My name is Genevieve Richards. I am an Australian who volunteered at Grasi for a month in July 2010. After seeing that Grasi has started up an English-language blog, I jumped at the opportunity to tell my story!
Volunteering at Grasi was such an enriching experience – it gave me the chance to learn about a whole new culture, history and language, see the world through someone else’s eyes, and I hope, helped all the children at Grasi have a great summer, and gave their carers at least a little breathing space!
I was provided a cozy bedroom in a large and well equipped apartment in the nearby village Cesvaine. I shared the apartment with Marilyn, a French student undertaking an internship at Grasi. Cesvaine is a great little town, boasting a beautiful castle built in the Tudor Neo-Renaissance style and set in large gardens.
I was kindly lent a pushbike for my stay, which I rode to the village every morning down a beautiful country road. I loved watching the stalks in their nests, admiring the hand-made haystacks dotting the landscape, and waving to the friendly locals. Sandra and the gang made me feel at home straight away, and soon I was learning basic Latvian vocabulary for all the important sentences, such as “es krāsoju !” (“I’m colouring in!”) and “Nikita, ko tu dari?! (“What are you doing, Nikita?!).
The Russian fires across the border led to a heat wave in Latvia (which suited me, an Australian, just fine!). The children were on school holidays, and the hot weather meant they couldn’t do as much playing outside as they would have liked. Instead, I read them stories (in English and French, and sometimes in Latvian!), brushed their hair, played the piano with them, played cards, and with Alina, lots and lots of colouring in. We coudl also go outside to play on the equipment and fed the donkey and goats, if we wore our hats!
Marilyn and I supervised some berry-picking and consequent jam-making, which was appreciated by all.
I had such a fantastic, informative and heart-warming experience at Grasi, and I hope to return in the near future to see how everyone has grown!