Bonding in Borea: A Volunteer’s Experience in the Not Just Numbers Training

Find out what a bunch of people from different parts of Europe did on a ship in Turku in the freezing winter.

They say Finland is the most beautiful to visit in the summer. Then what possessed a group cheery youngsters from different parts of Europe to visit Finland in freezing December? Here’s your answer in three words: Not Just Numbers.

StepEurope ry, Turku’s answer to an active youth organization, has been working towards dealing with many Europe-centric issues, most recently with the recurrent migration and asylum crisis. Not Just Numbers, modelled on the IOM manual’s of the same name, was a step towards understanding this issue and creating awareness among the youth.

This was our (StepEurope ry’s) second week-long training session in Turku. And boy, was it fun! The weeks leading to the training which was held from Dec 7 to Dec 14, were full of frenzied preparations and long discussions. Who should pick them up from the airport? What about the food? What about the entertainment? Where will they sleep? Will they be ok? I’m sure all these questions gave our project coordinator Ronja some sleepless nights!

The day finally arrived. The stage was set at Borea, Turku’s “floating hostel” . Preparations were made, and excited, we all left to receive our participants arriving to different points in the city. And within hours, Borea had transformed into a cultural cornucopia, with lively chatter and smiling faces. The first evening was an “International Night”, a literal table for each country that is participating, laden with food, drinks and decorations. Looking at the table, you could easily tell each person brought at least one bag of goodies (and emptied another bag on their way to Turku) from their country for the event! All this with a live music performances! Soon, we were all getting to know each other, eating, laughing and dancing. In no time, the group of hesitant, shy participants had turned into a jolly one.

The next morning, the training began. It was time for the trainer, an experienced and cheerful trainer, to take over. And the ideas started flowing. It was amazing to see the participants’ level of enthusiasm and the knowledge they brought to the table. Over the next few days, the group went on to discuss different issues prevalent in Europe and how to deal with them. Our interns, Elias and Ioanna, also conducted lively sessions. Of course, all work and no play makes for a boring workshop. So StepEurope ry had organised fun activities like pub crawl, sauna, Turku city tour, shopping, movie night among others, to allow the participants to socialize with each other. All this paired with delicious food each day from different places!

They say time flies by when your having fun, and that’s exactly what happened at this training. The last day was when we realized how much we had grown to liking each other, and how much we had grown, as a person. So many different people, from so many different backgrounds, all living under the same roof for a week, I would never have imagined we’d get emotional. Personally, I had thought “A week? People from different countries? That’s not enough to get close to a person!” I was wrong, and how! Undoubtedly, we forged some new friendships that week. It was a truly heart-warming and humbling experience. We said our goodbyes, sadly, but with a promise of continuing to be in touch. That week in Borea had done a lot – brought people together, dealt with important issues and upheld the need for unity in diversity.

Thank you StepEurope ry. Thank you participants. <3

– Deepika