On Monday, eight people from the previous Gaia team became Development Instructors. I am the youngest of those eight. I am Solveig from Estonia and I recently turned twenty. I arrived here in the end of September and am now a part of the February Poverty Activist team. All of us have contrasting aims for coming to England, but mine is probably a bit different from my teammates. I feel like I am not as accomplished as the people in my team. I only finished high school last year and have not really started my life as an adult yet whereas every other individual in my team already has a list of achievements. Volunteering in Africa is not something that I have been planning to do for a long time, but rather something spontaneous I chose to do before I start my university studies.

There are so many amazing volunteering opportunities waiting here in Europe, but if you stop to think about it, they are mostly for personal gain. People volunteer in developed countries to travel and grow as a person. The experiences they bring back are wonderful and lively, but when they look back years later, they often realise that the difference they made for this world is relatively insignificant. I am not naive enough to place my intentions in changing the world. I simply want to touch the people that I am able to reach and I feel like my input can be much more valuable in a place where help is more essential.

This first week has been quite refreshing after four months of site finding for the clothes collection. However, finishing the scholarship programme does not mean that I have unlimited free time every single day. The whole team chose different responsibility areas in the campus. Most of us chose two, for example, I chose to be in charge of accommodation and cleaning. Living in a community means that we keep our home clean so every morning after breakfast I prepare a cleaning action. This means that every person in my team of eight collectively makes sure that commonly used areas are cleaned. Being in charge of accommodation means that when a new person comes to our school, I prepare their room so that they feel at home when they arrive.

The responsibility areas which I chose are only a minuscule part of what we call community life here in CICD. There are numerous other areas which need to be taken care of. Being responsible for an area does not mean that you have to take care of it alone. Everyone in the community is here to help and support you and this is what I really like about living in a community. However, mobilizing people to do chores or attend lessons can sometimes be burdensome and frustrating, because we all come from different cultures. If being regularly late is unquestionably normal for some, it can really annoy people who are used to punctuality.
Besides responsibility areas my team also chose projects to work on here in the College. On my first day as a Development Instructor, we toured the campus in order to choose a project which can enhance the campus, but also help us learn skills for our projects in Africa. My team went as far as to choose three projects: setting up an electric fence for sheep, constructing vertical gardens and building a chicken coop. All of these projects should be completed by the end of July, which I believe can definitely be accomplished.

Other than that we have had numerous presentations this first week. The topics include team-building, community as a concept, world scale stewardship and project experience. It is amazing how you can never get tired of project presentations. Each time you see a presentation from Mozambique or Zambia, you still learn something new. It all makes me wonder what my experience is going to be like.
Although we do not always have free time on our hands, we still do have a significant amount of it. What I really love about my team is its diversity. Each of us have something to teach to the others so we decided to become teachers for each other. One of us became a personal trainer, the other a guitar teacher and we also do improvisational theatre as well as singing. This has helped us all understand how much we all have to offer and how to spend your free time productively. In the meantime we get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each team member.

All in all after finishing my Gaia period, I really feel like I have grown as a person and that becoming a Development Instructor is a new page in the book. Personally, I am profoundly motivated to make the most of this new chapter so that I am prepared for whatever comes next.

Solveig Joanna Niitra