This summer I volunteered to lead a group of 12 Girl Guides from Staffordshire, England, who worked together to complete a project in the local community of Poggio Mirteto, Italy.
My role as the overseas volunteer leader was to represent Concordia through coordination the project, to lend pastoral care to the group throughout their trip, and to liaise between the local coordinators and the group to ensure that everyone benefits optimally from the project. The group worked together to renovate the picnic benches and tables, finishing them off by painting them with their own creative designs. These will benefit local groups, hikers and other international volunteers who work at the farm throughout the years. We then renovated and waterproofed the wooden window frames of the barn, to keep them in good condition throughout the winter. This work taught us many practical, hands on renovation skills (such as sanding, natural wood filling, paining, tool work) that may not have had the chance to develop otherwise; as well as an essential opportunity to develop important life skills such as working as part of a team, communication, planning and design.
Our wonderful hosts also made sure that the whole group benefited fully from our trip, and planned numerous trips and cultural activities for us. Our day trips into Rome were amazing and we got to see a lot of the famous landmarks such as the Colosseum, the Forum, the Piazza Venizia, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Our knowledgeable hosts also suggested less “touristy” areas, including the beautiful Villa Borghese Park and the historic Parco Regionale dell'Appia Antica outside of the city. We also had the opportunity to explore the inspiring medieval village of Casperia, through doing an entertaining scavenger hunt in small groups, which encouraged the young people to interact with the local people. Of course in Italy, food is incredibly important! As we were staying in an agricultural community, all the food we were eating was fresh and produced locally. Our hosts even taught us how to make traditional Italian meals and how to make our own cheese from locally sourced milk. We also took part in a language workshop, learning some basic words and phrase. We learned by going shopping in the local markets.
For me as an overseas volunteer leader I got to continue to work with young people in a different environment, and supported them to have the opportunity to travel and go out of their comfort zones. Through doing our renovation work I was able to develop my team leadership skills, communication and organisational skills, as well as useful “DIY” skills. I’ve learned how to work with others who may be of different cultural backgrounds and working styles, to ensure the successful and mutually beneficial trip. I have also really enjoyed submersing myself in a different culture and feel that I have learned a lot through this truly unique voluntary work.