7 Steps to becoming an EVS volunteer
Finding a volunteering placement and applying for EU funding takes time, so it is advisable to start preparing early. Getting from step 1 to step 7 might take six months or even a year. This is what you should do.
- Make sure that you meet the criteria for EVS volunteers. Volunteers should be 17 to 30 years old. Priority is given to young people who cannot receive any other funding for international mobility (e.g. student exchange or training periods abroad). Therefore EVS projects are in the first place for young people who are unemployed, in short-term jobs or are in a transitional phase in their lives.
- Find yourself a sending organisation from the Database of European Voluntary Service accredited organisations. You can search for sending organisations based on e.g. town or city, or you can contact an organisation with which you had been involved earlier. Once you find a sending organisation, it will be able to help you with finding a project for your EVS. It might also have partner organisations which are already looking for volunteers to start in a project that has already received funding. In that case you can skip steps 3 to 6.
- Browse the Database of volunteering opportunities for finding a placement. You can also contact any of the organisations listed in Database of European Voluntary Service accredited organisations, even if they do not have currently available vacancies. In the organisation database you can find all the organisations which are authorized to send / receive volunteers within Erasmus+ programme countries and the neighbouring countries of the EU (Eastern Europe and Caucasus, Western Balkans and Southern Mediterranean countries). It is also possible to do your EVS outside the EU or neighbouring areas, but in that case you have to find your hosting organisation outside the database, and the funding for the project will have to be applied from EACEA agency located in Brussels. This will make the EVS process longer.
- Sending applications. Usually applications for EVS vacancies are made by sending a motivation letter and CV via email to a receiving organisation. As hinted by the title of it, in the motivation letter you should explain your motivation for volunteering at that particular receiving organisation. A very general statement, such as "I want to volunteer in Finland because I want to see snow" – makes a letter not worth sending. Include your hobbies and particular skills in your CV – these are potentially more important during the selection criteria than experience gained through paid work. Organisations usually seek volunteers who, for example, have musical or artistic skills, experience in playing with children or leading a club, or who are passionate about protecting the environment and speaking up for human rights. Remember: there are lots and lots of applicants. Do not give up easily – you will find a place for your EVS.
- So you found the place? Then it is time to agree on the details with both, the sending and the hosting organisations. When will you start? How long will your EVS period be? When to apply for funding and who does it (usually the hosting organisation applies from its national agency)? Once EU funding is granted, the volunteer signs a contract with the organisations. It is a work-like contract and includes information related to the duration of EVS placement, compensation, as well as duties and responsibilities.
- Applying for EU funding. Once an agreement on the details has been made, applications for EVS funding can be sent to national agency (in Finland it is CIMO). There are three application deadlines per year: in February, April and October. Each application will be processed and evaluated carefully. Therefore it will take 2 to 3 months until you get the decision. Waiting time may seem long but you can make the most of it to your own benefit by getting to know about the country and the future home town of your destination, by learning about the culture and mastering some basic language skills, as well as starting to make travel arrangements well in advance.
- The moment of departure. Once you know the project funding is granted, you can get the tickets and go. Complete the first language assessment. Do not pack too much stuff. Say goodbye to your friends and family. Relax and trust yourself – everything is going to be just fine! Make the experience worth all the wait and trouble, because the EVS is a once-in-a lifetime experince.