Working without receiving… I was wrong!

Hi, my name is Luís Almeida, I’m 18 years old and I’m Portuguese.

I’m here to talk about my experience in volunteering.

It all started when I was in 11th grade and one of my catechists invited me to be part of a volunteering group. I said yes and went to my first meeting with the group and since that meeting my life has been different. This volunteering group “works” with a sister’s community and some of our activities are helping the sisters in same works. One of the main activities we have is donating some cloths to help the families in need. Being around sisters most of the time is good because I learn so much from their life experience and I can learn how to get a better relationship with God; so I started going to the volunteering meetings. This is a way to continue my religious life around people I admire and keep teaching me. This is “school of life” and after my mom and dad it’s one of the best ways to learn about “how to live life with God”. I think I couldn’t be in a better place.

After a few meetings I got invited to participate in a volunteering work camp. It was different from our meetings but I still said yes!

My experience in this camp was unique. It changed my life to betterand people recognize that I’m now a better person that Iwas before.

We were a group of 18 teenagers and 2 sisters. We visited nursing homes, the victimes from the burn unict, day care and nursery.

All of the people we visited were feeling lonely and that’s why we, 18 teenagers, accepted “working” in this camp. We have so much love to giveand there is a lot of people in the world that don’t get any love.

This is the main reason I said yes to thiscamp. I know I can give more than I can and it was worth just to see a smile in every child, men and women. This camp has the duration of a week and it was in August. After this week, it’s time to get back on our routines, school, work, etc..

I kept going to the volunteering meetings and then this year I was invited to the same week than the year before. I was extremely happy knowing that I was going to this volunteering week again.

Although I already knew what I was going to face in this week it was a completely different experience. We were 24 teenagers, this time with 3 sisters.

One of the sisters said that we were going to “work” in a very small comunnity and the church have difficulties because there are no priests and it’s hard to keep up the comunnity up. This time was a little bit hard for me because most of the people we visited had the family working abroad and they had no visits at all. They wake up, go to the center, lunch, have a snack in the afternoon, dinner and go back to their houses. They were really lonely people and it was hard to face this reality.

Obviously, I’m not getting paid to go there, this is “working” without receiving anything but that where I was wrong. The amount of love that the people gave me was insane. Soon that I get to in center, people are already saying hi to me and giving handshakes and kisses. They didn’t know me at all and they were so lovely to me. I was surprised and happy at the same time.

I spent most of this week with the same group of people and it was really hard to leave because we had a really strong connection and most of the ladies felt the same thing. We were all dropping a tear when I left and it was really hard, not just for me but for all group. We get so much love in return just because we are there talking to them and it’s hard to leave a place that you are already used to.

It’s time to get back in our routines, start working again, start getting the bus to school again, but this time is different. We allcame back different after a week like that.

One of the lessons that I take from this volunteering week is: I am big, I need to accept myself so I can give my love to others. I have to admit that I’m fragile, that I have my weaknesses and after recognizing my good and bad things, I can start working to be a better person than I am now! I know a lot of people are proud of me, but the most human being that needs to be proud of me is myself and none is taking that from me.

Respect yourselves and trust in God and you will became a better person.

Luís Miguel Abreu Cardoso de Almeida

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