By Anna Sach
I wake up on the night train at the French-Spanish border. The sun is rising over the Pyrenees. I have three weeks “out of office” behind me: a week of online Mid-Term Evaluation Seminar; a week of training in Rome on queer feminism and dealing with gender-based discrimination; a week of visiting friends, a concert and a big demonstration in Germany.
I look at the landscape and am grateful for this distance with which I can now look back on my European Solidarity Corps (ESC) voluntary service. Since January, I have been living in Barcelona and working as an ESC volunteer in the office of SCI Catalunya. Now I return with a lot of energy, wishes and plans for the second half of my voluntary service.
In the meantime, I feel much more at home, I know my neighbourhood and some of my neighbours, I am part of a solidarity-based agriculture, I finally have a Catalan language course and I understand more and more about the network and the way SCI works every day. I also answer emails at work more confidently now. At the same time, I still feel overwhelmed and wish I had more self-confidence and calmness. My tasks at work feel like juggling: Many different projects and deadlines, daily tasks, many volunteers I am in contact with regarding their workcamps, different local groups on migration, climate justice and education work I am active in.
The last months feel like a bike ride with many climbs that were exhausting and great views, groups I rode a route with and some descents that were a lot of fun. In all this I was a bit breathless, rushed. I always wanted to go further and sometimes faster than I could.
I would like to let some parts of the route pass by here: Warm start in January, illness, getting into the groove, getting to know the team, environment and equipment, the Placement Officer Training (a seminar to prepare for my position) and On-Arrival Training – both online – in February, preparation sprint for coordinating an international seminar, then the exhausting mountain stage through the seminar on migration and climate crisis in March, which we coordinated, rolling into the more relaxed everyday life after this high wave, many demo participations, ongoing reflections on master applications and future decisions, and finally April with side trips to Rome and Bonn. During the whole tour we had a lot of visitors in our flat, almost all the time there were guests – participants,volunteers and friends living with us.
In all these weeks I have learned an incredible amount about project management, teamwork and organisation, about the SCI, about social and climate justice, feminisms, about coordination, friendships, connectness and myself.
I realise that for the next few months I want to cycle through the volunteer service in a more relaxed way, take more breaths and enjoy the tour, and take more time for the people I meet along the way. What lies ahead of me? My fellow volunteer and I want to reactivate the intersectional feminist group, I’m taking part in a workshop series on ecofeminism, an African-European exchange/job shadowing programme wants to be coordinated, volunteers want to be prepared and supervised and a summer full of SCI camps is coming up.