Even though my time spent in the IVHQ Naples afterschool program was short, it was absolutely worth it. I lived in a beautiful apartment in the center of the city with 11 other volunteers who I became very close friends with. When you take a group of people from all over the world who are experiencing a culture together and who have the common interest of being abroad and doing good, a deep bond is made very quickly. At the beginning I didn't know what to expect, but upon my arrival at the INN I was welcomed into the community of young people in different volunteer placements and at the end of each day looked forward to our dinners together and talks up on the terrace of our apartment, exchanging stories about our placements, the funny bits of Italian culture we experienced, and some deep conversations about travel and what we wanted to do with our lives.
The first weekend I was there we traveled as a group to the walk of the gods in Positano and then had a picnic on the beach, and the second weekend we swam in the crystalline waters of Gaiola! There is so much to see in the area, and you will have plenty of free time either before or after your placement, so I highly recommend you take advantage of it.
I also highly recommend the afterschool program, but would also advise prospective volunteers to have at least a basic knowledge of Italian before jumping into it. I have lived in Italy for a while and speak fluent Italian, and since the children don't have a good enough understanding of English to translate or want to translate, I was very grateful to know the language and it allowed me to make connections with the kids easily. The afterschool program is divided into three sections (ages 7-9, ages 9-11, ages 12-16) and the first few days were divided among these three sections, getting to know the kids and the afterschool teachers from each section. The program went from 3-7 and involved helping the kids with homework (I liked to play a game where I would write a word in English and then the kid would have to write the word in Italian and then dialect. The kids were excited to teach me their dialect, and I was happy to learn!), then a snack time (one little girl got particularly attached to me and made me sit next to her during snack time and share her panino every day), then various activities (games, dancing, arts and crafts). This was all run by the staff at the afterschool center, which took some of the pressure off of the volunteers and allowed us to sit with the kids and make connections rather than having to worry about being in charge. Future participants should know that it is normal in Italian culture to be very loud and expressive, and should expect a lot of noise during the program, as well as a fair amount of chaos. One of my favorite memories was distracting the most rambunctious kids in the group by having an arm wrestling competition. With this as a distraction, the troublemakers were having safe fun and the rest of the kids could focus!
The support at INN and IVHQ was wonderful, and I often interacted with the employees around the housing. I highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to live in the crazy city of Naples (yes it is dirty and loud, but I never once felt unsafe and made so many connections with workers in cafes, bars, and delis, and people I met on the street! Plus the city is cheap and the food is the best in Italy) and is willing to make an effort to integrate themselves into their placement. It is your participation and eagerness to be involved that determines your success in the program! This program impacted my life greatly by showing me that I want to work with kids and that I love Naples. In fact, I am thinking of studying pedagogy in Naples next year! I also gained some amazing friends from my fellow volunteers. I traveled with two of them after the program ended and soon will be going to visit another! For anyone considering this program, I beg of you please do it and throw yourself fully into the experience.