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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Interviews with the volunteers

Below are the interviews I conducted with all the volunteers in our group. They will be, perhaps even already have been, posted on the website of Frere des Hommes, one of the sponsoring organizations of our project. It was extremely interesting to interview everyone. Even though I had known them for about two weeks at that point, I learned different things. Also, I "translated" their English, or French, into readable English, but also not wanting to overtranslate or lose the sense of their own th0ughts. And now, Benedicte or Azalee will tranlate it all into French! (So, in some cases, from French to English and then back to French.) There will also be photos of all of us and the process of making the mosaic. Benedicte and Azalee already assembled displays which we used at our final presentation to the community last Friday., which I will describe next.


i yoon Yeo , Seoul , Korea
23, student,French

I chose this program because I wanted to go to Paris. I am interested in art. I knew the program was about mosaics, but I didn’t know it was in a neighborhood
( cité.) I think the project is really wonderful, and I am glad to be here.

Natalya Kalmykova, Moscow, Russia
32, professional designer

I came because it was a mosaic project. I knew from the description that it was in a ghetto area. I thought the project would be good for the local people. I have visited Paris before and done a lot of sightseeing , so that wasn’t my real interest. I wanted to share my professional experience with people in the community and with other volunteers. I have been the director, for five years , of the Russian agency that is the counterpart to organizations like the sponsoring agencies here in France. I think that Giselle (the professional mosaicist working with the group) is great. She is really committed and helpful. We communicate really well even though I don’t speak any French and she doesn’t speak any Russian or English.

Laurent Calligrafi
25, Amiens, France, community organizer

I was trained as an engineer, but decided that I wanted to do community organizing . I was trained as a group leader a few months before this project. This is my second project as a volunteer leader. Freres des Hommes suggested I lead this group because I was familiar with the two main organizations sponsoring the project. I am very interested in learning about group dynamics. I think the group relations have to be positive in order for the project to go well. When we have had problems in our group people have been very honest about expressing their feelings. We have discussed things like who is responsible for what, and if the leaders should have more responsibility than the other volunteers.

Pablo Fernandez
20, Zaragoza, Spain, student, law and economics

This is my second volunteer project. Last summer I worked in Spain excavating a Roman village. Most of the volunteers were Spanish, and the others were French. I chose this project because I want to learn some French and wanted to visit Paris. I visited here once before, but when I was only five years old. This project caught my attention because even though I am a student of law and economics, I am interested in art. And I wanted to meet people from other places. I think things are going well. Some people are really very motivated, and they help me to feel motivated. Everyone is sharing everything, which is really impressive.

Irene Villarroya
20, Zaragoza, Spain, nursing student
Pablo and I came together. For me, Paris was the main attraction . The idea of the mosaic work also appealed to me, and the learning process involved. I also wanted a chance to practice my French. The project is different than I expected. Though the work is quite tiring, it’s also really interesting. But I wish we were more involved in the community.

Jihye Lee
20, Kyungi, Korea

I wanted to join an international group and learn about different cultures. I found out about these programs on the internet. I wanted to do something with arts or with kids, because I really like children. I have been travelling through several countries and will go home after being in Paris. I wanted to do a camp in London, but it didn’t work out. I also really wanted to come here to Paris. In the past I have been so impressed by beautiful things like the stained glass in cathedrals. Now I have had the chance to learn similar things and realize that I have the ability to do artistic things too. The project has been really meaningful and interesting. I may not have a chance to do something like this again, so I feel really lucky.

Miryam Achthoven
21, Amsterdam, Netherlands, History student

All my friends had plans to travel this summer, so I needed to think of something to do on my own. I wanted to participate in some kind of group. A friend had told me about her experience volunteering.for a work project. She had had a wonderful time. My first choice was this project, but it was already full. So I signed up to volunteer at a festival in Spain. Three days before I was supposed to leave home, I found out that the festival had been cancelled. Luckily, the volunteer organization let me into this project after all. I guess maybe it was just meant to be ! The mosaic work is even better than I expected. I thought we would just be repairing old mosaics. I really like that we have been involved in the whole process, from collecting the thoughts of the residents through creating the design. I like working with Giselle and the people in the group. The work has been very satisfying. Sometimes is very tiring working with so many people and never having any time alone, but in general it has been really great.

Joanna Liss
58, Beverly, Massachusetts, US, teacher and international exchange coordinator

I have been interested in international travel since I was a teenager, and have continued to travel as often as I can. This is my sixth volunteer project, and my second one in Paris. I have volunteered in Thailand, Romania, Peru, and Ukraine as well as here. Volunteering is a wonderful way to learn about a community from a different perspective than that of a tourist. And though I am usually quite a bit older than the other volunteers, I really enjoy their energy and committment, and feel I have a lot to learn from them.
I started looking at the project listings the day they came out in March, and as soon as I saw this one I knew it was the right one ! The combination of an arts project and Paris was something I couldn’t say no to. I was excited to learn something about mosaic techniques, and I loved the idea of doing so in a community setting. Working with the group has been great, we have a wonderful combination of backgrounds and talents. I am also really taken with the parallels between doing the mosaic as a collaborative process, and living together as a group. Laurent, for instance, is our group peacemaker, always trying to bridge the gaps and help people respect and understand each other. On the mural he makes sure the panels fit together in terms of color and design, while the rest of us work elbow to elbow on parts of the picture, fitting our separate pieces into the section.
Giselle is a pleasure to work with. She gives us guidance and also knows how to encourage our own creativity. Each day we rotate places on the mural, so that it is truly a collaborative effort. I hope that we are able to involve people from the community in the process of assembling the mural, perhaps by working outside for a day or more, so that it is something that they have contributed to rather than just something we have made for them. But it any case, I think it is going to be beautiful !

Nune Mnoyan , 18, Art student, Yenevan, Armenia

I am an art student, and so I wanted to do an art project. I also liked the idea of living with and getting to know people from all over the world. And, I wanted to go to France. I was familiar wih volunteer camps from my sister, who had heard about the idea from friends. When I saw the listing for this project, I knew i twas the right one for me. I have never worked with mosaics before and am really enjoying learning how to do it. I am also glad we are two groups living together, because I am getting to knoz many different people, and even though it is crowded at our apt. it is also really fun.

Marina Philippe,
18, would like to be tile layer apprentice

I go to a bar in Deauville called Seafoam. It’s not a bar where they serve alcohol. They have all kinds of activities, and last year they made a fresco of sea animals that I worked on. They also have a place where people from many different places, like Africa and Asia, come and bring products from their countries. They also have all kinds of activities like cooking classes there. I took a course called laughing yoga .
It is really interesting to be with people from around the world. Also, it’s great to work with glass tiles. I worked with ceramic tiles at Seafoam. Glass is more expensive, but it is more beautiful and easier to work with. It is less thick, and easier to cut.

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