Portrait of the month: Sammy, volunteer at Emmaus Iasi (Nov. 2022)

Sammy volunteered in Emmaus last year. Still in Romania today, we took the opportunity to interview him because we had not time to do so when he left. He had time to step back from this intense year and give us his story here, in a format called “small stories”…

Who are you?

My name is Sammy, I’m 26. My first studies were in the field of computer science, so I did 4 years of studies and then I turned to the help desk (help people to solve computer problems). I was doing this work during Covid, in 2021, and I was a little tired of always being behind screens, (…) I was pretty locked up. So I wondered how to get out of my comfort zone and go do a new project. Why not go abroad, and I thought about civic service. I looked at a lot of missions and I saw the Emmaus mission in Romania that I liked, I did not know this country at all. (…) And then the social field is something that also attracted me, to be able to help people on my scale and to discover new activities. Everything was kind of a discovery for me and at the same time I had the idea of providing my computer support during civic service. I helped a lot to solve some computer problems, to do the interviews, those things that were more appealing to me besides all the other activities: the maraudes, the contact with the companions, the Belvedere, Popesti, full of grafted activities.

Tell us about your first day?

I remembered that when I came to the community, I met the first companions (…) I saw people in dribs and drabs. In terms of activities, i was rather in discovery mode, plus you have to know that I arrived alone, there were no other volunteers with me, so it was a bit strange at first to discover all this environment alone. There was still an accompaniment, Leila who reassured. 

Tell us about your best memory in Emmaus?

It is a rather an emotional memory. During the maraudes, there was a man who lived on the street and had his feet amputated. So he sat there all day, and we brought him food. We had found a wheelchair for him and I helped put him in the wheelchair and for five minutes he held my hand, he wouldn’t let it go, he was super happy to have that wheelchair and I had tears in my eyes, and so did he. (…) He said, “At least now I’m going to be able to go and beg”. Sometimes we would go and see him, he was asleep, he was all pale, it looked like he was almost dead (…) and as soon as he had this wheelchair, we could see that he had came back to life because he could move around, he gained colours, literally.

Tell us your best memory of the flatshare?

It’s more like good times, everything we did together, every night with Maureen, Ema and Eva, my other flatmates. We watched movies, we cooked together, it’s all these moments of sharing, with Leila too.

But if you have to choose only one moment, it is when Florin gave me the recipe of the ciorba (soup in Romanian). I started preparing it, I sent him a picture at 10:00 and he came to taste it! He enjoyed it a lot and we hung out like this until midnight, with soup and some homemade wine. It was a fun evening.

Tell us about your best memory in this country?

We left to meet in the city of Vatra Dornei with the volunteers of Emmaus Satu Mare (…) to make some kind of meeting-evaluation of the civic service. We had two days of meetings and a day of skiing on Saturday. It was really good.

Tell us about your last day of civic service?

It was my birthday (…) I had a big cream cake prepared according to the ritual and there are all the companions singing happy birthday, so it’s super cool. We had a barbecue in the community too, it was great. I remember that there were different ways of “goodbye” depending on the companions, there were some who were rather cuddly and others rather distant, but it wasn’t hard. 

What did you learn from your civic service?

It’s a great experience, so if people have the opportunity to do it, let them do it. It’s a good social improvement. Being in a room with two other people who do the same thing as you and who are also French, brings a certain point of reference. It allows us to share this experience with people who do not necessarily have the same horizon as us.

There is also this exchange of skills with the companions, which allows us to help them on our scale (for example, I installed a video game steering wheel to a companion and he was happy to use it!). And they can help us, for example with DIY: it’s not something I know how to do and especially at the Belvedere there were a lot of tasks given to us (…) and Florin trusted us for that.

Small note: it’s much easier when you’re a guy, unfortunately. Maureen (another volunteer) sometimes fought to do some DIY tasks, which she mastered, while I, although I don’t have the know-how, would have accepted my proposal without knowing if I knew how to do it or not. And otherwise I also remember the exchange with the companions, with the flatmates, it’s super interesting, even the exchange with the team. For example, the times when we did the maraudes in the car with Dana (social worker) and we talked about everything. 

In fact, there are many missions, that’s what’s good, there is never any lassitude during civic service because it always changes between the maraudes, the Belvedere, Popesti, the community, the store too, having contact with customers, etc.

Your year in three words?

Sharing: because we share everything together, it is a life of community, we share all activities.

Fun: I think back to all those moments of laughter at the Belvedere, especially with the other volunteers and Florin.

Feast: we eat well in the community and at the Belvedere, and it is also sharing, when there are guests.

…and I want to add “Discovery” because it’s a really important point too, I’ve done a lot of things that I’ve never done.