Santiago de Compostela

European Voluntary Service – Shaping personalities through volunteering?

More than 100.000 young people have done a European voluntary service in another European community in the last 21 years. They learn another language, benefit to the development of the community and experience an intensive cultural experience. For 10 months I was one of them, this is what I experienced.

Working with children, handicapped or elderly people or in an environmental project – there are many different projects to apply to. I volunteered in a cultural centre “O Ensanche” (Galician for “the widening ”) in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. At the beginning my tasks were primarily the assistance in the activities of the centre, such as dance workshops, chess classes or handicrafts for children.

Because of the initial language barrier I started by participating in the activities and slowly increased my work until I was not the one helping to carry them out, but to actually perform them. This way I started my language classes, a chess club and a chess tournament. In July I was one of the mentors during the children’s summer camp.

article pic - Kopie

Since I was sharing a flat with four other volunteers who were from Denmark, Germany, Croatia and Turkey, we were constantly learning from each other and our countries, cultures and personalities. Together we travelled through Spain, went to local events and met many other volunteers from all over Europe. Everyone had a different reason for their decision for this voluntary service. Some recently graduated from school like me, others needed a break during or after their studies and some had difficulties finding a job in their home-countries.

The EVS is part of the Erasmus + programme, therefore it’s highly funded. This makes it so affordable, since travel expenses, living costs, insurance and pocket-money are provided to all volunteers. The programme’s focus is non-formal education. All the things that one learns by moving to another country, such as learning another language, adapting to a new lifestyle and meeting locals and international people are added to one’s knowledge. It is quite an experience to get out of one’s comfort zone, but also a huge possibility to learn about oneself and expand one’s horizon.

Naturally the programme also has some flaws. Despite its advantages and its existence for 21 years it is practically unknown in many countries. Also the application process is problematic since many projects are not available on the data base of the homepage, but shared on social media groups or other websites that are hard to find. Furthermore it seemed as if the EVS and the programme were glorified during the trainings that all volunteers receive in order to supply them with information and support.

However, compared to profit-orientated organisations that offer very expensive opportunities for volunteers without giving them guidance and without the focus on helping the community, it is definitely worth considering it.

 

For more information about EVS follow this link:

https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/opportunities-for-individuals/young-people/european-voluntary-service_en

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Josipa Cvitić

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