Martin & Juraj. Fans of football and authentic laughter
Martin Vlček. (Un)conventional guy with an exceptionally good heart. Conventional because he goes to work, is currently renovating his house, likes to garden, go biking and hiking. Unconventional because he decided to give a piece of his free time to someone else. Martin has been a BUDDY volunteer for already three years. He became a role model, friend and mentor to Juraj – a child, who grew up in the Centre for children and families (former children’s homes). Martin will tell you why he chose this path, how he perceives the BUDDY program, what experiences and joys he went through with Juraj, but also about how they regularly spend their time together.
ABOUT HOW HELPING OTHERS COMES BACK TO YOU
I always wanted to do something that will make me feel good. Something that would be fulfilling and will help me spend my free time meaningfully. I have volunteered in the past. At first, I was helping to renovate technical antiquities, later while being a student at the university, I worked as a personal assistant to people with muscular dystrophy.
Eventually, I got employed in the IT sector, where I am still today. I was often frustrated from chasing after my work and spending my free time ineffectively. My wife noticed it and came with the idea of joining the BUDDY program. I didn’t hear about the program before and I didn’t have almost any experience working with children until that point. I started reading their blogs, watched a few videos and the idea of becoming a BUDDY volunteer intrigued me.
About the intesive beginings and powerful moments
Although the volunteer selection process is usually quite extensive, mine went a bit faster because Juraj had just lost his former volunteer and the BUDDY coordinators thought I would be the best candidate for his replacement. I completed all the necessary courses and participated in the introduction and matching weekend.
That was probably the most crucial moment of our friendship. For the first time, we spent more time together and engaged in various activities. I think that was the moment when we both realised that although we are from different environments and there is an age gap between us, we have a lot in common.
About building a friendship that lasts
Since then, we continue to meet on a regular basis. It is not always easy to coordinate but we see each other at least once a week. Those three years we’ve known each other brought us many exceptional moments. However, it is the most mundane moments that make me the happiest. From the unexpected hug after striking a goal to the sudden bursts of laughter.
Time that we spend together nowadays is like any other time spent between two friends. We go for walks, grab a snack or order pizza. Sometimes we even play football with other children or play boardgames.
I believe the time spent outside the institutional environment of the centre (former children’s home) benefits Juraj greatly. The BUDDY program connected our worlds and helped us build a long-lasting friendship. I believe I am a true friend to Juraj, someone, who he can always talk to and rely on.
About privacy, work and volunteering
I try to find a balance in our relationship and set clear boundaries. Not only with Juraj but also with his biological family. I divide my time between work, family and as a BUDDY volunteer. From the beginning, Juraj and the program has fulfilled all my expectations I had from this journey. I am happy that the time I give him is fulfilling not only for him, but also for me. Over the years, I am proud to see how a 13-year-old boy is slowly becoming a young adult, how his ideas and views of the world are changing. Of course, I hope that I have also been a positive influence in his life.
Martin Vlček is a real person, a real BUDDY volunteer. Juraj is a child, who grew up without parents, but we changed his name for the purpose of this blog to protect his privacy. All the emotions and joys of this BUDDY friendship are authentic and real. :)
The BUDDY program has been supported by the ACF program – Slovakia, which has been financed by the Financial mechanism EHP 2014-2021. Program’s administrator is the Ekopolis Foundation in partnership with the Open Society Foundation and Carpathian Foundation.