Written by: 
Neria Charalampous Tuesday, 1 September, 2020 - 19:22

Tough Times? Tougher Volunteers

The previous months have been tough for everyone. But there were some people who, despite the fears, worked on ameliorating the lives of others. The ESN volunteers were some of those people. We should celebrate that when the world needed us, we delivered.

Covid-19 proved to be a great challenge for everyone. Our lives changed overnight, and we are living through a historic event, even if we don’t realise it at the time. But what happened in the ESN network when the pandemic hit? How did ESNers deal with it, and how did we redress this experience for our Erasmus students?

First things first, it is necessary to point out that no matter how experienced volunteers can be when it comes to crisis management, no one could foresee what was going to occur during these months. We all had to be alert at all times and follow the stream of information to keep everyone up to date. It was a different experience, and we had to adjust quickly for the sake of the exchange students around the continent. But that is only some of the energy we had to commit during the pandemic.

We used our time of isolation to offer comfort and escape to those who needed it the most. We, too, were scared of the unknown and had to deal with our fears and anxiety first, to offer our help in our network. It is significant to highlight the effort that was put into offering information, support and relief. What we did during those months gave us a clear perspective of what it means to be a volunteer. We put ourselves second when it came down to the service of others, with only the internet as a means to achieve our goal.

We organised various events such as online parties, radio nights, game nights, or even just Skype sessions to discuss our thoughts and feelings over what was happening around us. We put our agitation aside to work on these projects, and we poured our souls into them. We organised a massive online network-wide initiative called #ErasmusAtHome.We not only gave back to our international students, but we also gave back to our local and global communities through volunteering. We even managed to conduct the biggest research survey report on the impact of COVID-19 on student exchanges in Europe, that’s no small feat! It may sound easy to create these small escapes from reality, but it goes to show how strong our network is. This is our success story. We took what seemed to be a dead-end at the time, and turned it into a message that no matter what happens around us, the Erasmus Students Network with its volunteers will always be there to help in every way it can. Don’t forget that our motto is ‘’students helping students’’, and that applies both in and out of campus.

We also transformed what appeared to be a dark time into a time of hope. This negative situation drove us to find solace and companionship in each other. It brought us closer, and it is absolute proof that together we are stronger, and we can pretty much deal with anything that life throws our way, as a team.

I believe that if we had to answer the question of ''what is the meaning of being a volunteer?'' our answer would most probably be that a volunteer is a person who creates the light when the world gets dark.

Taking everything into consideration, I sincerely believe that tough times require tough volunteers, and we, as ESNers, have achieved just that. As Mahatma Gandhi once remarked, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. 

No matter where you find yourself in, current or upcoming exchange, here’s a reminder that you can always find help here.

Erasmus, Volunteering
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