Ermal Progni berichtet über seinen Freiwilligendienst

5th of March 2020, a calm day before the storm. After a positive interview I am accepted to the program. Little did I know that in one week everything would change and I would have to wait 1 year and a half to get to Halle after all the travel and visa delays.

My journey starts in late august and my place of assignment would be Friedenskreis Halle e.V. I arrived on the weekend and had 3 days to prepare before starting. Fortunately, I found my other volunteer room-mates and asked them a million questions about the city and the organization.

The first day I was a bit anxious but that disappeared after entering the office. Bojana, my coordinator and mentor whom I met on the first day, welcomed me again. There I found a very vibrant office full of very nice people. At first I had to get accustomed with all the office rules, where everything was and how to acquire stuff. A lot of information but I was excited. I will always remember that first lunch break. It is a time where everyone in the office gathers and speaks of everything apart from daily business. There I got the chance to introduce myself a bit more and get to know the others more personally and their passions and opinions. I felt so welcomed as if I don’t come from another country and I don’t really speak the language or know the culture. They were curious and treated me as an equal, especially from my mentor Bojana, whom I can’t thank enough for all her guidance and care.

After work I got the chance to walk around and get to know the other volunteers who arrived 5 months before I did. They were the “seniors”. I could ask them anything and they were very friendly. They knew everything about the city or how the volunteering worked. With them I got a deeper understanding of the context from the volunteer point of view and the common problems. Most of them were from the Balkans and gave me a sense of home. During the first month I had already grasped how to navigate in the office, the colleagues and being open to more in depth knowledge. During that time I could help in minor time consuming tasks which gave me a sense of accomplishment, something to prove that I am not wasting people’s time. It got noticed and started getting more complicated tasks. Bojana always had confidence in me and made me feel appreciated. She sometimes would worry about me and always reassure me that if I don’t feel comfortable I should not do it. After 6 months I got an understanding of how the office operated. In the meantime, I got to do tasks for other colleagues and get to know the other projects and areas of focus. Everyday I would learn something different and express interest in everything I would hear and was not too complicated for me to grasp. After 6 months, I feel at home in Halle.

The whole journey has been quite interesting but challenging at the same time. I always had the language barrier with me anywhere. In the office everyone is trying to minimize that for my sake to the point I would forget about it. Outside the office was different. The cultural differences, the moody weather and the pandemic restrictions can really take a toll on you. Being away from every support system that one can have in the hometown can make you feel quite small and alone. So, one needs to come to terms with it and build and build and build. Learning, building, using. From language to shopping in the supermarket.

I can say with confidence that this is a journey everyone should take in life, especially in their 20s. You break but you also rise and gain strengths you didn’t know you could have. It can be uncomfortable at times but no good stories started but stayed still. This is my story and I look forward to the other part of this journey.

Ermal Progni
International Weltwärts Volunteer from Albania.