Friday, October 20, 2017

Let´s be volunteers! - KAISA TOOMLA - 12 months EVS in Lisbon, Portugal - Article in English

Why EVS? Why Portugal? Because why not, right?

Hi, My name is Kaisa and I did my European Voluntary Service in PORTUGAL. It sure was an amazing 12-months, which I will never forget.

October 2016 was when I arrived in Portugal to start my one-year volunteering with a foster home with kids who had been taken from their families due to specific conditions. I had no experience with kids like this, I had no knowledge of Portugal’s culture nor its language. I had no expectations for this year, all I wanted was to enjoy myself and learn a thing or two about Portugal and foster kids.

Work life

Working with kids is never easy. Kids have different behavioural ways and personalities, especially kids whose past isn’t as easy as theirs. Since I didn’t speak the language, I couldn’t communicate with them as much as I wanted. The first two weeks I remember just sitting on the sofa and watching the tv. Those two weeks I was in a house with only teenage boys, later my house moved together with another house. That meant more kids, but also another volunteer. Lucky me, she spoke a little Portuguese.

My assignments in the house were mainly to help the educators. That means I helped the kids with their homework, I took the kids to their practices or doctor’s appointments, I went to the supermarket with the kids when they want to spend their allowance on chips and candy. I was like a bigger sister watching over them and making sure they are okay. Since majority of the kids were in ages 13-14 then mostly they spent their free time hooked on technology. However, I was always there for them whenever they needed attention or simply hugs.

Social life

Portuguese people are known to be welcoming and warm towards strangers. I think there must be something in that ocean water and constant sunlight. I lived in Lisbon, which is the capital of Portugal. A beautiful city with even more beautiful and interesting people. One thing, which I really enjoyed about Lisbon, was that you never quite knew what was hidden just around the corner. It was like magic.

My coordinating organization signed me into an apartment quite close to the city centre. It was six of us in a tiny apartment, two sharing one room. In the beginning I wasn’t quite sure how this would work and to tell you the truth I was a little worried. In the end everything worked out amazingly and my flatmates were a big support for me throughout my project.

Besides volunteering at the foster home, I decided to get into the local activities – festivals. I have been part of festivals in Tallinn and so I wanted to try that opportunity in Lisbon as well. I got to be part of two amazing film festivals – MONSTA and IndieLisboa – where the crew was so welcoming and helped me with anything I needed, for example translation. I think I was the only one who spoke only English, but that didn’t stop me from helping the crew or enjoying the time spent at the festivals.

The country

WOW! That would my first thought of Portugal. The country is stunning and there are beautiful places in the nature to go and check out. Of course, surfing is a BIG thing there, so when you do go – check out the waves! Every time I managed to take a trip outside of Lisbon, I was in complete “aww” about the sights. They take your breath away, figuratively speaking and physically due to the winds if you go to the coast.

I enjoyed my time in Portugal so much that I wish to go back. It’s an amazing country with some great vibes. The place makes you feel good. When you’re feeling down for some reason, all you must do in Lisbon is to step outside and go for a walk. You never know what can happen! 

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme

Sunday, October 15, 2017

EVS Mentoring and Intercultural Dialogue Training Course - INTERVIEW WITH MAIK

Name of the project: EVS MID
Date: 5.10.2017 – 11.10.2017
Country/City: Spain, Malaga

What was the main topic of the event?

Maik Mases: The topic of the training course was the European Voluntary Service and more specifically, every practical aspect that must be considered when hosting / coordinating / sending a volunteer.

What was the biggest learning moments on the event for you?

Maik Mases: The biggest learning moment was definitely learning from others’ experiences regarding EVS. In addition to the trainers, we had many participants who had been involved in EVS projects for quite some time, so it was very useful and interesting to hear different stories about conflicts, accommodation conditions, activities and initiatives created by the volunteers in the hosting organization etc. It was also nice to meet current EVS volunteers in Spain and see how they felt about their ongoing experience as a volunteer.

