stepping into a different environment makes you facing new tasks and challenges your skills. Throughout these three months I found myself in several roles from supporting local events such as the Smokinya Fest to operating as Media Person for a Training Course. This way I had the chance to try out my possible photography skills which I am now looking forward to improve further and I gained insight into a non-formal educational training course. In general, time is running by so fast and I yet can’t comprehend everything that has happened fully.

The work at Smokinya Foundation taught me how to create an event from scratch with your team. For that, dividing tasks is crucial and I find myself more and more in the creative section, being responsible for decorations, trying to edit pictures and videos and designing posters for instance. Hereby, the hardest struggle for me is to take the initiative in order to manifest an idea. But watching my team members taking over responsibility for their ideas is highly inspiring and raises a similar feeling in myself although until now I am not sure what role will be mine to take and what visible outcome my time here will have.

Other than the work in an organisation, EVS allows me to discover new places and share memories with people who I most probably would never have met back home. Especially the Bulgarian nature surprises me with its variety of mountain areas, I usually just stare out of the window while sitting in the bus to grasp all my surroundings. I am glad that my work schedule allows me to travel very freely. Even though my project is called offLINE, a majority of tasks is handled online, so that way I am able to combine both traveling and work. As a nature and travel lover I always look for opportunities to discover new places. Sharing this experience with others makes it even better. The people I have met through EVS are the most colourful and energetic ones, all of us sharing this same urge of creating and activating others.

Being here I realise that I am very lucky, EVS provides you with a huge amount of freedom, it is like a platform four your own ideas. That is the best part but at the same time it is the worst. In school or at work you have strict rules to which you must obey, a system you need to follow. But here no rules are set in stone and it is up to you how you approach tasks and reach your goals. Until now I was used to do it in the “formal” way, now the new challenge laying ahead of me is to literally DIY – and I yet have to discover how to master this.

Nevertheless, I am enjoying every moment and am thankful for all the people I have met and the places I have been to showing me new perspectives and teaching me that their is always more than just one proper way to solve an issue. I didn’t really have certain expectations when I came to Bulgaria but I am positively surprised of not just the situation here but also of myself. And I am sure that my journey here is going to continue being a surprise in which I hope to somehow create something for myself and for others to share it with.

Melanie Schäfer

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offLINE project start – Meet the volunteer Melanie