We get out of the car, which leaves us facing the unmistakable logo of the white cross on a red background: we have arrived.
We are greeted warmly, amidst a thousand smiles, and told to go up to the second floor (third by Georgian standards) where we are expected in the 'meeting room'. Irakli is already there, a young man who surprises us with his perfect Italian: I won't deny that this makes us feel more at home than ever, beyond the super-familiar environment. He tells us that he lived for about a year in northern Italy, because of an ESC project that allowed him to take part in an experience that marked him so much that it led him to engage in volunteer work in his life. His story with Italy and Europe is a true testimony to the benefits of cooperation and the major impact Europe brings to the lives of young people and communities by proposing and supporting them in such projects.
A few minutes later we are also joined by Anahit, director of the organisation where we are: Caritas Georgia. We are currently in the operational headquarter, but she explains that there are several other houses, partly to be more present in the area, partly because the projects proposed are so numerous that more than one location is needed. It is surprising how many activities they carry out, in very challenging areas: health and social care, children and youth protection and development, development of communities and individuals, and emergency response and preparedness. What I find most fascinating is that they have workshops, such as plastic art, carpentry, or software programming, where the children can learn trades and create concrete prospects for the future.
The overview gives us a nice picture of the situation in the country and the involvement of Caritas as a social-political stakeholder, as well as its delicate work in promoting human development and social justice in a context with religious and ethnic tensions. However, to further confirm the good impression Anahit made on us, we stay for the afternoon dedicated to the introduction of the new volunteers.
There are about 40, predominantly Georgian, so the meeting is in this language. Kindly, a guy sits next to us and translates for us throughout the afternoon. I must say that the conviviality between food, willing and cheerful young people, and a friendly moderator who was able to handle serious topics and games to get to know each other, made the afternoon extremely enjoyable.
We ended with an illustrated presentation on posters of the work we had done in groups, after which we took souvenir photos and said goodbye, but no one wanted to leave. A nice and frenetic movement of people exchanging hugs and phone numbers with promises to meet again followed.
It was a full and busy day, but tiredness never prevails when you feel good, and contexts like the one we experienced today, in the name of volunteering, are of unparalleled richness, teaching you to bring a deeper meaning to your life, a stronger sense of purpose.