Do you have any plans to continue active in the field? If yes, what?

Maik Mases: I will start hosting an EVS volunteer in my organsiation starting next January and I will be the tutor. I’m really looking forward to this challenge which I hope adds some excitement and different perspectives to our everyday work.

Would you recommend it to your friends? I yes, why? If not, why not?

Maik Mases: I’d recommend the Erasmus Plus youth mobility projects to all young people because the for me personally, I think they enable you to engage in intercultural learning which is always eye-opening and fun as well. It’s something I wish I could do even more in my everyday life.

More comments or anything else you would like to share? You can add here in your own language, if you want!

Maik Mases: Learning by doing and having fun, that’s something we all should experience!

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Thanks but No Tanks Training Course - INTERVIEW WITH ANN AND ALIIS

Name of the project: Thanks but no Tanks
Date: 27th August 2017 – 03rs September 2017
Country/City: Austria - Velden

What was the main topic of the event?

Ann Aro - The project was nonviolent communication

Aliis-Nett Seppel - We spent the first half of the week working and developing our knowledge about how to deal with social conflicts and use non-violent communication as a tool for peace building. Apart from this we also focused on our own societies and had time to analyze what each country needed and develop an idea to improve the situation on a local level.

What was the biggest learning moments on the event for you?

Ann Aro -I think I learned so much about other cultures. We even had presentations from UK and Cyprus participants about what type of conflicts there are in those two countries. Also we did lots of teamwork where I heard from different people what type of values are prominent in their countries. I think it made me understand those countries a lot better.
The most important thing I learned was how our environment changes us. The first day we had to work as a team was hard. Because people did not communicate very well but as the days went on people started to adapt to the new environment. In the end the teamwork was very good.
In conclusion I think in the future I would also start to look more into the environment we live in. Because it could hold a solution for our problems. Before I use to look into the individuals/events that were blamed for the problems.

Aliis-Nett Seppel - My personal biggest ‘Ahhaa’ moment was when we learned about the spiral dynamics theory, which explained how individuals and society develops in a certain way. It gave a very clear understanding of why the development goes in certain steps, as we did a simulation of social evolution, working both individually and in teams, and later analyzed how development needs these different stages.

Do you have any plans to continue active in the field? If yes, what?

Ann Aro - I think I’m going to take what I learned and apply it on my EVS. In what way I do not know yet but will see.

Aliis-Nett Seppel - I am very interested in further development of the campaign, as the group was very motivating and we got a lot of inspiration through workshops, where we got the necessary tools to start building it.

Would you recommend it to your friends? I yes, why? If not, why not?

Ann Aro - Yes I would I think it would be eye-opening training for lots of people. Because for me it really opened up my mind about where does the problem lie in today’s society.

Aliis-Nett Seppel - I would definitely recommend this because such a project is a great opportunity to learn something that can actually bring value in your community, but also because all of the activities are done in a way that you’re never bored and it makes you value time as you want to spend every moment you’re there wisely.

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Ambassadors of European Values - CARMEN RAAL - 12 months EVS in Bordeaux, France - Article in English

Ambassadors of European Values

My name is Carmen and this is a story of my year in France Bordeaux. So for the beginning I am going to tell you how  I ended up as a volunteer in the first place. When I was 15 years old, I had my first youth exchange and after that I fell in love with travelling and meeting people all over the world. Ever since then I have taken part of 6 exchanges. Fast forward  to 12th grade when everyone was thinking about universities and what to study next but my head was elsewhere - my dream was to work as a volunteer, and because of that I ended up taking a gap year and going to France to be an “Ambassador of European Values” for the House of Europe in Bordeax. 

So, on 3rd of September I found myself in the capital of wine.  We started off things easy. Our organization gave us time to settle in and meet the city. We were staying in a student residence apartments where I shared my flat with a Romanian girl. All together there were 14 EVS people from six countries and in addition to that our organization had recruited ten civil service volunteers..

