“Even after two years, I often catch myself reflecting on my time in Orion as a volunteer. Whilst I could ramble on about what I learnt and did during the two-month stint there, it seems more appropriate to showcase the altruistic and vibrant characters of both the adults and the children who brought my experience in Orion to life.
On the first evening of my arrival, Nastya pulled me out of my room to play card games, to chase the cat around, to cook pelmeni together. The bubbly teen didn’t hesitate to befriend the foreign stranger and gave me the warm and energetic welcome which would put me in good stead for my time there. Over the next two months, Nastya and her good friend Sonya would become to me what felt like little sisters. We’d go for evening walks around the village, cycle to the lake, cook pancakes together – whilst I was supposed to be looking after them, it often felt like the opposite.
Nadya, Sergei, Katya and Caroline (a former volunteer) provided detailed insights into the workings of the village and safely guided me through the two months, answering countless questions over countless cups of tea, whilst providing a safe and judgement-free zone for improving my Russian. Not only (foster-)parents, but also teachers of the village school, and builders and maintainers of Orion, their energy and devotion are of levels I still can’t quite grasp.
In the evenings, after a day of picking berries, ironing sheets and painting walls, I’d hang out with Zhenya and Vanya which gave me the occasional break from the Russian language and made for great company as we mindlessly discussed various topics over more tea and biscuits.
Finally, Olga the beloved chef of Orion. Olga and I spent countless days in the kitchen together, peeling potatoes, washing carrots and making pizza. The kitchen became my place of solace whenever I was feeling overwhelmed and needed a break, because Olga never failed to brighten the mood with chitchat and gossip.
These are just a handful of people who made my experience at Orion so unique and lively. I had signed myself up to run the Bath half marathon just a few months prior to arriving, but was struggling to find a cause that would motivate me to wake up in the morning and train in the 5-degree winter months. From the descriptions of just the few characters I met, I hope it’s clear why it was a no-brainer to fundraise for Ecologia. These weren’t characters who entered and exited my life after I left Orion – Nastya and I continue to send each other the odd message, despite my deteriorating Russian. Ecologia not only gave me an experience for a life, but also friendship.”