It took him 10 minutes to fill out the volunteer application form.With an interest in environmental and human rights issues, he hoped to be able to be in a country where those issues were high up on the agenda and volunteer for an organization that shared his values. When the phone rang a few days later, he had almost forgotten about the whole thing. However, after a Skype interview, it suddenly became clear: He was welcome to come to Sweden for 1 year. “In that moment my life changed,” he says.
At this time, Myhailo, or Misha, as he calls himself, is completing a 1-year volunteering programme for Active Ukrainians in Europe (AUE), which is a NGO with an office in Stockholm. The organization works with academic, cultural and political exchanges between Ukraine and other EU accession countries in Western Europe and the EU. Issues concerning gender equality and integration are important within the organization, as well as for Misha.
Five days a week, he works at the office and does everything from project management to poster design, updates the homepage, prepares presentations and blogs about how it is to be a volunteer. Much time is also spent creating various events. He has organized and participated in youth café events for young refugees and has advised on various opportunities on studying and working abroad. Many don’t know about those possibilities, which is not surprising for young people coming from war-torn countries. Maybe the most important thing for them right now is to feel safe, but they can still know that the opportunity is available to them even at some point in the future.
-My recommendation to young people is that they leave and meet new friends, learn about other cultures and discover new things. When you work and live abroad, you experience many things that can be useful in life. You meet a ton of new people, maybe future colleagues you can develop ideas and projects with. You shouldn’t only work for a paycheck, but also to participate in changing this world.
During his time in Sweden, Misha has shared an apartment with other volunteers in a Stockholm suburb where they enjoy fun weekly parties and proximity to the forest where he makes nightly (!) jogging stints. Misha is impressed with how Swedes take care of the nature that surrounds them. Wherever you may be, it is close to forests and lakes. Soon he needs to move to another apartment, but that’s just another part of life as a volunteer. This is also a good way of seeing and getting to know different parts of the city he lives in.
In the future, Misha hopes to be able to combine travelling with making the world a better place. One dream is be able to volunteer in Africa or somewhere in Asia teaching children or work with solving environmental issues. He would also like to continue studying and writing his thesis on Ukraine’s integration into the EU.
-The best part of doing volunteer service is the feeling of freedom it offers. Even though you are working most of the time, you are still free to do what you want without having to care about what other people think. You can fulfill yourself on your own terms.