Meeting with civil service volunteers

All the volunteers together

Since our main tasks where to talk about European Union and everything that concerns it we had to go through educational lectures/workshops made by professors and other specialists. This prepared us very well for the future jobs and made us more professional.

After the preparation, it was time to start working. We were all divided into groups of three people. Our daily job included going to different schools where we made interesting workshops for kids on European matters or about our countries and culture in general. 

Besides working in schools, we got to do other exciting activities. For example, collaborating with Unicef to organize a day for kids packed with exciting activities. Working with the local town hall to help organize an international energy conference, and the luckiest ones got to go to Wales for a study visit.

A day with Unicef

But the most anticipated and perhaps scariest moment for me and my fellow Estonian volunteer was February or should I call it the month of Estonia. Our mission at that time was to prepare a cultural night with Estonian food and presentation made entirely in French. Doing something like that generally does not scare me but the problem was the language. I went to France without knowing the language and at that point it was still not good. In addition to our presentation we had to cook Estonian foods. It was a struggle to find black bread but other than that our efforts paid off and the food was delicious. In the end the hard work paid off and everything went smoothly.

My year as a volunteer was not only work and no fun. I managed to do a lot of travelling around France and also abroad. I met so many new people from all over the world with who I connected and am staying in contact even though I am back in Estonia.

In conclusion, my year as a volunteer was so much more then just working in France, It was a growing experience that shaped me into a person I am today. I am far from finished being a volunteer and I hope that while in university I find other projects where I can contribute to the society. Once a volunteer, always a volunteer! 

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Ambassadors of European Values - HEDI ROOGER - 12 months EVS in Bordeaux, France - Article in English

                            My EVS in Bordeaux, France

Hello, I’m Hedi and I spent 12 months in Bordeaux, France, where you can find the best chocolatines, baguettes, and of course, great Bordeaux’s wine.  I grew up in a small town in Estonia, where my biggest dream was to travel and see the world. Before doing my EVS in France, I was also doing some voluntary work in my hometown Rakvere, working mostly with children and organising different activites for them. Volunteering has always been something very important for me- by helping ohters I can increase my baggage of knowledge and experiences. I also wasn’t sure what to do after graduating high school, because I couldn’t find anything that I was really passionate about, so I decided to take a year and explore a new culture.

I arrived to France and started my EVS in September 2016. It was the first time ever in France for me, so everything was very exciting and new. Coming from Estonia, the hot and humid summer weather of Bordeaux was really hard to get used to, but in the end it was perfect for going to the beach and jumping into cold but refreshing ocean waves. The first two months of my project were a bit easier on us- we were given some time to discover the life of Bordeaux and to get used to living in flats with our new flatmates. We also received theoretical information about our work in different schools starting from November. Our project was called „Ambassadors of European Values“ and we were woking with people from 7 different European countries – Estonia, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia. We were all working for the House of Europe (Maison de l’Europe), which is all about promoting European values and bringing people from different nationalities together.

Our main tasks involved working in small groups of 3 people from different nationalities. In each group we had 2 European volunteers and one local french volunteer from Service Civique, who helped us out with translation if needed to. We were going to schools around Bordeaux to talk about our countries, raising awareness of stereotypes and just giving young people the chance to communicate in English.  

Besides working in schools, we also had to organise cultural events and language cafes, with each month being dedicated to a different country. In February we had to organize an Estonian evening, where we talked about the history of Estonia and much more. We were also serving some typical Estonian food and drinks to the locals. In May we were organising a European village, where locals also had the chance to come and taste the food and drinks of our countries.

Besides meeting all the awesome and inspiring people from all over the world during my EVS, I also had the chance to travel a lot in France and in Europe, since it’s much easier and cheaper to get to anywhere from France than it is from Estonia. I had the chance to visit my friend in Scotland, warm and sunny Barcelona, green Amsterdam and many ohter places during vacations from work. So besides the culture and beautiful architecture of France, I got to see and experience the life in other countries as well.

