Volunteering with the young people of Nurmes
Nurmes is a small town of approximately 8.000 inhabitants. It is located in Eastern Finland, more than 100 km away from the closest cities of Kajaani, Kuopio, and Joensuu. The local youth centre Hyvärilä hosts long-term volunteers in different EVS projects every year.
“The good things about the project in Hyvärilä is that we, the volunteers, had the chance to get involved in many different activities and we also had a lot of freedom in choosing what we want to do,” Martin tells.
During 11 months Nena and Martin were both working in the youth centre and other places in Nurmes and elsewhere.
”In the youth centre we were working with many different groups of youngsters that were coming here, leading some activities for them, running workshops or just being around and chatting with them. Sometimes we were also helping with cleaning, setting things up for different events, helping in the kitchen. A few times we also ran a cafe during some events. We had things to do in Nurmes too. We were visiting schools, working in the kindergarten, spending time in the youth club and youth workshop in Nurmes as well as nearby small town of Juuka,” Martin explains.
In Greece, Nena studied to become a primary education teacher and one of the reasons she chose Finland for her volunteering experience was to get to know the Finnish education system.
”Because of my studies I was really interested in discovering it for myself. I wanted to see how it differes from the Greek system and what makes it so great. During the time in Nurmes I had a chance to participate in teaching activities at one of the primary schools. I assisted some of the teachers and also taught students some Greek history.”
Both Martin and Nena find it important, that they were able to spend time with local young people.
“Quite important, also, was that I was interacting with the youngsters in Nurmes and in some other towns around, to inform them about the opportunities which enable them to travel and live abroad. Our goal was to make them feel comfortable with foreigners and express themselves not only in English but also with their body language,” Nena explains.
”I also took part in the ‘Erasmus in Schools’ project, visited a couple of schools in the region telling them about my home country, EVS and the possibilities to go abroad,” Martin continues.
After having had the personal experience, they are eager to recommend EVS to other young people. For Nena EVS provided lots of things to add on her CV.
“To sum up, it was one of the best experiences in my life! I experienced different things living in another country with different culture and I learned a lot. I feel that after these 11 months I am more mature and independent! So, if there are people who are thinking of doing an EVS, I would like to tell them: Just do it, grab the opportunity immediately!”
For Martin it took several years to get convinced, but finally other people with EVS experience talked him into it. He wanted to do EVS specifically in Finland, because he had been learning the language and he had done his Erasmus student exchange in Finland. So he really wanted to go back.
“If you're considering going for an EVS or some other exchange programme but still having doubts about yourself, just forget them and go! For me it was a great year. I was surprised how many things I got to try out and learn, how many people I met and how many places I visited. And you never know where the next experience is gonna take you...”
Interview & article by Annemari Päivärinta