Volunteering from home: when the going gets tough

It’s been nearly three weeks since I started my IVY experience and all I can say so far is how fast time flies! I don’t know if you, fellow Europeans, have a similar popular saying but here, in Spain, we say “el tiempo vuela cuando te diviertes” (literally, time flies when you’re having fun). So… come to your own conclusions, my friends ;)

I’ve participated in some volunteering programs, in my hometown and abroad, concerning many different fields. As most things in life, volunteering wasn’t something I had in mind when I started law school back to 2010: I was completely focused on studying and had no time to “waste”… I was too busy… but, law school started to disappoint me, the world outside started to disappoint me, and, somehow, I felt I needed to do something I could truly feel proud of.

At that time I had come back from my Erasmus scholarship in Leuven (Belgium), where I had made new friends who were involved in the feminist movement, and I decided it was the right time to learn more about the topic… so I enrolled in a volunteering program aiming to fight domestic violence. After that, I moved to Granada to study a master’s degree in Development cooperation and the “refugees crisis” took place. I was very moved by the unceasing number of refugees fleeing from their home and arriving at Europe carrying nothing but a few personal belongings, so I got in touch with a national NGO working for the right of asylum. They had some facilities where families could live while they were trying to settle their refugee claim so I offered myself to lend a hand with the kids. Those afternoons were so much fun!

My next great chance was participating in the European Voluntary Service. I moved to Greece during a year to volunteer with an NGO at Thessaloniki, although, in the end, I thought I had some extra free time to collaborate with another one in Lagadikia, a refugee camp not very far from the city. That year was a time I will never forget.

But all those experiences were before the pandemic. During the last year, I kind of lost hope and believed volunteering was over (at least for an uncertain period of time). Yet, life has mysterious ways…

One morning I discovered IVY and I applied for an offer that was like a gift. I got the impression it had been posted especially designed for me because it combined the fact of getting involved in a European project and doing it from home! Also, the topic was among one of my many interests, which is helping fight against climate change.

And now, here I am, volunteering as Interreg Project Partner at the Finnova Foundation in Sevilla (Spain), supporting the Iberian Centre for Research and Forest Firefighting (CILIFO). This project is all about cooperating between the regions of Alentejo and Algarve (Portugal) and Andalucia (Spain) to fight against forest fires, a crucial issue that the area has been terribly suffering during the last years. My tasks so far consist in supporting the communication department, creating content and press releases, and also assisting in the organisation of events. Right now, we are planning a virtual conference, in which some members of the European Parliament and Portuguese and Spanish experts in European funds will talk about the recently approved EU Next Generation fund and its application in projects related to fire prevention in the euroregion of Alentejo-Algarve-Andalucia.

Can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

Ana Piñero Domínguez

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