I arrived back to Estonia with important friendships from all over the world (not just Europe) and great memories of fun and exciting trips that me and my friends took. I also can’t forget the children in schools and their faces filled with joy and excitement when they were learning how to dance „Kaerajaan“ or how to sing „Põdral Maja Metsa Sees.“ It was a great experience and totally worth my time. I am thankful to everyone who made this possible for me and thankful to the amazing people that I had the chance to work with and hopefully see again in the future.

À bientôt, France ! 

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

VEEhYcLE+ 2G – Volunteers in Erasmus+ as an Engine (for social inclusion) of Young peolpLE - ALICE AHO - 12 months EVS in Algarve, Portugal - Article in English

Hi, I am Alice and this is my story...

Well, my story goes way back to 2015 when I met some amazing people from Portugal. After that I knew that I want to spend at least a year in Portugal, close to the Atlantic ocean. It took less than a year for my dream to come true. Honestly I have to thank all the people around me, because this opportunity came to me, I just needed to apply.

In September 2016 I found myself in a small city called Olhão, which is almost in the middle of Algarve. I would really like to acknowledge my hosting organization MOJU - Associação
Movimento Juvenil em Olhão and my sending organization Noored Ühiskonna Heaks.

Trust me, when I say that EVS year will be one of the fastest years in your life. In my small city there was three apartments and projects of volunteers. That is why I had an opportunity to meet a lot of people. My project became my team and family, with them we tackled a lot. We all went there with an idea that we wanted to accomplish, but to be honest you never know what to prepare for.
For me it was a good challenge to modify lets say my personal project so that the kids would really benefit from it.

I had a chance to work/spend time with kids who are from challenging families and not the best neighbourhoods. Me and also other volunteers had to work on trust and respect, but eventually it started to give back. This gave me a great appreciation for trust, now I can truly say that it's a hard thing to built. This is something that I will never take easily.

The year abroad became a lot about me and this year changed me a lot. Before I left I considered myself as an open-minded person, but honestly, this came with the last year. Maybe I was open in an Estonian way, but in a bigger picture it doesn't give you anything. Now I hope I am more passion driven and I can always find a way to be myself. I also learned a lot about cultural differences, because I was the only person to introduce Northern countries. I was lucky to learn about Mediterranean culture from my flatmates, who are from France, Italy and Cyprus. Also from all the others, but with my flatmates I spent the most time.

This year gave me a lot of chances to travel and see around. Besides Portuguese people I also discovered the country itself. A year is not enough to understand everything, but it's good for a proper introduction. I am sure that one day I will find myself there, close to the ocean breeze and fresh seafood!

It's very difficult to put one year into words, but I think I said the most important – the people around me, Portugal, “my” kids, Olhão and travelling. This amazing challenging year was full of surprises and love. Beijinhos!!!

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Culture - Straight to the Heart Youth Exchange - INTERVIEW WITH ALJONA, SAQLIAN, EGELIN, FAIZAN AND KRISTJAN

Name of the project: Culture – Straight to the Heart!
Date: 18th to 27th August 2017
Country/City: Poland

What was the main topic of the event?

Aljona Kurbatova- Main topic was culture. We presented our cultures through the history and mainly through cooking traditional food for other participants.
Saqlian Ali Raza- The main topic of the event was to understand the different European cultures and find out the similarities among these countries. The basic idea was to bring closer people through food and sharing cultures traditions and some workshops.
Egelin Ellermaa-The main topic of the event was cultural exchange and becoming more aware of the existing cultural prejudices.
Faizan Khan-  Main objective of this project was mutual intercultural learning and breaking stereotypes and prejudices that burden the relationships, strengthen our friendship bonds, get to know each other better by using the richness of our cultures. During non-formal education workshops we discussed visible elements of culture: folk dances, traditions, cuisines, and songs which provide us deeper understanding of our values. Through this exchange we realized differences and similarities connected with culture from various European nations. This project was great opportunity for the development of intercultural competence among the participants.
Kristjan Karu - The project main subject was about culture in general. Young people came together to learn about other countries traditions, habits, languages, national cuisines and folk dances.

