Twenty-two-year-old Rabha Et Taouil is currently studying her third year of Business Management and Administration (ADE) at the Rovira i Virgili University in Tortosa. She has worked for Atzavara Arrels, a community-based group in Tortosa focused on providing educational and emotional support to youngsters and children in Tortosa through different leisure activities. Rabha gave Catalan language classes there to elderly students and at present she is finishing her role as a volunteer worker at the summer camp Atzavara Arrels has organized as part of the Bridges project. This European-wide project bases its objectives of social integration on activities linked to culture, sport, and volunteer work to bring together people from different origins and social backgrounds.
-How did you find out about the Bridges project and what made you decide to participate?
I heard about it at our local community meetings, through the Tortosa council social networks, and also thanks to the information Atzavara sent to our Whatsapp group.
-Why did you decide to work as a volunteer at the summer camp?
I have always done voluntary work in my free time. For example, I help at Atzavara Arrels carrying out activities with young children and when I saw the chance to participate in the summer camp, I jumped at it. I have always been interested in knowing how these camps work and what activities they do. My objective was to get to know new people and gain more experience, to see new activities and games, and to meet people from other communities.
-Creating meeting places is one of the objectives of the Bridges project, places to get together and share with others. Why is it important to carry out a project like this with its aim of building bridges between communities in Tortosa?
At the community process meeting where they presented the project, they explained that Bridges aims to bring together people from different social communities and religions, to set up links and communication among people and, thus, break down the prejudices and stereotypes that some of us may have. It is an important project to develop good communication between the different social groups here.
-Do you think it is important to create these relationships?
Actually I decided I wanted to participate as soon as I saw that this is the aim of the project. I am keen on participating in projects to get to know people from other communities and to do away with stereotyped images of them, and I am pleased that the project has been able to continue, despite the current situation, with organizers and participants taking all the health and safety measures necessary.
-What experiences have you gained after this time working as a volunteer at the summer camp?
It has been a great experience for me. We created a close-knit group between the volunteer workers and the camp monitors. We were all in it together and I felt as if I was one of the monitors. They made us feel like we belonged. Also, any time I wanted to share my opinions about the activities, everyone was ready to listen.
-At the summer camp you met other volunteers from Tortosa who you didn’t know before. What was it like getting to know them?
Great, now I know new people! I had seen the monitors before but at the camp I met volunteers like Haidam, Mohamed and Alba. They were all very friendly and keen to participate in the summer camp like me. We met up beforehand every day to share out the activities and we really enjoyed being with each other.
-What were these meetings like?
The first day we were a bit shy but after that it went well. The best thing was that the summer camp was already well organized and so we knew what activities we had to do each week. After the daily meetings we had half an hour before the children arrived for us to organize material and groups. Then we checked who came and took their temperature as they arrived, following all the health advice we were given. Once we had finished the day’s camp, and the children had gone home, we met up again, the monitors and volunteers, to talk about how things had gone and whether there was anything we should know about the next day’s activities.
-What was the most important thing for you about meeting all these new people?
Just that, meeting people. Sharing opinions, playing games together, spending time together. These projects are great, and in this case they have helped people like myself to be able to do voluntary work. They are also a chance for children to get out and discover new things. The fact is that projects like this are essential.
-What did you like best and least about the project?
What I have enjoyed the most is the fact that we were a group who worked well together and that the children had a great time, that’s the most important thing, that they enjoyed it and wanted to come. What I liked the least is the simple fact of knowing that it would come to an end and we would no longer be together every day. But, the best thing is that now we know each other and we will get together again to do more projects like this.
-Have you thought about setting up some way to keep meeting the summer camp participants or to keep collaborating in other activities like the ones Atzavara Arrels do?
We have set up a Whatsapp group to keep in touch. We sent photos and other ideas about the camp to all the participants and now our aim is to stay in touch and keep participating in similar projects.
-Would you like to give support to other activities like Bridges which aim to promote a more inclusive, diverse community, respectful of the different characteristics of everyone?
Projects like Bridges are necessary for a community to move forward, projects where we come together and communicate, where everyone shares something with others. A few days ago we did an activity with the children related to colours. Everyone had just one colour and to finish their painting they had to use the colours their companions had. The colours represented attitudes, culture, experiences, and if you wanted to colour in your picture, you had to ask your companions for the colours you needed. The idea is that we need to work together to move forward.
-Can you tell us about the new activity, Reacciona (React), that different volunteers have set up thanks to working together?
Different volunteers met to work out how we could help to reduce prejudices, stereotypes and racism. We considered different activities and one of them was to create an Instagram page to publish news and stories, both good and bad, related to racism, to raise awareness among people and give a space for people to tell their story. There are many examples of racism in our lives but few people make them public. We aim to change this through our Instagram page, by making people more aware of the problem, creating links among the community, and eliminating stereotypes.
-What do you think of the importance of volunteer workers in different associations or groups?
It is important for groups or organizations to have keen volunteers who can bring their own ideas. In our case, sometimes both children and volunteers have come up with ideas which have eventually become activities which weren’t originally planned. As I said, being a volunteer is great because you enjoy new experiences, meet new people, and see new opportunities.
-To finish, how would you sum up the activities you have participated in during the Bridges project?
These projects are excellent. Being a volunteer helps you enjoy them. In Tortosa there are many associations which you can join as a volunteer. The summer camp has helped me a lot and I hope to stay in contact with them.