My name is Mike O’ Neill from Ireland and I’m 16 years old and in March 2022 I volunteered with IVHQ for 1 week in Lisbon in Portugal doing youth support. I decided to volunteer in Portugal as it is close to home for covid- 19 restrictions.
I went with a friend from school as we both wanted to make a difference in the world while seeing a new place. IVHQ was so helpful with pre departure information and there was someone always willing to answer any questions I had. IVHQ emailed me a 12 step process to help me prepare without forgetting anything. When we arrived in Lisbon we were collected by the organisation and brought to our accommodation. The accommodation was amazing as it was so clean, it had amazing food and everyone there was so friendly. I’ve never met people so kind and willing to help. On the 1st day we met 5 new people from Columbia, USA, England, Germany and Netherlands. We had free time on the 1st day so we all went for a walk and got to know each other. On the 2nd day we had orientation and we got to meet all the staff and all the volunteers. There were 14 nationalities. We got a presentation about the area and our volunteering programmes. We got all the tips when it comes to transport, food and money etc. After our presentation we all got tuk tuk tours around the city. After that we had free time and our friend group went out for Mexican food. At this stage we were all really good friends. The next four days myself and my friend Max we’re volunteering in a centre with underprivileged children teaching them maths, English, geography and history. We also got to do boxing with them in the boxing club. It was one of the most fulfilling times of my life and I felt like I’ve made an impact in their lives. In the evenings of the week about 8 of my friends and I went out for food and clubbing and really bonded. Myself and my friend decided to stay an extra 2 nights. On the weekends we have free time so on Saturday we all went out for breakfast and explored more of the city and went out at night and on Sunday I visited my cousins who live in Lisbon as my uncle is the Irish embassador to Portugal. It was very emotional leaving the following week as we had gotten to know everyone so well. It was the best holiday I’ve ever been on and I’ve made life long friends. In May I’m returning to Lisbon to visit some of the friends. And in July I’m meeting 2 other friends in NYC to catch up.
I can’t describe how amazing this trip was and it was a great cultural experience and personal growth.
I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves travelling and volunteering no matter your age.