In summer 2015 I was able to experience a whole new different world. Always, people especially young people when they think about summer, they always think about holidays, beach, partying, traveling etc. But with UNESCO I had the chance to have a more proactive summer not only in the aspect of being able to participate in a workcamp in order to enhance the community and provide lessons for sustainability for the locals as well as for us but also to learn and experience a whole different culture from my own and meet people from all over the world.
I had the chance to participate at a international volunteer project in Tongyeong at the RCE Centre. It was truly an amazing experience. We were 9 international volunteers and 7 Korean but I sincerely believe the world does not have any boundaries. It’s true we had our differences as being from different parts of the world but as human beings we all have the same feelings and we honestly were able to connect from the beginning. We were able to work together like there was no difference between us and we could share our culture and be accepted for who we are.
Our work was hard but it was an experience where in the future we will be able to say that we achieved something with our own hands. Our workcamp lasted for 2 weeks. At the beginning we had to make stairs for the Sajahtera Forest which surrounds the RCE Centre and they are meant to be for the locals of Tongyeong. It was hard work but we were able to finish them in time.
Afterwards, we had the opportunity to work with local students. Firstly, we, the international volunteers, we prepared presentations for our countries in order to show them our culture and history. Personally, I found it quite amazing because all the students were eager to learn about our countries and they were happy that they could meet foreigners and share their thoughts. Afterwards, with the help of the Korean members we prepared presentations for water pollution in our countries especially pollution in the oceans. The interesting thing that really amazed me was that all the students wanted to learn about pollution and had many questions towards us and they all tried to understand better what pollution is, what the environment is and who is responsible for it. The reason that I was amazed is because the environmental issues that are happening all over the world are not only regional neither national, they are international and young students cannot understand the gravitational influence they have in our world but the students that participate in our program were able to understand through us.
Furthermore, except from learning about the environment and pollution we had the chance to share our culture with the students through traditional games from our countries. We separated into 4 different groups as well as the students separated into different groups in order for them to try all the different games we prepared. I think during that time we were able to get closer to the students, talk to them and what I personally like all the students talked to us about their dreams for the future, their studies and their daily life. And in the end what we’ll all remember in the future is the friendship that we created.
Meanwhile, every day we were cleaning the roads of the village from rubbish. But while we were walking around the village what made us happy, especially us the international volunteers was the smile of the local people and how happy they seemed when we were saying ‘Annyeonghaseyo’. Lastly, after we finished all the work and the presentations we organised the opening of the stairs we created.
Firstly, we went to clean the beach along with students from whom there was a lot of positive response. Then, we went to prepare traditional food for the opening ceremony with the help of the students. I think that day will remain in our memories forever because it was the opening of all our hard work but also the opening for the reason we were in Tongyeong, and the reason we all became friends. They are the stairs that made us tired, sad, mad, and happy and stairs that made us love not only Tongyeong but also Korea and the locals. That day was the last day of all the work and responsibilities we had.
The next day was our last day. But it wasn't a sad day. We had the chance to celebrate the end of the international volunteer project by going at an ocean park. It was an awesome day, it was so much fun. We were able to let all out and be happy for completing our tasks and giving something to the community of Tongyeong. But as I already mentioned, it was not a sad end. By going to Tongyeong RCE Centre we were able to meet each other and make amazing memories that will always remain in our minds and then one day they will become stories for our children whereas we will be able to tell them with a smile. Also, I’m glad that today I can say that I gain 15 friends and I now have friends from all over the world. I want to thank Korea UNESCO and Tongyeong RCE Centre for giving me this amazing opportunity.