My journey to accomplish one of my bucket lists began when Rahul and Julien from FSL interviewed me for training and volunteering in Le Creneau, Solidarites Jeunnesses, France. I was present for the interview as if I was going to attend a board-meeting whereas the interviewers were dressed casually. This changed my perspective and made me understand that volunteering is serious work being casual. The interview was fun and went on pretty well.
Couple of days later, I then received the inscription letter, details of hebergement and joining letter from FSL and applied for VISA. As all the documentations were in proper order, my VISA was approved and I packed my bags and took my flight to Paris.
Upon arrival in Paris, the head coordinator of Solidarites Jeunnesse welcomed me and guided me to the nearest railway station so that I could catch my train to Vichy.
As I reached Vichy, a group of volunteers from Le Creneau were waiting to receive me. There were four volunteers, a German, an Italian, a French and a Belge. This is when I realized and exited me for the fact that we, all from different parts of the world would work in collaboration and harmony and learn each other’s culture and heritage and values. This is the best form of learning by being surrounded by all different nationalities.
As we made our way to one of the mountains of Montcombroux les Mines where Le Creneau stands, and entered the Castle in which I would reside and work. The presentation and gigantic beauty of the castle captivated me. The image that I had created in my mind about the caste was so different to reality. It was just a moment of truth and dream.
It took me several days to understand the functioning of the castle and work. My fellow volunteers were guiding me and introducing me to the purpose, functioning and use of the castle. There were several activities such a gardening, painting creation of a dome and maintenance of the castle. My first month went in creating a unique garden wherein rare flowers and vegetables were grown and giving a helping hand in creation of the Dome. As I entered in the second month, we started to received groups who were either physically challenged or teenagers who were expelled from school or college students who were willing to participate in volunteering. When the first group arrived I was just to observe my fellow volunteers how they manage and lead the group. This involved maintenance of the castle, cuisine, activities, allocation and distribution of the group for giving them tasks.
After couple of weeks in volunteering, the head of Le Creneau asked me if I wanted to join an animation, a team leading program, which included a series crash-course of team leading training that would last for ten days. I was very interest and accepted his invitation. What made me even special was that we were only six out of fifteen volunteers who got the chance to attend the training program and I was one amongst them! The training was held in a different town where there were other volunteers from various different associations. We shared our views and thoughts about what is volunteering, its use and purpose and how to lead a group of volunteers and become a team leader. This course that lasted for ten days, changed my perspective and thinking of how to be a true leader.
After completion of the course, we, all long term volunteers were taken to VirVolt, another association of Solidarites Jeunesses, where all the volunteers across France were gathered there for sharing our views and the functioning of the organization. We all lived in tented accommodation and the interesting part was we didn’t know each other in the tents. This compiled us to speak to others and learning from their experience. During the get together, we were engaged in physical activities, social gathering and entertainment. There was a bon fire, disco, camps and fun activity during the evenings which motivated us to speak to each other and have healthy discussions.
After the reunion, we were back to our associations and continued our volunteering. Towards the end of my volunteering in France, I had the chance to lead a team of volunteers of 16 packs from across the globe. This camp that I lead was in a village near Vichy. It was a beautiful park that had different habitats, such as deer, rabbits, birds that were in the wilderness. I was given the entire responsibility of the group, their logging, their food, the activities, everything was under my control and responsibility. All that I had learned from the training program came handy to me during execution. This gave me strength and confidence to take part in any other form of leading the team of volunteers.
My volunteering was one of the best things that could happen to me, and thanks to FSL that I could accomplish my dream in a smooth, comfortable and happy way. No doubt that I would request others to join the program and fulfill their dreams to work and volunteers abroad.