From Spain to Åland Islands to work in CB project
Joanna Mqr is a Spanish young woman who has been an INTERREG Volunteer Youth on the Åland islands within the RIBS project during spring 2018.
Who are you, Joanna?
- I come from Madrid, Spain, although I was born in Bolivia. I am 29 years old, and I am a social worker and daycare teacher. My hobbies, in general, are to travel, read, get to know new people and nature.
Before I came to Åland, I was an exchange student in Helsinki for one year and then worked at a youth center in Stockholm.
What is INTERREG Volunteer Youth (IVY)?
- IVY is an EU initiative promoting volunteering experiences within Interreg programmes and projects. It offers cross-border, transnational or interregional programmes and related projects the possibility to host volunteers for 2 to 6 months. The volunteers shall support, promote and report achievements of Interreg programmes and projects. It is about increasing the awareness of the benefits of collaboration across EU internal borders.
How did you end up coming to Åland, to this small group of islands between Finland and Sweden?
- Well, while I was doing my internship in a Youth Centre in Solna, Sweden, I met Mia Hanström, the director of SKUNK (which is partner in a CB project), who approached me asking, if I would be interested in joining SKUNK as an IVY, and I immediately said "Yes! Why not?".
I came in January, and I have been living here since.
I knew about Åland before, but I never thought about the possibility of living here.
Among the first things I noticed was the discrepancy between the distance on a map and the real travel time. The distance seems to be so short, but in real life a trip from Mariehamn to the school in Kumlinge demands three sorts of transport: bus, ferry, and car, and it takes a lot of time. There are few departures during a day, and they differ between the day of the week, and you need (somebody with) a car.
Åland is a lovely place: I am totally in love with the landscapes, the archipelago. But Åland is special, I had to use my creativity to find new things to do every day, especially when it was dark, cold and everything was closed. While in the winter the situation was a bit tricky without a car, but I have learned about myself, and now I have great stories about cycling during a snowstorm, Joanna says with a smile.
And what have you been doing as an IVY? What have you experienced?
- My task was mostly developing youth projects, as RIBS, being around meeting the young people in the archipelago. We have had camps, trips, and participated in competitions, and I have learned about filming and editing, I didn’t know anything about that before.
- I am very impressed of how the abilities of the youth can be used in this way! RIBS gave them the knowledge, the tools to film, edit, take pictures. The entrepreneurship idea is very important. It is not only like Wow, now I know how to make a movie, but also to do it for a reason, for an advertisement or for the family. How to make use of the knowledge. It is added value.
- I have also learned that it is important to get the young people something to do, because they can do it better, they will do it fast, and they will use it afterwards to do something else. It is really interesting and lovely to see how they have energy, and they think about entrepreneurship, what they could do – I would like to have my company, or I would like to film or have this experience. It is really nice.
- It has also been really nice to see different people from really small islands go some other places speaking English, knowing people, hanging out, doing stuff like playing cards, meeting friends, having a real friendship connection, building relationships, developing, and having life experiences. It has been more than just learning something specific like filming, but learning about life, having this experience of life. That is wonderful.
In Pargas young people from RIBS have got real summer jobs.
"RIBS opened a completely new world for the kids from the small islands"
- I have also realized it is important for the kids from the archipelago to get back to Åland when they have finished their studies, but I think it is very good for them at this age (up to 18) to go abroad, to speak English, to see things, go to different places, to do things with new people.
I think RIBS has opened a completely new life for them. It is about RIBS, Rolling Images in Business Startups, yes – and about friendship and life experience. RIBS has given them more than just knowledge. They have been doing something they like, something real, they have seen the results in real life, on YouTube, they have arranged a festival. In Get the Deal in Stockholm, they worked with real companies, to solve real problems. It has been wonderful.
- I am sure the camps will remain in their memories with the combo of everything. I have heard them say: Oh, this song! It’s a tradition to listen to this song in the morning on the RIBS camp! RIBS has given them more than knowledge.
Joanna, you will stay on Åland for a while and continue working for SKUNK, the Archipelago Youth Association. What made you choose that?
- I like how we work, how we improve the conditions for the youth. I feel we have the same values. I love the way SKUNK is organized. The young are the board. They decide what we are going to do. They can say things out load – and they are 13-14 years old! Adults in general have prejudges towards young people.
- After my Volunteer period, Skunk offered me the possibility to continue as a Youth Coach. I am delighted to have had that opportunity, mainly because I can still see the youth: they have taught me many valuable things even though they are younger.
I'm looking forward to this new period in my life, to see where it will take me, and of course, I am very grateful with IVY and RIBS, because without them this couldn't have been possible.
And I can just say “GOOD LUCK, Joanna!”, and “Lycky young people in SKUNK to have Joanna!”