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Aimee in UK Pendower

Aimee Zenit, from the Philippines, served for one year in Newcastle:

AimeeComing from a country (Philippines) where only two seasons exist – wet and dry, I can very well say that my volunteer year in the UK allowed me to experience and understand the significance of its four seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter. It all started with a deep yearning to respond to a lingering call from within – of doing something more than quite the ordinary. Comparably like going through the seasons, it took me four years to finally say “Yes” to leave my family, friends and career to join the AMA/ALVP. That is where I find myself now in the northeast of UK, in the Geordie land of Newcastle. For nearly a year now, it has always been a delight to work as a volunteer at the Pendower Good Neigbour Project, responding 24/7 to the needs of the Pendower community.

It was summer when I arrived in Newcastle on 31st of July, 2010 with Jannice, who would be my co-volunteer and later an honorary sister. That midnight, I met my first Geordie friend, Lee, who is also resident volunteer in the Project. As I entered my room, I was surprised to find a welcome package of sweets on my bed from a lovely lady named “Nan”. Such a welcome made me say, “The weather here up north may be too cold but the people are sincerely warm”.

As an organised but a bit impatient person, I began to worry during my first few weeks in the Project. I’ve always wanted to be in control about what I should do, forgetting that my primary purpose as a volunteer was “MORE OF BEING rather than OF DOING”. As I eventually immersed myself with the Project and the community, I realised that the challenge for me was to “be that presence that makes HOPE happen each day for someone.”

Autumn paved the way for me to widen my circle of friends. The dynamic nature of the Project plus a supportive supervisor, Ruth, allowed me to meet more people beyond Pendower – across various ages, gender, races and faith. They include my fellow Filipinos and my Portuguese-English friends. At this time, we also welcomed a new volunteer, Lubomir, from the Czech Republic. All these challenged me to be a gentle presence in each of them while appreciating more fully the principle of universality amidst diversity.

Winter proved to be the most challenging time for me both physically and psycho-spiritually. Although I frolicked in the snow, I also had to deal with being ill, homesick and doubts about seemingly complicated matters. Thanks to new friends and families, their solace and support served as my “home away from home”.

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” I did spring back to living my volunteer life more fully as I made the most out of every opportunity that later came to me. In addition to my daily routine in the Project, I also learned Nordic walking, explored nature and historic landscapes of England and Scotland, visited friends from various parts of UK, took part in a community research project, became a Change for Life champion, and had cups of coffee in town with a special friend named “Vanda”.

Looking back, I declare that God is good…all the time! This doesn’t mean though that my life here has been a bed of roses. I’d rather compare my volunteer year to a garden where God continues to “break the soil, take weeds out, segregate stones, plant seeds, water plants as they grow, prune and keep watch on them, ensuring that they bear real good quality fruits”. In all these came along the pain of breaking and pruning, the eventual joy of detachment, and surrendering everything to God, my Caretaker, and trusting that the journey I have as a volunteer continues to bear fruits that will nourish anyone who partakes in them.

Indeed, it’s all worth the wait. There is not a single thing that I regret for saying “Yes”. Through my volunteering, God surprised me with a lot more than what I expected or even far better than what I asked for. As we say in Filipino, “Maraming salamat!” (Many thanks!)