Middle of the Project: A time for self-reflection

Before reaching the top of Monte Faito

This is it. We are officially halfway through the project. We would be lying if we said that it isn’t a little bittersweet. This year has been such an emotional roller-coaster, fuelled by uncertainty and anxiety. The pandemic has had a strong impact on the way how things are getting done in 2020, and all we can do is to evolve and adapt to a “new normal”. Despite all the chaos in the world, we, M.A.R.E. 2020 team, have done amazing things that no virus can take away from us.

In this article, we wanted to share our thoughts and feelings we are dealing with at this time. It’s important for all of us, especially now, during a pandemic, to make time for self-reflection and remind ourselves how far we have come before continuing with the journey ahead.


It is hard to believe that half of the project is already over, time flies incredibly fast. So far it has been an amazing opportunity full of new experiences. Weighting all in my head, I would not choose to do anything else instead of this project in this period of time, I have a feeling that I am in the right place at the right time, despite everything that is happening in our world right now. I feel grateful for this chance in life, and I think I grew and matured significantly over these past months. Learning something new every day from each other is very valuable. I can say that each day brings us, volunteers, closer and we have become like a family with our own inside jokes and understandings, that sometimes does not require words. 

We all know that it is now a COVID time, and therefore, a lot of our project activities are restricted or cancelled at all this year, which is sad, but what keeps us going is our team. It is beyond belief, whenever I think about it, that we all live on this planet, and never know about the existence of each other, running busy through our own problems and everyday lives, and then one collision of mini-events brings us all together to share nine months of our lives with each other. To me, this is a very precious and important thing. 

I can say that I try to stay positive and appreciate every small thing that happens every day, this helps in these challenging times. Living by the sea is another thing that we are all blessed with. My heart is filled with gratitude and I am looking forward to the lockdown to be over, so we can all enjoy Italy a little bit more because this country is incredible! This quote by Giuseppe Verdi represents perfectly how I feel about Italy: «You may have the universe if I may have Italy». I want to experience as much as I can of it, and I don’t think I can ever get enough of this beautiful land!

Stay safe and positive, beautiful human beings! Hugs, Arina!

First time together in Regina Giovanna Bath, early July 2020


Time flies. I think it’s hard to understand this phenomenal concept until you experience it first-hand. Before coming to Italy, I had a feeling that this adventure will pass by faster than I can blink, and wow, was I wrong… Honestly, it’s so strange reminiscing on my time here, remembering the highs, lows and in between moments. Even though we still have four incredible months ahead of us, I’m beyond grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. I feel like I’ve discovered a new side of myself and I’m very keen to see how it evolves as time progresses.

Patience has always been one of my strongest virtues and now, while being in the middle of a pandemic, I’ve developed it even more. Yes, this definitely has been a challenging year for everyone and never in a million years did I expect my volunteering experience would turn out like this, but, through it all, we as a team have done incredible things and I’m so proud of us. Being surrounded by such amazing and kind people from all over the world has been a rewarding journey that I will cherish forever. Ragazzi, if you are reading this, you are amazing!

It doesn’t matter what I do – I can save little hatchlings, collect trash from the beach or raise awareness on marine litter – the fulfilment I find in helping those in need is incredible. It makes me feel human. Yes, I may not be solving problems globally, but I feel so good knowing that I’m doing my bit to make the world a better place and inspiring other along the way.

We traveled so much and never forgot our responsibilities


I still have the image of me hugging my father before boarding the plane. It happened like it was yesterday, well, more like 4 months ago. And what a journey it has been so far! Long story short, we kayaked, we hiked, we snorkeled, we dived, we explored, we helped preserve the environment, we saved someone’s life, we partied, and most importantly we discovered a small part of each other that we probably didn’t knew existed. Sometimes it was challenging to keep up, but it felt good learning new things. Sometimes it was tricky to handle what’s happening around us (i.e. a pandemic) but it felt good to find joy and have fun marine adventures while respecting the environment. And I guess that’s what the project is about. In the past 4 months, I had a lifetime share of memories, but I know that it will not stop there, and I will continue experiencing so many marvellous moments for the second half of this journey. Ci vediamo in 5 mese!

