Santa comes from Georgia with a pack full of motivation

Imagine the most perfect pictures ever - a beautiful beach with the marvelous view of the Black Sea, the breathtaking Caucasian mountains in the background, the perfect melody of river Mtkvari’s small waves... Many beautiful lakes all around… That is the country where every little thing whispers to you to tell you his story; a country that is always in my dreams and is my everything. That is my wonderful land - GEORGIA.

And so it happened one day. After a long period of thinking and rethinking every possibility over and over again, I finally got my strings together, I’ve decided to take my chances and to dive myself into a new experience called volunteering. I chose Romania. Why? I could not give an answer to that question now as I couldn’t then, but I felt the excitement in my bones and I knew that from this point on the things will never be the same for me again. That feeling was enough for me to keep me moving and go through all those procedures to get my visa and start my life over again, in some other place that I’ve never been at, with some other people that I didn’t know.
It was the first time that I was living alone. So you can imagine that experience - it was really difficult of course. I could not speak Romanian and also my English was very basic. My native language - Georgian (maximum 5M people speak that language) is totally different from any other language, so before I came I already knew that I could not use my native language as a basic to learn these other two languages. Ok, I can say that I start as a volunteer without language but with a huge motivation. And now, after all this experience that I’ve gained here, I can also say that the motivation of one is more important than any language barrier, because that is the only thing that keeps you moving forward and not giving up. Trust me – in the end it is all worth it.

Whit the coming in Romania I found out that I’ve made a great decision with the election of the project. For me, in my project the most important goal is to make the children happy. I worked in kindergartens, schools and in hospitals with children between the ages of 3-15 years old. Well, I am sure that you all know that being around children requires lots of attention, creativity and hard work. But all of this made this project not waste of time, but learning how to deal with different kinds of situations. Also we were lucky enough to get the best team ever. We had many problems, some of them really difficult, some of them not so much… It was challenging to live and work with 20 different people from 16 different countries but I think we did a very good job with this journey. And after few mounts of storms and cultural crashes, we are still together. I can say that together these days for us means a great team with a huge power.

Who am I here? Just Dato Odikadze from Georgia… The scariest fact that I had to face and that only I knew was that I was alone and my name meant nothing in this country. If I wanted help I could count to one person for sure - to myself, because here I didn’t have my family, friends or a single person that I know. If I wanted something I had to do it myself. For me everything was different, strange, but nice to explore me for change and to discover this me-person better. I’ve started with observing everything around me, including my life in different ways. I started to create my Present and my Future alone. But the greatest thing was that they were just mine and I was the only creator. It’s looks pretty difficult process to pass but interesting for sure. Now when I compare what kind of person am I, what power I have alone and what I can create without the help of anyone, comparing to the “lost” person that I was when I came here, scared to be without his circle of friends and family, I am very proud of myself and in the same time very grateful that life put the strings in a way I could catch this opportunity. I’ve had only one job to do - to put my biggest motivation in my backpack and take the plane to Bucharest.

With this kind of attitude I’ve started to be a real volunteer. It was a challenging adaptation process for me but I had all the support of many Romanian people from my organization. But also the fact that I knew that 19 more people are going through more or less the same thing was comforting. It was really nice to work with other kind of people, with all of their specific characters and cultural marks. It was and it still is really nice. Before I came from Georgia here, in Romania, everyone warned me that I will have a culture shock but I did not had any big problems or I did not feel strange in this circle of people. Maybe it’s because of my character, or my flexibility skills but who cares, I was there and I was more than happy to live in this multi-cultural family.

