In my case, it led an insecure girl with little travel experience to become a confident organiser and team manager. A girl with friends all across Europe and the wider world, part of a community.
Back in 2013, I worked with incoming EVS volunteers arriving in Russia, and my boss asked me to consider becoming a SALTO multiplier. I remember vividly how curious and anxious I was travelling on my way to my first SALTO event in Georgia.
Upon my arrival at Tbilisi airport, I was met by a very friendly and outgoing local host, who welcomed me by saying how Georgians are fond of Russians; that we should forget about political differences between us, and that I should feel welcome in Georgia. The story concluded just when our taxi turned from the airport highway onto a smaller street; I realised this was George W. Bush Avenue, passing to Lech Kaczynski Street. I already felt that this trip was going to be a great adventure.
Once we arrived at the hotel, I knew I was going to meet my soon-to-be-colleague Ruzanna, who’d been involved in Youth in Action and EVS work in Russia for quite some time, and was a top authority on European mobility programmes. I had never met her, and found the prospect quite intimidating, feeling as a total newcomer to the world of SALTO. I decided to approach Ruzanna during one of our coffee breaks and as I was getting my pitch together – and Ruzanna was getting her coffee – someone put on some music and Ruzanna casually broke into a samba. I then understood that SALTO was no ordinary community.
Over the years I have been through many emotional episodes with my SALTO colleagues and organisations I have met through the network, from almost literally witnessing babies being born, to people falling seriously ill in front of me. No matter how hilarious or how serious the events would get, I always drew strength knowing that my SALTO friends and colleagues were nearby and that we can rely on each other in all situations.