Trying Naples street food for the first time, late August 2020


Four months have passed since I arrived in Italy to start my M.A.R.E. project experience. I still remember the night I got to meet the team and mentors in person for the first time. Very welcoming and warm moment. Then came all the learning process… and I’m talking about not only the Ieranto work and how the MPA of Punta Campanella works, but also about the Italian language, culture and the places around. Looking back on time to those warm summer days, I can clearly remember the beautiful days in Ieranto, the turtle nesting in Cilento for 10 days, travelling around and living beautiful experiences and moments with all the elements of the project and with the ones that join us every now and then. I have very nice memories and I’m grateful for them. Now, in the middle of the lockdown, I feel that creativity is the key to make the project keep going since it changed a lot compared to previous years. But it’s ok! Let’s keep positive and safe!! That’s all I wish for you too!! Ci vediamo!!

Our little backyard paradise


After four and a half months of my ESC voluntary service, I want to share with you my favorite parts of the experience on which I am very grateful to the whole team of project M.A.R.E.

Big thanks to the M.A.R.E. because It gave me an opportunity to:
Experience life close to the sea;
Learn about the marine environment, kayak, snorkel, and see the octopus for the very first time in my life;
Create and nourish our own garden, grow a bunch of bietola and make delicious meals with it;
Experience ”slow life” which gave me time to spend more energy on cooking and taking care of my health; reading and watching movies in Italian;
learn about the Italian, Latvian, Hungarian, Tunisian, Spanish, French, Portuguese culture and have space to share mine;
Explore Sorrento peninsula and its natural and cultural beauties;
Build close relationships with other volunteers and mentors;
Improve my Italian and English;
Work on my communication skills.

Ragazzi/e thank you for all the internal jokes, serious and less serious life advices, shared cookies, soups, songs and motivation! The only part of the project which is lacking for now and due to the Covid-19 circumstances we are not able to carry out is educational activities with children and being more close to other people. I hope it will be possible in the future so we can spread the main values of our project.

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We cooked and enjoyed so many delicious meals together


Last November 15 we reached half of the project and in these four and a half month time has flown by, it seems like yesterday when we were still going to work in Ieranto, it was hot, the days were long and ultimately the precious summer was with us. This year is being different for many reasons, especially caused by Covid-19, such as the fact that we are in lockdown right now in the entire Campagna region but even so I couldn’t imagine that I would spend a whole day of lockdown in a kayak or cooking with my friends or enjoying the cultural nights, if it is true that it is a somewhat difficult year for everyone but at least here we live in a small bubble far from reality, without television, without much reading of the media and of course having each other which is the most important thing. Therefore I can conclude that until now (half of the project) everything has gone wonderfully, I have met invaluable people, I have carried out activities that I had only dreamed of before and I find myself in a clearing within the storm that 2020, unfortunately, is being.

Always having productive office days


Time passes by hastily till we reached the halfway… Different profiles from different countries gathered in one place for one reason which is maintaining the sustainability of the project MARE in a small fascinating place so called IERANTO. It’s quite surprising what we have done so far, finishing summer season with good results, gaining life experience filled with a bunch of new things, memorable moments with such a great team. By the same token we have been also a part of an amazing experience which is “turtles rescue”. At the same time, we were framed by great mentors, they gave us the opportunity to dive deep into the Italian culture.

Each of these stages, positions made an important contribution to our understanding of project MARE. We are still in the halfway, there are a lot of things waiting to be done, places to be discovered and memories to be made… I couldn‘t be more thankful.

A day to remember – after spending less than 2 hours in kayaks, we collected ~43,44 kg of trash, early October 2020


Bonjour! Apparently, we are already halfway of the project! I have the feeling it just started… No wait that is because, for me, it actually just started. I am very thankful to the team because I feel like I was here since the beginning. I did not go through all their ups and downs so I might be lost sometimes but I progressively learn about us. I say US because while learning about each of them, while seeing how different we all are from each other, while living and working together 24/7, I also discover more about myself. This project is as much a challenge as an incredible experience. I am learning a lot whether on a personal or professional level. Knowing that I still have 4 months in front of me makes me quite curious of who will be the Margot after the project. One sure thing is that the Mediterranean thought me to pay attention to underwater details. As It looks all pink from a broader perspective the colours appear while getting closer. Maybe we can take it as a lesson and while in the life we have a first impression it sometimes worth it to look at the details to understand the real picture.

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Reminiscing about warmer days at the magnificent Bay of Ieranto