Jan Brožek comes from Czech Republic. From September of 2019 to August of 2020 he was a European Solidarity Corps volunteer with Slovene Philanthropy, he worked at the Day Centre for Migrants in Maribor.
What motivated you to work with refugees and migrants?
After graduating I didn’t know what direction to take and realised I’m missing a long-term experience abroad. I have always been interested in the topic of migration; I also had some work experience in this field so I searched for something similar. I was chosen to attend a project in Switzerland, where I worked with unaccompanied minors. It was an amazing year and it was tough when it ended. After that I decided to continue volunteering for another year and was lucky enough to find a new opportunity in Slovenia.
What do you do at the Day Centre?
We played board games with the kids and teenagers, did homework, had English classes, organised cultural events, went to the theatre and went on trips …
What does volunteering give you?
My volunteering experience gave me new perspectives on many areas in life, new insights into our world and society. I realised what I wanted to do in life. We live in a kind of bubble in the Czech Republic, we aren’t very open to new things and ideas. Thanks to volunteering I stepped out of my comfort zone. I also gained confidence and new friends!
Which volunteering experience influenced you the most?
Things I don’t get to see personally don’t touch me easily, so I accepted the stories from the beginning of the refugee crisis simply as information. Then, for the first time, I met people in Switzerland who actually experienced all of this. I listened to stories from boys and girls, who came to Switzerland without their parents, survived the journey through the desert, squeezed and hid in cars, spent time on boats without life vests – and couldn’t even swim. They were exposed to torture and blackmail on their journey. It was a crucial moment for me, the moment I realised everything was true and was really happening.
Would you recommend the European Solidarity Corps Programme to volunteers?
Definitely! I think it’s the best way to gain experience in another country. You pick a topic that interests you and where you want to go. There is no risk. The financial side is taken care of; there are national or coordination agencies looking after the organisations taking in volunteers, so if there is any trouble, you’re never left on your own.