My name is Dora and I am a final year student of social pedagogy and a volunteer in Depaul Croatia. My first encounters with St. Vincent de Paul and the Haven House began nine years ago in a small hall under the chapel of St. Joseph, in the Convent of the Mother of Good Counsel in Rijeka (Frana Kresnika 15). Every Friday, young people gathered there – the Vincentian Marian Youth, who wanted to imitate the “yes” and the Vincentian way of helping the poor – by recognising the Lord in every person. Every week we enriched each other in creative workshops and meetings, and everything we made and sold was meant for our friends, the poor from the Haven House. Over time, the young people who gathered in that small hall grew up, found their way of life, but also changed the location of activities and meetings, some 200 m to the west – in the Haven House, Depaul Croatia, more directly continuing their work helping the poor. And I did it as well through volunteering.
Sometimes, as I walk along Rijeka’s “Korzo”, friends ask me how it is that I always greet someone. I respond to their astonishment by testifying about the Haven House, Depaul, and the people, the poor I meet there — my friends. They are – friends – although we think that at first glance there is a big difference between us. The more I meet them, the more I realise that there is no difference, but there is a need for acceptance, a smile, an outstretched hand or a plate of warm soup. Paradoxically, no matter how much I give of myself, they give me at least twice as much. Their Haven House became my House as well. And as it happens with houses, life in them is very interesting. After a while, it is known exactly who prefers coffee and who prefers tea, who likes to think in silence, and who has a lot to tell, who is in a hurry and who will take a nap after lunch. And when I am not in Rijeka for a long time, I still know that I can come and visit our House again. I know that he will greet me and say: “Here you are! When will you come again?” So who wouldn’t want to come back? Over time, a person forgets that he is a “volunteer” or someone with any title. Volunteer simply – becomes a friend.