Maria Hambarliyska and Mariela Padeva, volunteers at Caritas Vitania (Bulgaria) during the Caritas Europa Regional Conference 2018 in Georgia - Picture: Courtesy of Caritas Bulgaria

Georgia – a country that is still trying to get rid of the horrors from its past, a country where three churches – the Catholic, the Assyrian-Chaldean and the Armenian – exist together side by side. In the heart of its capital city – Tbilisi, among the gray and fast way of living, and surrounded by hardships and misfortunes of life, beats one big heart – the heart of Caritas that gives love and care to those who need help.

The 2018 Caritas Europa Regional Conference took place there under the motto ‘Youth. Solidarity. Europe.’ About 150 people (presidents, directors, staff members, volunteers, etc.) from all Caritas organizations in Europe took part in it.

All these people put aside their differences, prejudice and language barriers and became one huge family, united by their faith and led by God’s love, compassion and care for the ones in need. For three days they continuously shared their experience and exchanged ideas about creating ‘Young Caritas’ whose center are the young people – Europe’s present and future. “There is fire in young people. It just needs to be lit.” Those were the words of Paul Galles (Young Caritas Luxembourg) during the opening session of the conference.

Young people need attention, a place where they can express themselves. They need to feel like they belong to a certain community. They long for independency but at the same time they have to learn how to be interdependent. This was one of the main points of discussion on the Creation of ‘Young Caritas’ matter. Another main point was how to attract more youngsters to become part of the Caritas’ family, to be volunteers and to use their talents and skills to help the people who are in need the most.

All participants had the chance to share their ideas and experience with the others. Along with this, our kind hosts from Caritas Georgia showed us from up close what some of their projects are – from care for the sick, food and clothes distribution, to care for children from problematic families. All of us became witness of the incredible things they do for them, of the attention and the efforts they make.

The alternative programme we had the chance to participate in, was about meeting the people of Tbilisi, communicating with them, tell them about Caritas’ essence and mission. With the help of the Caritas Georgia volunteers and despite the rain we succeeded in awaking a spark of interest in the hurrying citizens by handing out brochures, book marks, lemonade and balloons with Caritas Georgia’s logo on them.

At the end of each day we had the chance to touch, feel and see Georgia’s culture, cuisine, customs and folklore dances, but most importantly, we took part in rare events such as the Assyrian-Chaldean and the Armenian liturgies.

“Most of you said that you come from very small Caritas organizations. This is not true. There is no such thing as ‘small’ Caritas. Every Caritas organization is big.” – said Msgr. Luc Van Looy, the president of Caritas Europa, during the closing session of this year’s conference. I believe all of us agree with this because it is not the size and the numbers that are important, but the actions, the efforts and the results.

I am truly grateful for having taken part in this conference and for witnessing once again the power of the meaning ‘love and care in the name of others’.

And in conclusion I would like to add that when you help some other person beside yourself, it brings you inner peace and true happiness that bring a sense of warmness in your heart. The joyful smiles on people’s faces and the happy tears in their eyes, the feeling that you have brought even a single ray of sunshine into the gloomy everyday life of someone else, all of these things are the best award for a volunteer.

You can read the story in Bulgarian here.

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