Miriam will look after the children of the Roma women so that they can devote themselves and develop their skills. Matej teaches children from excluded communities how to work on the computer, and he likes to do it despite the fact that some people call him by a completely different name. Vierka regularly tutors Roma children every Tuesday and has been doing so for more than six years. Her work is also appreciated by the schools where the children go.
In March, for the 14th time, outstanding volunteer deeds and projects were awarded. We are very pleased that the National Evaluation Committee awarded us the Extraordinary Award for Volunteering with a Community Benefit Heart on the Palm of 2022. We appreciate every volunteer who have worked or are working with us so far. We would like to thank them for their courage and motivation and dedicate this award to them. At the same time, we bring you three inspiring stories from our “volunteer kitchen” that may inspire you.
I regret I didn’t start volunteering earlier
The initial idea of becoming a volunteer came after her first childbirth, when she started to reassess her previous work and think about what to do next. Miriam Ondíková knew that she wanted to do something that would have a deeper thought, a greater meaning. Something where she would be able to help and be herself at the same time. The direction she wanted to take was clear to her immediately after she listened to the podcast Condemned to Failure, which is dedicated to the Roma issue and was produced in cooperation with our organization. After that, she was just looking for opportunities and soon found a great offer tailor-made for her. Yes, you guessed right, it was an offer to become a volunteer for People in Need at the community centre in Kojatice. “I took it as an opportunity to see if this was really the right direction for my future work. If I found out that it was, that I enjoyed it and that I was suited for it, then it would be the perfect opportunity to learn something new, meet new people and help those in need,” Miriam explains her thinking about the offer.
She has been a volunteer since December last year and has been working with women (and their children) in women’s circles as part of our Gender Equality for Roma Communities project. Their main mission is for Roma women to get away from their daily responsibilities for a while, to have time for themselves, time to spend with their girlfriends over coffee or tea, to be creative, imaginative and spontaneous (which they actually are). Each session includes a part where Miriam reads the texts with them and analyses them, and the other part is creative. The latter, of course, they enjoy more.
“I make it a priority to be their friend and create an environment in which they feel comfortable and equal. Of course, if they bring their children with them to the women’s circles, I will take care of the program so that they can focus on themselves and their program,” says Miriam, who enjoys the women’s groups every Thursday immensely, because for her, as well as for the women, they are a form of relaxation from domestic duties and, in Miriam’s case, also from those of parental ones.
It fills me with happiness and a wonderful feeling that I am being helpful and that I am using my time and energy somewhere that is needed and wanted. Thanks to volunteering, I am getting to know the Roma community in a way I didn’t know it before and it helps me to break down the prejudices I had. And last but not least, it makes me think about how well we live, what we have and we don’t always realize it. After every single meeting I leave Kojatice with the feeling that I did something great (and not for myself) and I enjoy it immensely, it’s a beautiful feeling.Miriam Ondíková
Miriam would recommend volunteering to anyone who feels they want to help other people. It is, in her opinion, a perfect investment of time. If a person has the determination to give it a go, give it a try, there’s really nothing to lose, she advises. She has not yet regretted her decision to volunteer. On the contrary, she regrets that she didn’t start earlier.
I improve my patience, improvisation and have a lot of fun
Matej Gimera got into volunteering during his university studies in Bratislava. He was living with his classmates in the dormitory, they had some free time left, so they decided to audition for a student organization (besides, they offered free drinks, -)). Eventually he persevered in it as a volunteer for six years. He is currently serving his second month as a volunteer for People in Need in a project aimed at developing digital skills at the Roškovce Community Centre.
As well as teaching children, it gives me a sense of my own purpose. I learn a lot myself along the way, I am improving my patience, improvisation and insight. I’m also learning to see the things from other people’s perspectives. And I have a lot of fun in the process. For example, when a little pupil calls me Samo instead of Matej, and I still have no idea why. Or when this same boy was learning lowercase e, I ran his hand across the board about three times in a row. Then he wanted to try it himself, and instead of an e, he wrote a lowercase a. We laughed about it together, and he finally managed to spell it correctly, and I guess he remembered it well.Matej Gimera
To be happy, I need to help
“I am such an internally set person that I need to help in order to be satisfied,” Viera Psotková begins her story about volunteering, as she has been a “regular” at the community centre in Plavecký Štvrtok for more than six years now.
What preceded her volunteer mission? For almost ten years she had been continuously caring for her husband’s seriously ill mother. When time suddenly became available after her mother-in-law’s death, she began looking for information about other ways to help. She read that after such a difficult life situation, she should take at least a year off. And that’s exactly what she did. In twelve months, she regained her strength and then started looking for volunteer opportunities on the internet. Since she is a trained first grade teacher and had always been close to children, but had not been involved in the teaching profession for a long time due to the poor financial evaluation, she decided to try out the offer to tutor children at the community centre in Plavecký Štvrtok. The good accessibility and the different age categories of the children also weighed in. For the seventh year now, Vierka regularly travels from Dúbravka to Plavecký Štvrtok every Tuesday afternoon, where she is eagerly awaited by both older and younger pupils. She combines learning with games and tries to tutor the children in a fun way so that they don’t lose their attention.
„Over the years I have tutored all ages, I have prepared ninth graders for entrance exams. For a long time I have been working with a multi-child Roma family, where the parents care very much about their children’s education. In our conversations, they quickly recognized that only education is a chance for them to get out of the vicious circle of poverty. There is only one boy in the family, all the others are girls. He is now a fifth grader and I have been working with him since kindergarten. I also tutor his younger sisters. I am very happy with the feedback from the school they attend. They say it shows in them,” Vierka tells us about her volunteer work.
I love the kids, I look forward to seeing them, we laugh together, we play a lot. We try to turn problems into humour too. I’m happy to be with them and I’m pleased with the positive feedback from the schools. When they say that the children I work with are much further ahead, ahead of the other children. That’s when I feel good. A feeling that it makes a difference.Viera Psotková
When we hear a nice story from Vierka, of which there is certainly no shortage in volunteering, she immediately remembers. “Once in a while I take them to Malacky for pizza, they like it very much. During the warm spring, we were sitting outside on the terrace together like this, feeding ourselves, the owner came by, we talked for a while. Then the waitress came over and exchanged music tips with the kids. It was a very pleasant get-together. When I went to pay, I learned that there was no need, apparently the bill had already been paid. At the next table sat the owner of the construction company who had paid for us. I registered that there was someone sitting next to us who would occasionally look at us and smile, but I didn’t remember his face at all. I was sorry, because if I happened to see him next time, I could thank him for this nice gesture. In human terms, it made me very happy that there are people among us who know how to make others happy in silence.”
And who would Vierka recommend volunteering to? “Each person knows best if he or she is destined for it.” So if any of our stories resonate with you and you feel that you too could give selflessly, you can contact our volunteer coordinator, Magdalena Lorinczová. We look forward to hearing from you!
+421 905 254 122
Here you can fill questionnaire: LINK
We are looking forward to hearing from you!
PS: We are currently looking for an English teacher in Roškovce.