From busy Minsk to quiet wilderness of Rautavaara
Metsäkartano Youth and Wilderness Centre is located in Rautavaara, Eastern Finland. It appears to be pretty much in the middle of nowhere, right in the woods, on a lake. Amid the very typical Finnish surroundings one can also feel an international breeze there. Let’s meet EVS volunteer Alena.
Who are you and where do you come from?
Hello! My name is Alena. I'm from Minsk, the capital of the Republic of Belarus. Currently I'm serving as an EVS volunteer in Metsäkartano.
Why did you decide to do EVS? And why in Finland?
The first time I came to Finland I had already graduated from university and had been working as a specialist for more than two years. During that time my life was very quiet. It is also then that I got a chance to participate in a short-term EVS project in Finland. During that short-term project I realized just how much I could have missed out on if I did not take part in EVS and how much I could benefit from taking part in such projects. When we are visiting a country just as tourists we are able to see a very different side of it to that which we get to know through living and working there.
My short-term EVS project was not just in Finland - it was in Metsäkartano, so my first visit was the time I fell in love with the place.
What kind of tasks do you have in Metsäkartano?
Well, the name of my project is "International Breeze in Metsäkartano". So I try to bring a touch of internationalism to Metsäkartano.
Metsäkartano has several different projects running at the same time: social family work project, school camps, project on working with youngsters who are in difficult life situations, youth exchanges and so on. I assist in all those projects. My work consists of guiding some activities and creating programmes, as well as taking charge of more general tasks, such as making pictures for decorating the walls, heating up saunas or helping in the kitchen.
What changes did you experience when moving from busy Minsk to the forest of Rautavaara?
Because I had already visited Metsäkartano before the beginning of my long-term EVS project, I was able to prepare very well and nothing shocked me.
Most of all I was afraid of cold temperatures. Even though Minsk is not that far away from Metsäkartano, the temperature difference can be significant. But the youth centre was very well equipped so the winter went almost unnoticed.
It is hard to compare Minsk, a city with population of 2mln. people and the forests of Metsäkartano. By the way, the closest town to the latter is Rautavaara, a town with approximately 1800 inhabitants. The town is 26 km away from Metsäkartano. But I can't say that I am suffering from a lack of interaction with other people. There are many different groups of young people in Metsäkartano all the time and since spending time with them is a part of my work, I could even say that nowadays I interact with people even more than before coming here.
I would say that the lifestyle in Metsäkartano is a little slow so the thing that I am afraid of is that I will not keep up with the pace of life when I will be back in Minsk.
There is one thing I really miss. That is a shopping mall. I can't say that I have the necessity to buy things. No, I'm just that kind of a person who is really into looking for new things, trying on new clothes and from time to time buying something. So whenever I am in a big city I try to fill that gap.
What else would you like to tell?
I have not regretted coming here, not even for a tiny moment. I'm having a great time here and at the same time gaining a great experience. I would advice everybody, if they only have a chance, to participate in any EVS project – GO FOR IT!
Interview and article by Annemari Päivärinta, English translation by Milda Beišytė