My name is Rita Fernandes, I’m a 26 years old Portuguese girl, and I’ve lived for 6 months in the beautiful city of Palermo, in Sicily, Italy as an European Solidarity Corps Volunteer.
You see, I’ve lived in Lisbon all of my life but always dreamed of new adventures, new people and new cultures. So I’ve decided to do something way out of my comfort zone, and go live in a different country, go solo, not knowing the language and take the best out of being an european volunteer. I was still on the airplane when I fell in love with Sicily, the mountains and the sea. I knew it was going to be an amazing experience before i put my feet on the ground, and I was right. [...] You know that cliché “I’m the hero of my own story”? That’s absolutely true! Getting out of your comfort zone means that you’re going to face challenges that you probably never did before, and it’s by getting through them that you find your strengths. The first two weeks of my project I was all by myself, and I could choose to feel bad about it or I could, and I did, make the most out of it.
Working with children is really inspiring, they’ve got so much to teach us, so much to give.
There’s this enriching simplicity when you connect with other children, but also when you do it with your inner child. I also had the chance to give back, not only on an day-to-day basis helping with the educative center activities, but also by elaborating my own activities, as well as cultural and language workshops. [...] My Italian got better, I got to meet other volunteers and also local people, and that
was a game changer. Sharing this experience with amazing people, from all around the globe, it gives you so much perspective about life and about the world. Taking in so much everyone has to give and to teach, and also the opportunity to give back by sharing your experience, made me feel really grateful.
Turns out, I found myself feeling at home in Palermo. I’ve grown and learnt so much in these few months, and had so many amazing experiences with wonderful people that I came out of this experience a better version of myself. This city now holds a special place in my heart, and I believe it’s a common thing for volunteers, with the city where they get to do their experience. [...]