I went to give, but I was the one who got the most.
It is a week that I continue to pass in front of the computer and promise to write this page, but, in fact, the beginning is always the most difficult thing, in a written text as in life.
So that you know me, my name is Matteo. I am an Italian boy and I will tell you about one of the most incredible experiences of my life! On August 15th of this year, in fact, just a little over a month after my high school graduation, I left to go on a volunteering experience in Uruguay.
For some years I had actually dreamed of being able to do something like this and the holidays before the start of the university were the perfect moment. Unfortunately, this is the only thing I regret a little: precisely because of the exam, I didn’t have much time to devote to my preparation other than that of the online training provided by the program.
So I infinitely thank the Romans, who made sure that Italian and Spanish were so similar, and the Uruguayans, who with their utmost patience never made me feel the difficulty of the language and even complimented me on how “I spoke “!
The first week, the elusive “beginning” I mentioned earlier, was perhaps the most difficult. I still didn’t understand, in fact, how I could really make myself useful, even though I already had several tasks. In fact, I felt that what I was doing wasn’t enough, but at the same time I didn’t completely realize it.
This is why my “Uruguayan father” told me that a week had already passed and that it was already time for me to propose an activity and that I should not be only passive in carrying out what the other educators asked me. I must say that I immediately felt a bit hurt about this, but then I realized that I felt this need myself and that I had to act.
This and the training half way through the program with other milONGa volunteers have been fundamental to shake me from my semi-idleness and make me re-evaluate what the role of a volunteer is. So I decided with the educators to do my first activity. Doing it and seeing the children happy, really filled me with joy!
Now you will wonder what I actually did at the center. Well, in the morning I worked with the teenagers of the secondary school, who were about 17 years old, and in the afternoon with the children of the primary school, about 6 to 12 years old.
I helped in the study (laboratory), mainly dealing with boys who needed help in math and physics. There was also a girl who studied the “Divine Comedy” and asked me to read her verses in Italian (which in reality, after a month in which I spoke Spanish, was more difficult than it seems!). It happened too that we had to develop a debate on the First World War in which I explained the European vision, which is, as I discovered, very different from the Uruguayan one.
In the afternoon, on the days when the children were not busy with other activities, I tried to propose alternative laboratories, possibly including some scientific links. We have, for example, built Newton’s disk as if it were a spinning top, thus being able to see the composition of the white light.
However, I believe that the best thing was the people I met there.
It would never have been such a positive experience if I had not felt so welcome. It was incredible to see the availability of all the educators and workers or volunteers in the center, as well as the relationship that has been created with the youth group of the local community. One of them, for example, remained with me all the time the first day to keep me company since my family was busy (even though he was very tired and he told me he hoped I could go to sleep, which I didn’t do). Or the warmth of the local people, who also accompanied me several times to visit various places in Uruguay and beyond.
The most beautiful experience was then with the family. I am immensely grateful to them, who for a month and a week shared everything they had with me. It would be impossible to list all the millions of small actions that have made this “holiday” incredible. In reality this almost makes me feel a bit sorry, because it would be worthwhile to list all the little things, one by one and thank them for each of them.
What I can definitely say is that I feel I really received so much from this experience. I started with the idea of “giving” and “giving myself” completely, but, honestly, I did not expect that I would have been the one receiving the most.
Now, in retrospect, I realize that my initial thought was quite presumptuous and that I actually have a lot to learn from the generosity, kindness, and selflessness of the people I met.