Article by: Ladislav Borka (Slovakia)
Edited by: Stefan Alievikj
When I told my mom I am going to be an EVS volunteer in Vukovar, Croatia, she got an image of Mother Teresa combined with Francis of Assisi in a white, long cloak made for monks taking care of orphans and people with lethal diseases. After one year of volunteering I can confirm that this sort of outfit does not belong to an ordinary volunteer´s wardrobe.
My father was more skeptic: instead of being such hippie, I should rather find a normal job and earn some normal money for living – argued he.
Well, who would like to make good money immediately, should not choose EVS. For others, who are not sure how to continue after high school, bachelor or master degree, EVS can be a fair opportunity.
So what is EVS about then?
I am a person who likes to travel, to learn about cultures, History, Geography and languages. For such people EVS can be ideal. What could be also useful during your service is some creativity spirit to initiate activities, will to help other people without having prejudices and good sense for team-work. What you must be guaranteed during your stay is free accommodation, food money and some pocket money. What should you pay then? Only 10% of your travel costs. It is pretty cheap way to discover a country, isn´t it?
How to start?
It is the easiest way to google a little bit, contact the National Agency for mobility in your country. They may help you find a sending organization or you can directly search for it in the European database on EVS accredited organisations . There are bunch of organizations dealing with sending and accepting volunteers all around Europe. If you have already found sending organization they can also help you to find hosting organization – which is the other important link for you. You are going to spent your service there – they will provide the accommodation, place for your activities, ensure your language lessons. Yes, every volunteer has to have the opportunity to study the language of the host country. But I must say, intermediate level of English is welcome wherever you go.
Projects and Reality
What kind of projects you can find? The project have some variety, but the most common ones are related to European awareness, dealing with social inequalities, organizing art and creative events for local community, dealing with environmental issues, care of people with fewer opportunities, disabled people or immigrants.
My project had the mysterious title „EVS in Vukovar“ with a fancy project description about activities I should carry out. Future EVS volunteers, please remember my words – do not state high expectations, it is about volunteering and not about solving the global economic crisis or change local people´s mind according to your beliefs and values. Also good to keep in mind that project descriptions and reality can be very different, it is always better to find out more about your host organization. Chiefly a volunteers role is to bring Europe closer to a community by carrying out some activities. In my case next to promotion of EVS it was teaching of my native and other languages, organizing creative workshops for kids and cinema history presentations for adults.
Being volunteer may have many challenges but also good sides depending which region of Europe you are. People in hosting organization can have different perception about time, obligations. Many time local people have no idea about this kind of volunteering, so many times the volunteer must explain what is he actually doing. These cultural differences can lead to clashes between volunteers and host organizations, but in this case try to remain positive and proactive keeping in head, that EVS is about your personal development also, thus its always good to remain constructive when facing challenges of volunteering.
A former EVS volunteer