How it all started
I am Mariam, 28, from Georgia and this is my very first experience as a volunteer. The next 7 months I will spend in Estonia doing my volunteering service at the Saku Youth Centre. In 2019-2020, I was living in Tallinn and studying at the Estonian School of Diplomacy. When I first came to Estonia in September 2019, I honestly had no idea that it would become my second home and that I would so deeply fall in love with this amazing country. I spent truly amazing months in Estonia. Though, at the end of February, the global pandemic changed our lives and my life as well. My university switched to online studying and me and my classmates were spending a lot of time at the university dorm in isolation. Despite difficult times, this situation brought us even closer to each other. We were cooking our traditional food, spending cozy evenings together, walking around the city a lot, etc… So when everything came to an end, it was quite difficult for us to say goodbye to each other and to amazing Estonia. If you ever come to Estonia, I guarantee that you will be so impressed that the time spent here, will never be enough.
Due to COVID-19 and canceled flights, in September 2020, I hardly managed to go back to Georgia. Arriving at the airport, I was directly taken from the airport to the hotel for 8 days of mandatory quarantine. It was quite difficult for me since I wanted to go home as soon as possible, but also, because of this uncertain situation, I did not know what would happen in my life in the future. One day in quarantine, I was scrolling social media where I found a post about volunteering possibilities in Estonia. I started reading it and realized it was the chance I had to took. Unfortunately, I did not have my laptop with me, but I still decided to write a motivational letter through my mobile. Looking back, I deeply believe that when you truly want something and do your maximum for that, the universe and people around you help you to make it happen! Exactly in two weeks, I got accepted for the volunteering project!
Although I have not started my volunteering project just yet, it already gave me a huge life-time experience. The preparation process during COVID-19 was even more difficult than one could imagine. You start checking flights and you think: „Hmmm, what a nice offer, probably I will buy this flight ticket”. A few hours later, you check the website again and the flight is already canceled. Honestly, the preparation process for my ESC project gave me very good experience in many fields and now I know by heart where to find updated and necessary information regarding travel restrictions, issuing visas during the pandemic, confirmed flights, COVID-19 testing options and etc. The pre-departure process took around 1.5 months and with the help and active involvement of the Association of Estonian Open Youth Centers (AEYC), my sending organization InoChange and my hosting organization Saku Youth Centre, we made it possible, and here I am – back to Estonia one more time!
Arriving and first weeks
As we all know, traveling during the COVID-19 is difficult, very, very difficult. The situation changes rapidly, government regulations and restrictions are updating frequently, flights are canceled every hour. So when my plane took off from Tbilisi International Airport, luckily, it did not cancel several hours before, I started realizing that I was finally on my way to my new life. Traveling took many hours since I had to change several flights and finally, I reached my lovely Estonia. According to restrictions, I had to take two COVID-19 tests and had to stay in mandatory self-isolation for 10 days. Two days ago I got my second negative test result, and I can now freely move! Though, I never forget to wear a mask indoor to protect myself and the people around me. In just a few days, I will join the amazing team at Saku Youth Centre, will meet kids, and will start a new, very interesting adventure of my life!