Summer special

Return full of experiences and motivation

Natalia Bezhanishvili (20) is from Georgia and works as a volunteer for Grüne Liga Berlin. She supports the IGA-Campus, an environmental education programme at the International Garden Exhibition in Berlin.
Natalia Bezhanishvili private Natalia Bezhanishvili

Why did you choose to volunteer with an environmental organisation?
Actually, during the first six months, I started as a volunteer somewhere else. But I think my first host organisation was not prepared for a volunteer, and I decided to change the workplace and asked my coordinator for help. I chose Grüne Liga Berlin, because they were planning a huge and interesting project, the IGA-Campus 2017. In Georgia, I participated in an environmental organisation called CENN – Caucasus Environmental NGO Network – which I joined in 2013. That is why I always wanted to get experience in this field abroad. I am studying business management, but in my free time, I enjoy being outdoors, and I love climbing and hiking. So I find environmental protection very important. Together with a friend, I also founded a start-up called Mzelandia. It is a new hiking club with which we plan to run tours in the Caucasus. One of the objectives is to get people excited about nature. I think if people experience nature and its beauty, they will protect it and not damage it.

What kind of challenges did you face in Germany?
As I mentioned, I changed my host organisation, which was not easy at all. Fortunately, I received a lot of help from some very friendly people, even though there were language barriers. Sometimes, I thought I was alone with my problems but talking to other volunteers helped me a lot. Thirteen months are a long time, and I miss everything and everybody in my homeland. But I am doing all these things in the hope of building a better future. And I think difficulties are challenges, which help me become stronger.

What kind of lessons are you learning at your workplace?
I remember the day I first saw the site where the IGA-Campus is located today. It was an empty space, and I couldn’t imagine that several months on, we would have such a beautiful garden with so many buildings. It is a great experience to work in a team with professionals. I am not afraid of big projects anymore. I think if I have to do something big in the future, I will be more organised. I have also met many volunteers from different countries, and we spend a lot of time together. Despite being born on different continents and coming from different cultures, we have become one big international family. We love each other, and I realise that borders are irrelevant if you are in contact with people. 

Based on your experience here, is there anything that Georgia can learn from Germany and vice versa?
It is the reason I am in Germany! Environmental protection means a lot to people here, and they realise how important it is. Government and population work well together for better standards. I like the way German families enthusiastically separate their waste. Georgia has just started all this and is learning a lot. We have beautiful nature in my country, and people are starting to realise it is a big gift.

Do you already know what you will do when you go back to your home country?
First, I will finish university. I also have several ideas in my mind. I want to renovate an old bus, for example, and convert it into a small library and café and screen movies at night. I would like to take it to high mountain regions and give people –especially young people – in the villages an opportunity to have a good time. I would also like to film my work and show the result publicly, to inspire others to do good. But I still need to get funding to realise this idea.

What will you take home?
I am happy to be here and will go home full of experiences and motivation. Being away from my home country has changed my perspective. I have become stronger, and I wish to contribute to Georgia’s development. Germany has shown me many ways I can do that. 

What would you say to other volunteers coming to Germany?
Despite the difficulties I faced as a volunteer, volunteering has many positive aspects. First of all, it helps us to develop personally and professionally. So it is a valuable opportunity. Each individual’s personal development also helps our countries evolve in a positive way. However, it is important to read our contracts carefully, and if we realise something isn’t going as it should, we should inform our mentors. They will help if they can.


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