What was the biggest learning moments on the event for you?

Aljona Kurbatova -  I guess biggest learning moment was how to prepare traditional food for 40 people. Cause we should plan what to prepare and make other participants help us in cooking process.
Saqlian Ali Raza - Actually for me learning moment was more than one, like history of participating countries and and traditions of different European countries. Furthermore it also helped me to understand the civic attitude of the youth of different countries. Ice breaking, team building activates and cooking were also the major learning moments for me.
Egelin Ellermaa - For me the biggest learning moments took place, while I was having one-on- one conversations with the representatives of other countries. That way I came to learn about, how certain behaviours and habits otherwise very natural to my own culture can either lack or vary in the other culture.
Faizan Khan -  Biggest learning moment for me was cooking workshop. Daily we use to cook different dishes chosen by members representing their country in this project. For the first time in life I cooked Estonian food with the help of team members it was delicious. Secondly during the workshops and discussions we found out some similarities linking our traditions and try to work out common dialogue for understanding our diversity. We can work together for solving the problems encountered in the field of mutual intercultural communication.
Kristjan Karu - For me personally was the biggest moment when I learnt how to peel tomatoes, it was something totally weird and new for me. Also during project we got some traditional dance experience. For example how to dance Macarena and besides this during dancing how to sing it in spanish. It was complicated for everyone in the beginning but at the end together we managed to do it well.

Do you have any plans to continue active in the field? If yes, in what?

Aljona Kurbatova - Not as coordinator but as participant can be.
Saqlian Ali Raza - Yes I am planning to play an active role in these kind of activates.
Egelin Ellermaa - Well, culture was pretty much my specialty for the 3 years that I was studying in university, so for sure im hoping to advance my knowledge in this field even further, perhaps only by travelling, but maybe by continuing my studies as well. However im definitely planning on meeting up with some of the new friends I made in the exchange, so to experience their culture myself as well in their homeland.
Kristjan Karu - For me these youth projects are very good opportunity to find new friends and become more aware about new information and knowledge.. I am quite sure about continue in this field, especially with this kind of topic because culture is the main thing what separates and connects us.

Would you recommend it to your friends? I yes, why? If not, why not?

Aljona Kurbatova - Yes, I always recommend my friends and explain to those who don’t  know what erasmus+
Saqlian Ali Raza - Yes I would highly recommend because this kind of activates offers lot of new things to learn. It helps to breakdown the stereotypes about different cultures. Moreover you can have new friends as well.
Egelin Ellermaa - For sure, any such project contributes to having a more tolerant and expanded mind, which in turn will help us to better get along with each other and make the most of sharing this planet with other beautiful human beings.
Faizan Khan - Yes, I am willing to continue and play my role in this field. As a first step I would like to participate in such kind of projects, by participating I can share my previous experience with others and I can learn new things ,gain knowledge and most importantly I can make new friends from different countries same time.
Kristjan Karu - I would like to recommend this opportunity not only to friends rather to everybody because it is the best way to learn something new in different ways not like we do it in school usually.

More comments or anything else you would like to share? You can add here in your own language, if you want!

Faizan Khan -  I really enjoyed my time over there, spending time with people from different countries knowing about their language, food, music, life style. I have been to, few projects before but for me this Estonian team was the best Estonian team that I have ever been with .Lastly few words about amazing city of Krakow. Krakow is really beautiful and culturally rich city I will recommend everyone to discover this beautiful city in summer.
Kristjan Karu - I am very thankful for this awesome estonian team who made this exchange very enjoyable and funny. Also all these people who organized such an amazing and interesting project.

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme