Photo by Blagica Gjorgijevska
Interview done by Tamara Miletic
The European Voluntary Service is one of several actions within the Youth in Action program, funded by the European Union, to increase the skills, experiences and overall participation of youth in community development projects. Since 2009, Mladiinfo is a sending and hosting organization giving the chance to many youngsters all over Europe to take part in this amazing experience of exploring the world and learning from different people and cultures. So far, we have hosted more than 15 volunteers coming from Slovakia, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands and Croatia who helped us to develop our activities and work, and we have sent abroad more than 35 Macedonians who wanted to expand their personal experiences, survive in a new environment and put their ideas into reality. Some of them are still in the midst of their EVS service, thus we asked them to share their impressions and to reflect on how volunteering has influenced their future perceptions of life, culture, work and vision of reality and their view of European societies.
Blagica Gjorgijevska and Ana Petrusevska are taking part in two different projects held in Italy and Slovakia. Blagica is volunteering in the NGO UILDM Sezione Laziale set in Rome, Italy, that takes care of about a thousand of users affected by neuromuscular and neurological diseases, whilst Ana is involved in the work of the ICM Krupina, Slovakia, a youth centre that provides information on different services and support to the local youth. Both projects, though different, have provided our volunteers with a life-changing experience!
1. What was your personal motivation to take part in EVS?
Blagica: I was always interested in international volunteering programs because I wanted to see how volunteerism works outside my native country. I was attracted by different people’s way of living and culture. I knew that taking part in a single EVS experience could be quite a challenge for me, especially because I haven’t travelled that much before, but I like challenges so I chose to make such a big step and test myself.
Ana: Taking part in EVS experience for me means getting a whole new experience within the educational field. My project is about working with kids and young people and so far I am very satisfied with my activities. Besides, I wanted to learn a new language and the most efficient way to do that is to live abroad.
2. What can you tell us about your volunteering experience? What exactly do you do in your hosting organisation?
Blagica: Since the beginning when I realized that my organization is helping people with muscular dystrophy, I felt great responsibility about my personal role and contribution to UILDM Lazio, which motivated me even more to take part in this experience. Within the structure of the organization everybody has a particular place and tasks to do, and they are doing it with dedication, consideration, positive energy and most importantly, with the support of EVS volunteers coming from different countries and cultures. As a volunteer I’m visiting disabled people at their homes and helping them complete their daily tasks or just fill their leisure time; I visit monuments and museums, go to the cinema or simply take a walk with them. Another aspect of my service is helping these people to build their very own autonomy; helping them in the processes of socialization and integration into Italian society and consequently making them feel free, to be without their parents or nurses.
Ana: In ICM Krupina I’m organizing events that are interesting and educational for young people like our conversation clubs in English language or the workshops for kids in which they are learning more about other cultures and countries. To make those events more international and dynamic, we usually invite other EVS volunteers active in other NGOs in Slovakia and they also assist us in promoting the significance of studying foreign languages and how important it is to mingle with other cultures.
3. Getting in touch with a different country usually involves a phenomenon known as culture shock. What were your first impressions about the culture of your Host country? Did you have any difficulties in adaptation?
Blagica: I didn’t have such a big cultural shock-that I guess is more connected to my personal character rather than to my home country and culture. Let’s say that I found Italian culture quite applicable for me and my background. The thing that troubles me the most is the fact that people here are always late and that they find this phenomenon as a normal thing, part of their culture. Besides that, I found people’s daily conversations very superficial and generic, which now I have understood is nothing that gives me the right to diminish them. On the contrary, there are amazing people that I have met during my experience and that impressed me with their way of talking and good manners. And one more thing that looks weird to me is the way how Italians drink coffee. All the process takes maximum two minutes as they are entering in the bar, ordering a coffee, drinking it in one shot while standing and leaving immediately after. In our country we use to drink a coffee for almost 2 hours, chatting and chilling with our friends and colleagues. Actually this is something that I really miss in Italy.
Ana: In my opinion Slovakian culture is very similar to Macedonian culture. Even the language looks to me quite similar. After the first 3 months spent in Slovakia I can understand quite a lot and now I can even manage to have some discussions. I never had difficulties in adaptation and actually I feel quite at home.
4. What are you plans for the future? Do you think that taking part in a EVS project will help you find a good job opportunity?
Blagica: I think that my EVS experience definitely now makes me more competent on the job market. I have developed some skills that I hadn’t even thought of before and now I find them quite important for me as a person and as a job applicant. Of course, the knowledge of a new language will help as well. This experience helped me glance at my future more clearly, in a sense of “what-I-like-to-do” and “what-I-don’t-like-to-do”. It also helped me to clarify my aims for the future. I would like to recommend EVS to those who have doubts about it because I am sure that they will not regret it. On the contrary, they will bring back home so many nice memories and things, in all senses, because EVS is a simple way to discover what you want to do with your life.
Ana: An EVS experience builds your self-esteem and you start to believe more in yourself. I’m sure that in the future I will use all the things that I learned during this experience. Definitely, by taking part in one EVS project you can upgrade yourself and feel more determinated in life.