From Chile to Lviv: Meet Humanitarian Aid Volunteer Nicolás
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October 17, 2023

From Chile to Lviv: Meet Humanitarian Aid Volunteer Nicolás

Following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Nicolás felt a deep connection with the people of Ukraine, and flew all the way from Chile to Ukraine to volunteer. Now in Lviv, he is having the best time of his life and doesn’t want to go home! Read about Nicolás and his inspiring experience of volunteering below.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your life in Chile?

I am Nicolás and I am from Chile. I am 32 years old and I am a quiet person. I like to meet with friends and family, play padel tenis, ride bicycle, play the guitar and spend time with my cat. In my professional life, I am an economist. I work in the financial area for an online medicine company. Before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, this was my life, just doing these things.
Humanitarian Aid Volunteer Nicolás from Chile, Santiago

Can you tell us what motivated you to volunteer in Ukraine?

When the full-scale invasion of Ukraine happened, I felt a very big connection with Ukraine, I don’t know why, and that is what I am trying to discover here. The connection was so strong and so big that I decided to learn about the culture, the country in general terms, the food, the weather, etc, and I realized, Wow, Ukraine is fantastic! 

I tried to help Ukraine in whatever way I could, but I felt that is not enough, that need to do something else, so I decided going to Ukraine. I want to help there, let’s do it, but at that moment it was just an idea, a waste of time if I did not buy my ticket. Not so much time after that, I bought my ticket, and once when I had it, I thought, Let’s do this, let’s go to Ukraine. I started to look for information on the best way to get to Ukraine – by train, bus, etc.

Right now with lot of proud I can say I’m in Ukraine!. I Still have some days here and I already want to come back.

So in general, are you enjoying volunteering? What emotions are you experiencing?

Absolutely! I enjoy every day volunteering in the kitchen. I have a lot of emotions - I have to say I am an emotional person, and when I am in the kitchen, all my colleagues are very amazing people and the environment is very beautiful. The Ukrainian people working there too, they are very nice people. Sometimes I try to practice Ukrainian with them and it’s nice when they notice that I can speak a little bit of Ukrainian.

I have no words to describe it because it is something very special for me because I really wanted to come here. Now here at the kitchen, I could not be happier. This is the best experience I have ever had. I feel my heart full of love. The people I have met, the volunteers, the Ukrainian people, they are awesome. I feel a lot of love here and this is what I want to do. I would love to have more days here but I have to go back to Chile, however I will be back here soon for sure.

You speak very good Ukrainian. How did you learn? Was it difficult?

When the full-scale war started, I began to learn Ukrainian, starting with lessons with a very nice Ukrainian teacher who lives in Santiago, Chile. She told me, Nico, I have a lot of students from different countries, but I think your case is kind of special because you learn fast, you listen and communicate well and have good pronunciation. I felt very happy when she said this to me. After that, I kept learning and trying some apps to learn the language where you can practice with people in real time. The key is just practice, practice, practice. I watched some videos whenever I could and stuff like that. I think that the Ukrainian language is a very beautiful one. It sounds very melodic, but I need to keep learning, so it is a nice a challenge.

Chile is a long way from Ukraine. How was your journey?

It was a little tiring trip, but despite the many hours, it was not too bad. First I took a plane from Santiago in Chile to Barcelona, then I took another plane from Barcelona to Kraków. Then I took a train from Kraków to Przemysl and finally a train from Przemysl to Lviv. 

How did you find where to volunteer in Lviv?

First of all I looked on the internet for volunteering activities before going to Ukraine. I like cooking and a friend told me about a volunteer organization where you can cook and prepare meals for the soldiers, so I started looking on the internet and I found the VolunteeringUkraine website. I also watched a video on YouTube from a guy that visited Lviv kitchen and I thought, Yes! That’s what want to do! So I started writing to people that were volunteering, I also talked to you (Dariia), to gather all the information, such as whether I needed to buy insurance, or bring extra documents, websites to buy train tickets,everything that comes to my mind.

Currently being here I can say that the people at Lviv Kitchen are amazing and the environment is amazing too. We all have the same goal: to help Ukraine till victory.

Everything you have said is so positive. Did you face any challenges volunteering in Ukraine?

Everything is very positive and I have no negative things to say. I think the big challenge is the language, but fortunately here in Lviv some people speak English.too. I think maybe in the east not so many people speak English, but here in the west, if you go to some places you can find people that can communicate in english. Anyway I always try to speak Ukrainian. 
Humanitarian Aid Volunteer Nicolás from Chile, Santiago

Have you tried any other volunteering opportunities?

I have also tried making camouflage netting, and that was good too. I know that there are opportunities to help animals. I really like animals, but I think maybe this might be sad for me. Also there is some building opportunities as well. I definitely want to come back to keep helping Ukraine.

As this is your first time in Ukraine, you may have noticed some cultural differences. What do you think are the most interesting ones?

First of all, I really like the traditional clothes, the vyshyvanka. I think the vyshyvanka is very beautiful and I have bought one for myself. I also love that the Ukrainian people love the vyshyvanka and have a day to celebrate it. Another cultural thing that is not very common in Chile is that when you enter a house, you take off your shoes. I think this is a good practice because shoes can be very dirty! I also always see people together here. I don’t know if it’s because of the war time that it’s like this, but I feel that people are generally very close. 

You mentioned that you like cooking; what’s your favourite Ukrainian dish?

I like borsch a lot. I also like varenyky (dumplings), salty and sweet, and deruny, grated potato pancakes. I like the sour cream too, (smetana). In general, the food is delicious and definitely I have more Ukrainian dishes to try.

If someone wants to volunteer in Ukraine but feels afraid, what would you recommend to them?

That’s a good question. I would totally recommend to take the opportunity because it’s wonderful, beautiful work that you can do here, and you can go to Lviv or another cities. Fortunately, Lviv is now a safer city. Of course there is always a risk, but the situation between the west or here Lviv and the east of Ukraine its very different, and I decided to come to Lviv for this reason. I am not afraid of the war but you must be responsible at all times. You need to know where the closest shelters are in case of bombs, follow the rules, follow certified channels on Telegram, because fortunately now all the potential attacks are under control and you can watch drones flying around in real time, so you know what the situation is and you have time to react if there is an emergency here. Maybe in other cities in the east, which are very close to Russia, the reaction time is not the same. 

Believe me, if you are thinking in coming here to help, do it! You won’t regret at all. I came here with the purpose of helping, and I have found amazing, beautiful people and a beautiful city too. So, I would say, Don’t think about it, just do it. Ukraine needs help and together we can make a big difference. 

If you are inspired by Nicolás’ story and would like to volunteer in Ukraine, you will be welcomed with open hands and hearts. You can find out about a wide range of volunteering opportunities here.

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