In Dublin's fair city Volunteers say

Ines has almost completed half of her project's stay. 

I landed in green Ireland on August 25, 2020, whispering a silent goodbye to Italy under the mask. After an semmingly "free" summer, the pre-departure doubts were numerous and the news reports increasingly worrying. The association that selected me for a one-year project as a volunteer is called the Solas Project: its emblem is a lighthouse and in Irish, the name means “light”; in fact, its vision is to cast a ray of light on young people born in the dark. Solas Project is a charity rooted in the working-class heart of Dublin 8: behind the factory where the famous Guinness beer is produced there are rows of public houses, flats, inhabited by numerous families. Many of these are plagued by economic hardship, addictions, domestic violence. The association offers a wide range of services aimed at combating early school  dropout by the children of the neighborhood; the management of the three after-school activities is reserved for European volunteers: children aged between 4-8, 8-11, 11-13. By virtue of my previous experiences, I was entrusted with the group of pre-adolescents: my task is to ensure that they receive a hot meal and educational support in carrying out tasks or entertainment in other recreational activities. Together with two other volunteers, a German and a Spanish girl, from Monday to Thursday morning we prepare dinner (afternoon meal) for thirty young people. Around two in the afternoon we move to the various locations with our tapperwares filled with stew, puree, curry .. we set the table and welcome our groups. It was not easy to find a common communicative ground: in addition to the continuous behavioral challenges, complex in themselves to interface, the extremely dense slang with which the children express themselves is practically a language unto itself. However, day after day, I have learned to become attached to the neighborhood's whimsy, its contradictions, the liveliness of those young people who have been forced to grow up ahead of time. Since, due to the health emergency, most of the kids do not receive homework to do together in the after-school, we have invented the most diverse activities, from painting to the preparation of brownies, even indulging in small scientific experiments. Language barriers, moments of despair and the fear of not making it have always been counterbalanced by the freshness of novelty, by the small moments of understanding that transcend cultural differences, proving that there is a particular type of beauty that can only arise from the encounter with the other. In my spare time I got to explore Dublin, cross its countless bridges with the wind in my hair, walk among the fallow deers of Phoenix Park and drown my sight in the fiery sunsets that introduce Irish nights. Close friendships with staff, as well as sharing precious moments with my fellow students, are gifts that I will carry with me even after the close of this chapter. With the hope of being able to cross the threshold of a less dramatic year, I can't wait to know what the island looks like with the colors of spring.

Ines Gitzoller