I was still a teenager, when I started feeling the need to help others. Back then I had no idea that this feeling would stick with me for my entire life.
I only knew that I wanted to help that blind old lady my peers used to mock. She didn’t accept my help too often, as I think she was afraid of children my age, most likely with good reason. However, I tried helping her every time I saw her. There was one time when I asked her if I could help her and she grabbed my hand, pulled me closer and said:
– Thank you for taking care of me! Helping your fellows is the noblest thing!
I have told my parents about this and they have also encouraged me to pay attention to people and to help whenever I can. And ever since I have had that experience, I have consciously seized every opportunity to help the people around me: I have done the shopping for the old lady in the neighborhood whose feet hurt, taken care of little David while his mother was at work, helped younger children with their schoolwork, done babysitting, swept the staircases for the elderly and collected clothes for those in need. These were all small acts of kindness for me that resulted in sparkling eyes and gratitude. Later, when I was in high school, I joined a foundation, where I helped American teams carry our children’s programs during the summer. There I have experienced what it is like to work together, voluntarily and whole heartedly to do something good for others. The program and the foundation no longer exist, but I still bear all those experiences and feelings in my heart. That experience has encouraged me to seek and seize such opportunities, whenever possible.
I first encountered the concept of volunteering at the opening ceremony of the university academic year, as it was presented as a compulsory university assignment. I can recall some of my fellow students being outraged and shocked by this kind of obligation. It was a little bit like the advice our parents give us, which we only learn to appreciate later. Thanks to university, more and more new doors opened for us in terms of volunteering. It is there that I have first heard of the Caritas organization, during an open hour. Several volunteers and volunteer coordinators visited us and we’ve had a playful, informal conversation based on our personal experiences, thus getting to know the colorful programs of the organization. I remember that world shown to us then, it was so touching that it made me feel like I absolutely needed to be a part of it. However, I could not leave room for that feeling then. I was already volunteering at two different foundations and I knew I could not manage another one. I have regretted it for a while, I felt sad about it, but not for too long. When one of the foundations ended their children’s program I used to help with, I have contacted Gyöngyike, the volunteer coordinator in Târgu Mureș and we’ve been working together ever since. We have already said goodbye once, when I graduated university, but not for good. I am stuck here and I feel like this is not going to change any soon.
Thanks to the activities at Caritas, I have tried myself in several different roles throughout the years. I’ve read fairy tales, I have been the playmate for the sick children in Pediatrics, tutor for the children at the Emmaus children’s home, an organizer in the “Hagyj nyomot” program, a helping hand in making grocery packages, someone to light the candles at the One million stars event (Egymillió csillag a szegényekért), the messenger on Museum night (Múzeumok éjszakája), took part in promoting the organization’s activities at Tusványos, helped make didactic tools for the teachers working in the children’s program and managed to take part in the very popular work camp last year. Each of these experiences added a little something to the person I am. Thanks to the many different tasks, I have become multifaceted and managed to develop myself. I have learnt to get to know people, to persevere, developed my social skills and got to know myself better. Overall, I consider that I have received way more than I have given through my work.
There are many colorful and meaningful program organized for the volunteers, which prove that the organization pays great attention to the volunteers’ physical and mental wellbeing. I was able to take part in a series of events (Összefűző) where specially invited professionals introduced us to the exciting world of children and games, the mysteries of personality development and the simple yet tangible moments of saving lives. Community building programs are always uplifting, be it a team building, training, the annual Volunteers’ Gala, or just a casual conversation, socializing or a trip down memory lane in the Young Caritas place. I am grateful for all the smiles, conversations, friendships, all the help and experiences I have received from the Caritas organization, as well as for all the programs I have been able to participate in. They say that you change lives by helping, but the truth is that your life is changed, too. At least mine for sure.
Today, as a teacher, I get to educate disadvantaged children. Although I am completely dedicated to my work and I focus on it all the time, I try not to neglect volunteering. It is for a fact that I no longer cruise on the vast sea of foundations welcoming volunteers. I have anchored in the port of the Caritas Alba Iulia organization and I feel like I am in the best possible place. Here I can be a real adventurer in a wealth of inexhaustible possibilities. I can expand and pass on my knowledge, I can train myself, I can help, I am among good people, as a member of a whole hearted community, I can count on them and they can count on me. Sometimes more actively and sometimes more passively, I am trying my best to fulfil the tasks assigned to me, and no matter how many times I do this, the flow experience is always guaranteed. You better take my word for it!
Zsuzsa Papp (Zsú), volunteer in Târgu Mureș
Translated by Razman Noémi-Katalin