Impressions from working as volunteer in Albania/Përshtypje nga puna si vullnetare në Shqipëri

By Arantxa Ferrer de la Cruz








It’s been two and a half months since I arrived in Albania. Time passes very fast when you enjoy what you do. There have been a thousand intercultural encounters and shared experiences. Having arrived in the middle of summer in Albania has allowed me to get to know its beaches, travel to the north of the country with pleasant weather (and experience overheating in Tirana, the capital).

I have had the opportunity to meet Albanians who told me a little more about life in this country full of mountains and paradisiacal beaches. Thanks to the direct work with the beneficiaries, I have been able to delve deeper into Albanian culture, its language and customs. It is fortunate to be able to start conversations with locals in different situations and, being working hand in hand with them allows me to learn in a closer and more enjoyable way.

As always, I felt the culture shock before getting on the plane. I left my house and my friends behind to venture on a trip on my own, in a country I had never visited and in a language that seemed so impossible to me that I would not have believed that I can now begin to understand and speak it (from time to time, avash-avash) .

Even so, I already had some idea of ​​how the experience was going to be due to my previous experiences. I was prepared to adapt to anything and, for the moment, I think it worked out quite well. I find many similarities between the Albanian temperament and mine (I will not speak of the Spanish character itself because it seems to me that I am already a mixture of all the places I have been through).

I find people very close, it is clear that the language barrier exists but sometimes it seems that it doesn’t even matter. From the beginning I felt that I was one more of the work team and I feel like I can contribute new ideas or start new projects.

Regarding the work itself, I have to say that it is quite complicated to directly treat a person you do not understand. Physiotherapeutic treatment is very special and relies, in large part, on communication between beneficiary / therapist. The fact of having to go through a third person to understand the needs, expectations and feelings of the person in your hands, hinders this interaction . Even so, it is going better than I expected. I have discovered the power of nonverbal communication and patience when engaging in conversation.

Something that worried me at the beginning was not feeling safe or not knowing what to do with certain patients due to the lack of details of the diagnosis or evaluation and treatment material. It is true that we have complex, neurological and chronic cases that need a lot of precision when working. For now I am doing quite well and I am happy with the progress we have made in the centers where I participate and I believe there is still much to be done.

Everywhere we have different ways of working and the important thing is to be able to reach a consensus among all to get the best out of each one. I think that, for now, we are getting it and I see that this journey full of experiences will help both the beneficiaries directly to the centers in which I participate and to me personally, both in the professional field and in relation to development personal.



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