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Volunteer blog: Alejandra teaches and learns at Pestalozzi

28 January 2014

Ale with Thinley, a Bhutanese student
Photo: Alejandra with Bhutanese student Thinley.

Ale and the first year students in London
Photo: Alejandra with first year students on a trip to London.

Ale with Syeed and Claire
Photo: Alejandra with Syeed (India) and Claire (Zimbabwe).

Ale with students and staff at a Pestalozzi event
Photo: Alejandra with students and staff at Pestalozzi's Indian Cultural Evening in 2013.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Union. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of information contained therein.

Alejandra Espatolero Ibáñez came to Pestalozzi from Madrid as a European Voluntary Service (EVS) volunteer in August 2013. She lives at Pestalozzi and tutors the students in Spanish, but she also gets involved in lots of other activities. She spoke to Jonathan Williams, Marketing Officer, about her role.

What drew you to EVS, and why were you interested in Pestalozzi?

I was working as a waitress and finishing my degree in Sociology when a friend talked to me about EVS. She was volunteering through them with youth at social risk in Rome, Italy. Each time I talked with her, my dreams of doing the same grew. I found the AIPC Pandora organisation by searching online and they put me in touch with EVS.

During the next months I dedicated my free time to look at all the associations that interested me. I had previously worked and volunteered in different camps with immigrants, victims of violence, people with physical and mental disabilities or mental health issues, and people who had been incarcerated. I was hoping to volunteer with young people, immigrants, or people with disabilities. The truth is that I found a big quantity of associations in Europe where the most important thing is human quality, among these was Pestalozzi. I read more about Pestalozzi and I thought that this Pestalozzi EVS vacancy will be for me. It was the philosophy around head, heart and hands that convinced me to apply.

You live on-site and volunteer full time. What is your role?

My principal role here is Spanish tutor, but I organise others activities with the students, too. We go on different trips to Battle Abbey, local towns and London, have scientific debates and get ready for conferences like International Model United Nations. I helped out at the Indian Cultural Evening and I also helped, along with one of the students, at Hastings Winter Festival multicultural performance night.

What’s your favourite part of volunteering at Pestalozzi?

The multicultural environment. I’m very comfortable here and I’m making great friends.

And what do you think you’ve learned since being here?

So many things. English! My English is improving, by doing the classes at college and also from the students helping. They sometimes stop me and say, "No, you are pronouncing that badly, this is what you need to say.”

I’m also learning patience and to live alone. At home you are always living with or near your friends and your family, so it is a big difference being in another country without them.

I’ve discovered a lot about other cultures. For example, in my country there are lots of stereotypes about Muslim culture, but here at Pestalozzi I learn new things from the students. Things that I didn’t really think about back home, I now know are incorrect from having personal conversations with the students. I’ve also listened to a lot of music from other countries!

Apart from learning English at Sussex Coast College Hastings, have you done any other training since arriving?

In the EVS you should do two volunteer training sessions. I did one in October, where volunteers from all the different countries talked about our roles in our host organisations. We talked about our experiences and learnt how to deal with issues that might arise in our placements. It is very practical and good preparation – I met a lot of other volunteers, too.

Would you recommend other people volunteer through EVS or at Pestalozzi?

Yes, I believe that it is unique experience in life. When you give your time to other people through volunteering, the recompense is purely human and social. It is very gratifying.

I had done volunteer work before, but this is totally different: I am in paradise! I was used to different nationalities living in the same place but not having personal interactions. I never believed that people of so many different nationalities could live together and interact every day without a problem.

For me, EVS and Pestalozzi have changed my life. These days have been incredible. I don’t know how to describe the happiness that there is in my inside. Before an event I see 10 nationalities cooking, organizing, cleaning – all for the same end. We put our hands together to achieve things and it’s amazing! These days have been full of magic and energy.

Thank you very much Pestalozzi and Pestalozzi students!

We have lots of volunteering and other vacancies at Pestalozzi - get in touch if you'd like to help out.

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