Training for volunteering (Madrid).

Madrid, 17th February, Colegio Mayor Mara, it is twenty past four in the afternoon, in a few minutes the training for volunteers is about to begin at the hands of the Missionary Crusader Sisters of the Church and the interested people are entering the room. There are nerves, expectation, enthusiasm and a terrible eagerness to listen to what they have prepared for us.

There are about 25 of us, seated in a circle so that we can all see each other. Sister Araceli takes the floor and introduces the activity and starts the round of presentations. There are many young people, between 20 and 26 years old, some of them have already made up their minds and are just waiting to buy the flights for next summer; others want to do it, but have not yet decided on the destination and others are very interested, but need to receive more information about it to make up their minds. There are also people who have already been to one of the mission destinations and enthusiastically recount anecdotes and the most striking differences between life here and there.

Next, the social worker Toñi, currently in charge of working in the San Sebastián de los Reyes area, points out some of the key points to bear in mind when approaching vulnerability.

Preparation before the experience is necessary, skills such as active listening, empathy, willingness to collaborate always with respect, humility and dignity of people, putting people at the centre of the problem and the solution without ever forgetting self-care, is the challenge we face.

From here, some people tell of their experiences in Cameroon and Argentina and regardless of the destination, it seems that there are sensations that coincide, we go with the intention of giving and we are the ones who receive the most, we go with the intention of teaching and we are the ones who learn the most. The volunteers who are soon to go are very curious to know more and ask about anything that worries them. They say that at the destination the timetables change, they get up and go to bed earlier than we do, they work more slowly, they don’t have the frenetic rhythm that makes our country the first in the consumption of anxiolytics, they breathe joy, music and good humour, they live in community and the relationships with others are strong and deep, they live more connected to each other and less to mobiles and WIFI.

Someone reflects out loud… They have less or nothing, yet they seem happier than we do.

Finally, and to conclude, Sister Araceli asked us to share the reason why we would like to volunteer outside Spain and the responses of such young people thrilled the older ones… for social justice, to get to know another way of life, culture and way of thinking, to share what we have received here because we were born here and they did not because they were born there. To be a volunteer is to share time, to create new relationships, to get to know each other and let them get to know us, to appreciate that the differences between us are minimal, no matter how many kilometres separate us.