Running since 1996, EVS has made it its business to enable a working stay abroad for young Europeans aged between 16 and 30 years of age within the framework of a non-profit volunteering project and for the benefit of the public. By experiencing intercultural exchanges, young volunteers not only gain precious work skills, but also come to know new cultures and people, fostering cross-border understanding and solidarity. The EVS4ALL initiative has made it possible for young people with fewer opportunities to travel abroad and take part in European exchanges. Some of those volunteers shared their impressions with us.
Everything began with Vincent Martin. He was the first EVS4ALL volunteer who travelled from his home in France to Madrid and started his working stay in June 2016. But he was not the only one who stayed in the Spanish capital for a voluntary service. Aneta and Justyna, two young women from Poland, worked with the NGO “Alianza por la Solidaridad” to promote fair trade. Together they worked on a campaign promoting fair fruit and chocolate production by designing flyers, stickers and raising awareness by talking to people. Their work taught them what it means to be a responsible European and how to overcome language barriers. Aneta first struggled to communicate in English but with support from her mentors she improved step by step. Take a look at Aneta’s and Justyna’s personal stories about their stay abroad in their video:
Three girls from Romania also took the plunge and travelled from the vibrant city of Bucharest to the small German town of Bernburg in July 2016. For Gabriela, Roxana, and Cristina, it was the first time to come to the country and for Gabriela it was the first time traveling abroad at all. She was excited to experience a plane ride and get acquainted with the customs and habits of the host country. The young women volunteered at the local youth center “Stiftung Evangelische Jugendhilfe St. Johannis” and took care of the kids at Bärenhausen children’s city, a town featuring all details of real towns, save for adults. Their everyday activities thought Gabriela, Roxana, and Cristina about the perks and satisfaction found in social work. The linguistic and cultural differences did not present any obstacles to their joy. Cristina summarizes her EVS4ALL experience thusly:
“I think it is very important to volunteer abroad because you have to face other cultures and see different people. It really helps you to be human and feel that you are part of a community.”
EVS4ALL offered many more young people the chance of a lifetime. In September 2016 three French and three Spanish young men and women spend some time in the busy capital of London where they volunteered with the organizations “Volunteering Matters” and “Positive Future”. They helped with planning of two festivals and with preparations of the European Citizen Award 2016. Read about their experiences of interculturality and what it means to volunteer in Europe on their Blog. At the same time two young men from Spain got to know the rural life of the Polish small town Runowo where they helped at a horse farm. The volunteers shared their experiences and impressions in an online journal and videos.
The cited volunteering experiences, as well as the project’s approaches and policy recommendations regarding a more inclusive EVS programming will be presented and discussed during the EVS4ALL’s closing conference held in Berlin between 20 and 21 of March. The conference is open to everyone who is eager to hear about the project and wants to discuss ideas and advices for an inclusive mobility programme. Be sure to visit the Facebook event and register: https://www.facebook.com/events/1344943625562646/
This article was originally published on the Europe & Me website.