“No man is an island, entire of itself”.
The first time I bumped into this poem, I was about to catch a flight from my home in Italy. Little did I know back then in 2009 that this poem was about to become a strong part of my identity. Reason being: that flight was taking me to Belfast for what turned out to be one of the most enriching experiences of my life – a year long placement with Shopmobility Belfast through European Voluntary Service, the European Commission's international volunteering and non-formal learning programme for 18-30 year olds. During those beautifully intense months, I felt for the first time that not being “entire of myself” actually means being a stronger person: it takes strength to let a bunch of people from different cultures, religions, identities become part of who you are. It takes an act of courage to realise that if you want to bring positive change into our world, you need to stop thinking of yourself (and your city, or country, or religion) as an island and instead think globally. Inclusively. And then take action.
“Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”.
Years pass by, and still inspired by my experience as a European Voluntary Service volunteer, I decide to return again to Belfast where, as well as securing a part-time job back with Bryson, I started to volunteer with Oxfam. Of all charities, why this particular one? The truth is, I am a pragmatic dreamer: I want to change the world, and joining an organisation that fights poverty by empowering people is what I have always dreamt to do. I might not have any skills to work in the field, but day by day I learned that yes, you can help change the world without going to remote areas of the planet. You can, in fact, become part of an organisation that uses everybody's talents to reach a common goal. I am very proud of being part of this whole, and the whole couldn't work without each and every one of us.
“Any man's death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind”.
During the nearly three years I have been with Oxfam, first as a volunteer and then as a member of staff, I have been involved in the most weird and wonderful experiences: I have emailed the Prime Minister during a picnic for climate change. Campaigned against tax dodging. Marched at the Belfast Pride to support LGBT rights. Modelled in a photoshoot to raise awareness on the terrible conflict in Syria. I have been so lucky to meet some of the most incredible people: women from African countries explaining how big corporations not paying their fair share of tax has dramatic consequences on their health, education and life. I met refugees, those refugees that western countries are neglecting in the most embarassing way, and I heard them talking of how they had to leave everything behind to save their lives. All these experiences made me more and more conscious that any man, woman or child's death diminishes us all. When we forget to think globally, to see every human being as part of OUR world, that's when humankind fails.
“And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”.
I am experiening how interconnected our lives are, how our everyday choices have an impact on other people's lives: what we eat, who we vote for, where we shop - it all matters. I am learning, day by day, to think more globally and see the world as one. It's a constant exercise, but this is what makes me truly feel I am part of something grander.
This article was written by Simona Fisichella in a personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of Oxfam or other named organisations.
Check out the Eurodesk network websites and social media for information and inspiration on how you can find international opportunities such as European Voluntary Service and Think Globally in your own life.