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Claudius about his volunteering project

Claudius (photo: Marzena Snarska)

Claudius from Germany
volunteer in Nursing Home of the Baptist Church in Białystok (2011/12)


I applied for a diaconical year abroad without any preference where to go. They told me: You could go to Białystok, Poland. And I said: Fine! In fact I had only little knowledge about Poland before my time as a volunteer. I had never been to Poland and I had no contact with any Polish people. Polish language was also something completely new. When I tried to imagine Poland I had some kind of “small Russia” in my head. Why? Maybe because Poland is in the east and Russia too.

I worked in a nursing home. From Monday to Friday I was feeding people who lied in a bed for breakfast and lunch. Between breakfast and lunch I offered some activities for the residents. For instance we were going out for a walk (my working mate and I were carrying the wheelchairs), gymnastics, crafts, easy math (my idea), reading etc. Every Saturday I worked in a kids club. It was especially for kids from families with “social problems”, for instance the alcohol addiction.

Most challenging was to deal with the residents who suffered from dementia. This was true for approx. 90 percent of the residents, almost everybody. What could they do? How could I explain what to do with only little language knowledge? It was difficult and sometimes frustrating, but we managed somehow. For example going out for a walk was a nice activity without any problems.

I liked to meet new people the most. It was a pleasure to meet Polish people, but I guess the most interesting part was to meet other volunteers. Because there was some connection, a very open and sincere spirit between us. All around Poland lived volunteers who offered a place to sleep. It was the perfect community to discover whole Poland.

I learned to do things on my own, to talk with people, to relax. Life in Poland is not that complex like in Germany. Not everything is planned. There is a space to improvise. It’s easier to talk with people. People seem to live more “in the moment” than people in Germany, whose mind is filled with problems of tomorrow. I found many open doors and hands, I met a lot of very friendly and generous people.

I’m very satisfied with my time in Poland. I had the chance to deal with the life issues on my own which was very valuable for my personality. I met a lot of friends. I learned some Polish, enough to express myself at the easy level. I realized during my work how valuable the years of youth are and how important health is.