Volunteering experience of Yasmine

Namaskar (= I great you with respect)

My name is Yasmine and I’m an ESC volunteer at Ananda Gaorii. Being an ESC volunteer means that I’ve signed up for 10 months of working, living and experiencing what it’s like to be at an ashram, farm and learning center. Currently I’m halfway through my time here and I can honestly say that it feels like I’ve only just arrived, but at the same time it feels like I’ve been living here for far more than 5 months. I think that happens easily when you’re experiencing a lot of different things in a relatively short amount of time. And that is definitely the case here. For me for example, I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn and practice beekeeping, something that was entirely new to me before arriving here. Another example is that I’m deepening my knowledge of a plant-based diet, not only through the very tasty meals we manage to serve every single day but also by taking part in the growing vegetable garden. It’s been a privilege for me to work outside, get my hands dirty and really take care of the plants and the soil, considering not only the wish to grow our own food and be self-sustainable in that way, but also to truly value the cooperation with nature, not just taking from it, but also being able to give back, for example to the soil by using our own compost.

Being here has also highly increased my knowledge and understanding of wild plants and herbs, and their uses. I’ve always had an interest in the idea of being able to walk through a forest and pick edible berries, or to be able to find some green leaves naturally growing outside to add to my food while camping. I feel that we as a society have gotten so accustomed to eating the food that is readily available to us in supermarkets or food markets, that we tend to forget about the great nutritional value of things that are, sometimes invasively, growing all around us, such as nettle or dandelion to name a few. It’s a subject I could go on about for a few more pages, and that’s exactly why I love living in a community because I feel very connected in these ideas with the people I’m sharing my living space with. Sustainability, permaculture, vegetarianism/veganism, circular economy and loads of other themes are subjects we all hold dear. To live together with like-minded people means I find myself in deep conversations on a regular basis, feeling not only inspired by them or being able to give inspiration, but also finding it a bit more easy to put those wonderful ideas into concrete actions. I must admit, this is not an easy part, but being surrounded by people who can support you in your wishes to make something happen, is a great push to not procrastinate making changes, but to actually go after what you believe in.

It’s the first time I’ve committed to such a long-term volunteering project, but I must say that at this moment I’m very grateful to the European Solidarity Corps for making things like this possible. I’m one of the lucky ones, not having to worry so much about my future; where I want to settle down or what profession would fit my skills for example, because here I have the opportunity to explore. I’m slowly discovering more of my competencies, implementing skills in areas where they’re needed and where I feel comfortable distributing them, in an environment where I’m allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, to take my time to grow in certain areas that I feel less comfortable in, to dream big and research how I could turn those dreams into reality. A lifestyle in which mistakes are growing opportunities, in which openness and compassion is key in communication, in which sustainability is a top priority and in which I get the chance to share that with a bunch of like-minded people, is a lifestyle I love to take on for the future. Ananda Gaorii has a lot to offer, and I’m slowly realizing that I do too.

Until next time

Photo by Ago L. Dimasi @alok_ae