Elisabeth Heisig, EVS Volunteer
I was a German girl that just finished school and had never lived abroad or worked with homeless people before, when I first came to Ireland. I had no idea what I was going into, I just knew I wanted to leave home, go abroad, do social work, and improve my English.
On the first day of my EVS placement in the high supported housing project North Circular Road (NCR) a whole new world opened up to me. I was welcomed by such a nice team of staff and lovely residents. They made me forget that I had a language barrier and my family and friends were far away. The staff from NCR helped me to feel home and supported me whenever I faced many challenges during my volunteering experience. They always answered my questions and helped me to gain the confidence to get to a point where I could give advice to others, answer questions, organise appointments and social activities for residents.
My work with the Dublin Simon Community was challenging and I struggled with the language and situations I had never faced before, but eventually, I got used to it. I started to love the work with the residents more and more every day. My comfort zone expanded and I got more confident in trying out new things.
Volunteering at NCR changed my view on society. It changed my attitude towards strangers in the streets, mental illness and addiction. I realised that a single conversation can cheer someone up. I see people with their stories now, sad or happy ones and I want to know them, I want to know what happened to them. The stories of the residents in NCR were sometimes breathtaking and also depressing. I am extremely thankful that people shared them with me and allowed me to be part of it, even if it was only for a year. I was impressed by the way the residents coped with their lives and difficult fate. It was amazing how my work was appreciated and how the residents showed it with a smile or a nice word.
I will never forget my year in Dublin, my lovely house-mates, all the EVS volunteers around Ireland, the volunteers and staff of Dublin Simon, the Irish landscape and all the great moments I had when travelling around Ireland getting to know the Irish culture.
It was great to make a change in our residents’ lives, to see some of them move successfully to own apartments or lower supported accommodation. I will definitely come back some day and see how new volunteers are making a change to our residents’ lives, but I can definitely say that these people changed mine.
I’m not the shy German girl anymore. I’m a girl that dares to try the unknown and I even manage to understand all the different Irish accents.