The change is in you. Are you in?

A board game that encourages volunteering is about to be published. Caritas Alba Iulia and Talentum Foundation from Szeged have been working together for several decades on various projects. Both organizations work with volunteers. However, in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak, the common experience was that it is increasingly difficult to actively involve people in volunteering. From this experience came the need to develop a tool to easily reach young people, to introduce them to the concept and types of volunteering, and to raise their awareness of social issues and responsibility.

The beginning
The joint work started in fall 2022. The project team included four to four people from each organization. In addition to three Caritas Alba Iulia staff members, a former volunteer was also involved in the development work. Lujza Fechită has been volunteering since childhood and says she has a special connection with Caritas. As she started her volunteering career there, creating a board game to promote volunteering seemed like a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with her former volunteer coordinators. I love playing board games, so I was delighted to accept Caritas’ invitation to join the process of making a board game” – said Lujza.

The development process of the board game started in January 2023 in Szeged, in the framework of the first face-to-face project meeting. This session was all about getting to know each other, bonding with the team and setting the basics. It was very inspiring for me to brainstorm and play together, because before we decided on the form of our board game, we played a lot and collected inspiration, and we picked up elements from here and there that we would like to see in our own game” –reported Lujza on the first workshop.

The testers speak
Following the face-to-face meeting, several online meetings were held between the project team members and the testing process was launched, involving more than 200 students from Transylvania and Hungary. It was an honour to be part of the process as a test subject. It was fun to be one of the first players to play with the game and give my opinion on possible modifications” – said Hanna Hodor, one of the student testers.

At the first game experience I was very curious and excited because it was about volunteering, which is very important to me. I was introduced to many of the aspects of volunteering that we usually do, but I also learned about many new forms of volunteering” – said Kriszta Istók, another student who took part in the testing process.

My first impression was that it sums up the essence of volunteering very well. The goal of the game is to get people interested in volunteering and to promote that. What I’ve learned from the game is that if you take on activities outside your comfort zone, you can improve a lot more. I would play the game again with people who have never played it before” – said volunteer Hanna Barti, one of the game’s testers.

A significant role in the testing process was played not only by the students, but also by the teachers who recruited and accompanied them, who played a dual role in testing the board game: they were present as observers and as players. I’ve tried both roles. As an observer, I was struck by the enthusiasm and pure goodwill that I saw in the young people here. The noble goals are common to all of us: the well-being of the elderly, the support for the vulnerable, putting the public interest before self-interest, etc. As a player, I enjoyed it as much as people twenty-five years younger than me. The stories are very realistic and easy to relate to. Everyone is the same age in this game” – said dr. Ágnes Sántha, professor at Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania in Tîrgu-Mureș.

The second project meeting
In May 2023, the second face-to-face project meeting took place in Tîrgu-Mureș, where the results of the first tests were summarized. In addition, by using the aquarium method, the team was able to observe the process of the game, as the volunteers from Târgu Secuiesc also tried the game. For me, the second face-to-face project testing session was a defining moment: it was exciting to see our months of work become something real and playable under the hands of the testing high school students” – said Lujza.

At the project meeting, the elements to be corrected were highlighted, and the improved version was tested by new high school teams in the fall of 2023. During these sessions, the project team’s expectations were fulfilled: the students understood the purpose of the game and were able to formulate useful lessons for themselves. While the players gained a lot of information about themselves and their colleagues – such as the development of empathy, teamwork, communication, self-awareness and the importance of working in a team – the biggest insight for me was the diversity of volunteering. It made me realize that there are so many problems and situations in the world that need to be solved, and that my voluntary help might be needed” said Kriszta Istók.

The students’ openness and the seriousness of their play was a pleasure to watch. In the course of the game, they demonstrated their understanding of the connections between social problems, their ability to logically and reasonably suggest possible solutions, discuss them and make a joint decision” – said Melinda Sajgó, a teacher at the „Mihai Eminescu” Pedagogical Lyceum in Tîrgu-Mureș.

I think it’s suitable and fulfilling. The first game of this kind I played. It makes you think, it makes you responsible, it makes you argue, it activates you, it invites you to work in a team, and it can probably shape the community – shared dr. Csilla Márton, adjunct professor at the University of “Babeș-Bolyai”.

Project meeting in Gyula
The last face-to-face project meeting took place in January 2024 in Gyula, where a final testing took place and the steps for the distribution of the board game were finalized. It was a cathartic moment to see the impact that our board game had on the students who took part in the final testing: it triggered a debate on different social issues, sparked interest in volunteering and inspired students to work selflessly in teams” – explained Lujza.

The final test was attended by 12th grade students from „Bethlen Gábor” College in Aiud and members of the Youth Center from Gyula. For me, it was special to experience that we were important in this process and that we had the support of people who were more experienced than us” – said a girl from the testing team from Aiud.

If I had to use one word to describe the testing process, I’d probably say fairy or fairy-like. It starts an idea, which actually comes to an end when you realize that the person who played it is already volunteering. As one student expressed it, >>I’m not sure it’s a game I’d want to keep playing over and over again<<. I really liked this statement, because if you play with the idea, you don’t even have to repeat it, you just have to apply it socially by participating in a volunteer program. This way, you can play the game in 3D” – summarized Matias Edwin, the accompanying teacher of the team from Aiud.

Opportunities to try the board game
The project team aims to promote the game to as many professionals working at ONGs and with young people as possible. We are announcing two opportunities to try it out in Transylvania: at the Caritas House in Tîrgu-Mureș, 36 Mărăști Street, on the 8th of April, from 15:00 and at the Caritas headquarters in Târgu Secuiesc, 8 courtyard 41, on the 18th of April, from 15:00.

Contact people
Tîrgu-Mureș: Gyöngyvér Csilla Fekete – 0735735163
Târgu Secuiesc: Beáta Bogdán – 0735735165

The programme is co-funded by the European Union under the Erasmus+ programme (2022-1-HU01-KA210-YOU-000081331, Pick a card for volunteering!).  Thank you!

Translated by: Orsolya Barabás, volunteer