The winter came bringing all her whiteness behind her. What are you supposed to expect from winter? 99% of the people will answer now – cold weather, snow, shorter days ecs., but mine huge expectation was Christmas, the happy faces and positive energy. Taking into consideration the fact that Christmas in my country is on 7th January and Georgian’s most popular Holiday is New Year, for me 25th December was not so important from that point of view. But in another way it was one of the most important days in my life because in our project we had a Christmas campaign for the children in hospitals and rural areas, so we bring a reason more for them to forget at least for a while where they are and to smile on this day. We’ve started to collect toys from the caring parents of the children from the kindergartens and schools in our program. We were very, but very happy because we had the chance to participate in this huge event and be in Santa’s shoes for one day. Before Christmas we saw all our collected toys. They were in one big room until the top of it. To be honest, when I saw this I couldn’t believe my eyes. I guess people need just one touch of motivation to be noble and generous. Imagine what can happen if you work on this in a long term. Finally we made the teams for Christmas campaign and we had two Santa for each group - me and Rafa from Spain. So I was literally in Santa’s shoes. I had the privilege to give them the presents with the toys, sweets, books and what no inside of the packages and to see that small faces happy and excited. I hope I’ve been a nice Santa for them. We sang songs and made some activities in hospitals for them and with a paper snowflakes and lots of positive energy and people we all together celebrated the Christmas day.

Bradet – the rural area where we also do our program was included in the Christmas campaign as well. Getting up at five o’clock in the morning just go there and beating the rock out of my laziness was definitely a nice victory. In Bradet are children who don’t have parents and live all together as a big family. They are all the time together. They teach each other how to live and help each other with everything. If no one ever thought to be there for them and never tried to help them maybe they would’ve felt isolated and that no one out there cares for them. So I’m glad that we went to visit them. They already knew us and were very happy to see us. We’ve made some nice activities for and with them, played some music and sang Christmas carols, made balloons and Santa, me, gave them presents. Each of them told me a poem as a return-present. It was a really nice feeling. I felt like a real Santa. Even now when I think of these moments my heart melts from that mixture of emotions that I felt back then.

After this campaign I am able to recognize what I’ve done during the project and to realize what I was making in that day. It was a huge thing - a BOOM for me and a BOOM of attention and love for the children. I am not even able to describe it using words – you have to feel it so you can know it. I believe that each person has a mission during his stay on the Earth and now I feel that maybe I found what my mission is all about. One thing is for sure, I will continue to do the same. When you see children dancing, when you see their happy faces - in these moments you feel that you are making something nice, something good and you don’t want that this moment ever ends. You are getting more motivated and more energetic to keep doing what you’re doing, having the gift to see same faces happy and beautiful all the time. This is what I feel in that moment and I will never forget that feeling ever.

Like that we finished the Christmas campaign – a huge success. I was really happy, but I got very bad news from Georgia. A person witch I loved a lot, which was my everything, my grandfather got Trombone and he was in hospital. I spoke with my family and they told me about his bad condition and that they are waiting for him to die in every moment. It was… ? After New Year I went back in Georgia to see my grandfather. I made a huge mistake! I wanted to remember him like I knew him before – a happy, clever man that has all the wisdom inside within him ready to pass it to me. But when I saw him like that, he was in very bad condition and now I will have these images of this different grandfather with me all the time. It breaks my heart each time I think of it, each time I remember… After one horror week I went back in Romania and it was very difficult for me because I didn’t want to put anyone in a bad mood because of me or my emotions to influence and transfer to the work with the children. With children you always have to put your own problems away and to give the best of you to them. So I’ve done everything possible to don’t show them my problems – they are mine and I berried them deep inside of me, so I hope that I succeed with this.

Language barrier- what is that? Don’t you know that everyone smiles in the same language. Cultural differences? Just be friendly, positive, motivated and love the project that you are choosing. Like this each problem will be a piece of cake. You want to be volunteer somewhere? Don’t take anything special, just take motivation with you and you will be the best volunteer ever. You will get the chance to feel all that I’ve felt and if you allow yourself – even more. With love and volunteering you can give and get the best presents in your life that you could not even imagine that existed. Volunteering!!! You have to know the meaning of this word because it is more than just a word. It is something more essential. It’s to give and get happiness and the only way to know it, is to feel it! Dare!