I love travelling the world and experiencing new things. After graduation I decided to take part in European Voluntary Service, give something back and do some extra thing before starting a proper job in Poland. The EVS seemed like a dream project for me. It has been just three months since I arrived to the UK and there were already so many great things happening around here. I work for Blesma, The Limbless Veterans Charity in London as a fundraising assistant. Blesma is a wonderful charity which enables its members to lead independent and fulfilling lives again. I have always wanted to work in a charity, knowing that I make a difference, hence Blesma is a perfect place for me to gain some practical work experience.
During my second week I took part in a bucket collection during West Ham vs Swansea Premier League match and got a chance to enter The Olympic Stadium and see it at its best – packed with fans on a lovely sunny day. I must admit the stadium, the area around it and the atmosphere of the game made a big impression on me.
In May, me and my lovely flatmate, who is also a EVS volunteer, decided to take on next challenge and run in Nuclear Rush mud race for Blesma. We set up a JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Mud-Girls-Blesma where we raise money for our wounded veterans (the page is still open and the donations are highly welcome:)). The run was great fun! There was a lot of teamwork, people were very supportive and encouraging, helping one another get out of the mud or overcome some other challenging obstacles. It was mostly muddy, with lots of water obstacles along the way (my favourite ones were Death Slide and Magic Carpet), very cold but definitely worth it. At some point I was very close to quitting, because I have never been so cold in my life before, I could not trust my hands as they were shaking like crazy (I could not hold a cup of tea at the finish line) but my colleague kept me motivated and I am so proud I made it to the finish line! 🙂
After two months I had an On-Arrival Training, which I found very useful. During the training I learnt some history of the UK, gained some practical knowledge on how to live in the UK on a small budget, how to use public transport, where to search for various information, get involved in some local events and find friends. The thing is I find British people very polite but rather cold and reserved. It is very difficult to get to know them better and become close friends, but hopefully it will change with time.
And now we come to the best part – Blesma Week. It is the most important week for the charity. For three days we were collecting money in tube stations: London Bridge, King’s Cross and Canary Wharf; and one day at Lord’s during IST20. What you do is basically you stand with your bucket, smile to strangers, wait till they come up to you and donate some spare change or more and say thank you afterwards. The reason why I love bucket collections is that during the collections you get to see the best of people. I had some really nice interactions with people while collecting money. Some of them are very generous, some smile back to you, some just pass you by but most of the time people appreciate your work and encourage you to spread the love and positivity.
However, one of the most memorable experience for me so far was Members Weekend which took place in Kenilworth in June, where I got a chance to get to know the members, their families, BSOs (Blesma Support Officers) and Blesma supporters. Listening to veterans’ stories, who were close to death or experienced the death of their friends, made me realise how important it is to enjoy life, live with no regrets, carry a thankful heart and do not take anything for granted. I am so grateful for it. It was a very moving and inspiring weekend. For instance, I met David Birrell, who lost both his legs in Afghanistan and started a career as a first double amputee racing driver, proving so many people who doubted his abilities how wrong they had been. If you really want something and you work hard for it – anything is possible. There were many elderly members who were so energetic and full of life they can serve as an example to many youngsters. And most of all, during that weekend I could see how amazing work Blesma is doing and how much the members need them, which made me love my job even more! I will always cherish these memories.
To sum up, I thoroughly enjoyed my first 3 months here. London is a very unique city, there is something special about it and you can never get bored of it. My favourite place for a walk is along the river Thames and the Richmond Park is the best one to find some peace and quiet. I am planning to get a bike and discover the city on two wheels, so if somebody could help me with this I would be more than grateful.