Matthew from the north-west England spent a month on a volunteering placement in Hungary, working at a bird hospital. Read on to find out about his project, and how much fun he had!
My name is Matthew. I am 20 years old, from north-west England and I took part in a short term (1 month) volunteering project in Hortobágy, Hungary. A brief synopsis of the project is that it seeks to use nature as a source of self-development, creativity and cooperation. It is aimed at people between the ages of 18 and 30 from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities.
Coming into contact with other nationalities and living in another country was a refreshing and exciting experience, as it is just another way of seeing how people live and introducing yourself to new ways of thinking.
However, it can come with a setback, which can also be viewed as a blessing in disguise depending on personal perspective - the language barrier. Luckily, we were prepared during training week for as many eventualities as possible, so we could all negotiate this barrier with our new set of skills, for example a role play exercise which involved everyone speaking in their mother tongue and one person, out of a pair of people chosen, had to convey a message to the other. Inevitably, most people had to mime their way out of the situation. In addition, we were given a number of useful words and phrases so we were not completely reliant on body language throughout the month ahead. The initial anxiety seemed to evaporate and transform into an eagerness to begin the project and put to use the skills I had gained.
The work consisted of two categories; the hospital and park work. The bird hospital (or Madár Kórház) work was especially rewarding - nurturing birds that can’t survive without assistance due to human intervention. Most of them are at the hospital because they’ve been hit by cars or have got caught in power lines, so it was our responsibility to do what we could to get them back to health since we put them there.
The park work took more of a functional approach - general upkeep and maintenance of the park so visitors will want to keep coming and enabling the hospital to prosper. In this case, the satisfaction was sourced from working up a sweat and getting to know the other volunteers and form bonds through a mutual physical fatigue in the 30+ degree heat!
It was a pretty unique opportunity to be in such close contact with some native Hungarian wildlife, my favourite being the baby owl with the broken foot.
When not working we had the opportunity to travel. We went to Balmazujvaros where we spent most of the time in the baths, clearing off the day’s work from our skin then indulging ourselves in some street food, as well as to Miskolc, Eger (mainly for the wine) and Budapest.
One of the more interesting trips I took part in was one of the days spent in Debrecen. It was rather uneventful and drizzly for most of the day, but the company was good. We had seen what we needed to see and were on the hunt for food, when we came across a sombre looking puppy; alone and shivering. Initially she was wary of us, but you could tell she had no intention of hurting anyone. We made a bowl out of a bottle and went to get some food. One thing led to another and next thing we were walking the streets of Debrecen with a puppy in a backpack heading for the train station. We made the effort to see if any shelters or rescue centres were open of course but this was fruitless since every shelter in Hungary seemed to be closed in early afternoon. I’m not sure how the authorities would’ve reacted had they known what cargo we had on board, I’m just glad that I’ll never find out! Anyway, and after a few days she was adopted by one of the long-term volunteers who will give her a loving home in Italy.
We did do a lot of work as well as a good amount of travelling during the later stages of the project but it’s the travelling where I feel I became more confident in my ability to make it in the real world without starving or getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.
I’m just glad that I seized this opportunity when I could. Thank you to everyone involved.
Youth story submitted by Momentum World, Eurodesk UK Partner.
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