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The challenging experience that changed my life

Valentina Luna

I came to the Mariapolis with the aim of doing voluntary work with an emphasis on my career. In other words,  I wanted to contribute to my profession through a project for the community where I would be. My fear has always been that I wouldn't be able to fulfil this objective and that I would struggle to relate well with people.

When I arrived here, Vau and the locals welcomed me. Initially,  I felt anxious about living on my own for a while, how the community would receive me and the uncertainty of starting my volunteer work  as I still had many doubts about what I was actually going to do.

I was impressed by how receptive the people were. At the beginning, it was difficult because I knew almost no-one, but over time I realized that some people were willing to help.

The adaptation process was difficult, as I realized that being in an environment with many people generates a certain amount of anxiety for me, making it difficult to speak up or feel comfortable in the office as I felt a lot of pressure. However, I feel like I found my stride over time, hence, sometimes I was able to talk or relate to people, but there were also times I couldn't, and I felt uncomfortable, but I think in the end I loosened up a bit more.

I think the most beautiful aspect of the experience was the providence that always came, because many times I needed something and, from one moment to the next, it arrived and many times I stopped trusting, but something always came. I also met people who really lent me a helping hand and contributed to the progress of my project. 

A large part of the project took place in the Mariapolis itself, which provided the opportunity to get to know the families and the different inhabitants of the Mariapolis. On the other hand, I was able to carry out some activities in two of the social projects they have here, and it was quite a contrast, because the reality there is very different, with more vulnerable people.

This experience changed my life and my perspective. The simple act of leaving your country gives you a broader view of what is happening around you, getting to know a new culture, a new language, food, customs, people, various moments, all of these have changed the way I see the world now, with more diversity, with more awareness of what I can do, what I can contribute to society with my profession.

While I feel that I could have done more, I also believe that I gave my all to this experience and gave every moment to make it a reality. At times, I felt that  I could have received more support to carry out the projects, and better communication could have been established to involve  the community in a more inclusive manner. Nevertheless, it was all a learning experience.

I will cherish every moment,  both the happy and the sad ones, because each one has helped me to grow stronger as a person, each moment has made me who I am today. Each piece of advice I've received, each word of encouragement, each act of assistance, and each moment with every person I have met will remain in my heart.

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