Sonya (Belgium) – Volunteering in OPORA

My name is Sonya and I’m a teenager from Belgium.

For a long time ago I wanted to travel after high school to have a different view of life, because travelling opens your mind through the discovery of new cultures and new places.

Last year, in my senior year when it was time to think about what to with my future, my “project” about travelling gelled and I decided to do a gap year. The idea of going to Russia was in my mind for some time because I found the Russian culture and the language very fascinating.

Then, I went to several Belgian organizations to gather information about the different programs to go abroad. One of them caught my eye: Voluntary service (EVS). I figured it was a good occasion to try it. My parents always gave me what I wanted and I wasn’t really autonomous. I thought I will finally have a real role in our society, to help people in need, to teach new things… And at the same time, I will also get to know the Russian language and Russian traditions.

Thanks to the EVS database, I found the NGO Opora. This organization is located in Yoshkar-Ola (Mari-El Republic) which is not far from Kazan. Opora organizes workshops and events within the republic. The main topics are environment, disease prevention, promoting human rights, and also youth education.

Furthermore Opora promotes the learning of foreign languages. The NGO has its own language club called “Language Smoozy” and works together with some schools, where the volunteers teach English and French.

On the 12th of October, I left Belgium to go to Yoshkar-Ola. Of course, when I was in the plane I was beginning to doubt, that I had made the right decision, to leave my lovely Belgium and its delicious chocolate… Stupid thoughts, right?

When I arrived in Yoshkar-Ola, I had a warm welcome and as the days passed all the stereotypes I had about Russia disappeared. I started to take part in the different activities of Opora and met new people.73t6qazuv6m

Now it’s been already one and a half month since I came here, I improved my Russian, became more and more autonomous and learned a lot about Russian culture and I think this experience helps me to change my view of life. I already achieved a lot of my goals and I will use the rest of my time here to reach all of them!

“Leaving is leaving its cocoon, spread her wings and fly away. Realize that this is not the only ones on the planet, we do not know as we thought. On become more humble, more tolerant, a little smarter. “- Pierre Fillit

Don’t hesitate, go for it!