Volunteering in Barcelona. Beyond an experience
Rachel, from Howard University, has known how to take profit of her stay in Barcelona and besides her studies, she started a volunteering here. She has wanted to share her experience to explain us such an interesting experience abroad:
"I started volunteering at this facility called Assís every Tuesday since the end of September. Assís is a shelter that feeds the homeless & provides them with activities such as gardening classes, art classes, cooking classes, computer classes, & a small rec room for ping pong or just hanging out. Roger, the supervisor, told me this place was all about combating the loneliness, so even though my Spanish isn’t very good & my Catalan is nonexistent, the people who come to Assís would appreciate me just trying to acknowledge them. It’s mostly older men but I’ve seen a few younger men & a small number of women come through.
I’ve had about four different tasks while volunteering at Assís. I either served juice, worked in the kitchen cleaning, served food, or helped work bag check. My first day all I did was given the easiest task of serving people coffee, milk, hot water for tea, & orange juice. It was easiest because if they grabbed a certain type of cup from the service station it implied they wanted a certain drink, I couldn’t possibly mess that up. Some of those I served were really friendly & were asking me my name & where I was from, they could tell I was new. I was definitely practicing my Spanish skills here. There was another CIEE student volunteering here & a few other volunteers who spoke Spanish really well so they helped translate for me when I get too lost.
The next week I was put on kitchen duty. You would think that would have been the easiest task but it wasn’t. Nobody in the kitchen spoke English so when they were telling me what to do or what goes where I was just kind of staring at them super confused. But those ladies were the sweetest & they would just walk me through everything & explain it again very slowly. Who knew the kitchen could be such a confusing place? After the kitchen I started serving food & that was generally the same as serving the juice but I was communicating much better thanks to everyone’s help!
The next few weeks I was given a bigger role of storing the visitors’ bags. When I’m storing bags I have to fill out a log stating if they are regulars, male or female, if they are there to shower & eat or just eat, if they are Catalan or another identification & then tag their bags with a number so I know what bag correlates to which person. This job is probably the most difficult. I couldn’t always tell if a name is male or female at the end of the day when I had to record the daily totals. I didn’t always understand what people were saying. There were also a lot of bags & sometimes the people got frustrated when I didn’t find their bag fast enough but most usually helped point it out to me.
I’ve seen some of the people who are served at Assís out & about in Spain & I’ve met up with one of the other volunteers. The two men I saw on two different occasions were really excited to see me & introduced me to a few of there friends but I couldn’t really stay & talk too long because I was on my way to class both times. When I met one of the other volunteers we grabbed some coffee & she helped me study for my Spanish mid-term. We also took a study break to just get to know each other.
Sometimes I couldn’t make it on Tuesdays due to my schedule but I tried my best because I enjoyed going there. It was a relaxing moment away from schoolwork & the busy city. I definitely felt better on the days I went versus the days I couldn’t make it. I really enjoyed this experience; everyone I met was wonderful & friendly".