Milena Nowak works as an EVS volunteer at EKOenergy
Could you tell us about yourself?
I was born in 1987, which makes me 27 now. I grew up in Torun, Poland, and moved to Austria in 2006 to attend the University of Vienna, where I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Transcultural Communication, followed by a Master of Arts in Technical Translation. I also studied environmental management for a while. I mostly translate, proofread or otherwise work with the written word for a living. I go to metal gigs (for which Helsinki is a good place to be), learn to play drums, knit, draw, run and mix myself fancy smoothies in my spare time.
How did you apply for the EVS in Finland?
I've been meaning to do something like this for quite a while after my graduation. My first step was getting in touch with Verein Grenzenlos, which is the coordinating organisation in Vienna for EVS and other mobility projects. I couldn't really see myself getting involved in any of the projects they had been e-mailing me for the first few months, since I'm not very good with children, elderly people, or people in general, so I took the initiative to look for more suitable volunteering opportunities. Then I found the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation in the EVS database, read about the EKOenergy project and decided it was what I wanted to do. I sent them my CV and was invited to a Skype interview a few days later. I remember the whole application procedure being fairly unbureaucratic and straightforward.
Why did you choose to volunteer at EKOenergy?
I chose this particular project because it was based in Helsinki, a city which I have visited on various occasions in the past five years and where I have made some really good friends with whom I can now spend more time. It was also one of the few EVS projects in the environmental sector which, in combination with its strong international character, was of most interest to me.
Living in a society which has built its entire economy on resources that are not only harmful to the planet in the way we use them, but will also run out soon enough, I believe developing sustainable solutions is our shared responsibility towards nature and future generations alike. But as much as I would like to think that individual actions matter, I do realise veggie burgers and that reusable shopping bag of mine will not save the planet. I see this project as an opportunity to contribute to something on a larger scale.
What have you been doing at EKOenergy so far?
I arrived just in time to become part of a lovely creative project - the making of the EKOenergy comic. For the first few weeks, I was mostly learning about the organisation and translating the comic script into Polish. I enjoyed sneaking a peek at the sketches being drawn at the neighbouring desk by our Italian colleague Anita, who, in fact, happens to be a professional comic artist. So you can see we're a team with quite diverse backgrounds and skills. We had several brainstorming sessions where we could decide on things like the title and artwork for the cover together as a team.
Furthermore, I had a chance to look behind the scenes at the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, which is the major environmental NGO in Finland, and learnt a lot about the European electricity market and different aspects of renewable energies. Currently, I'm mostly responsible for communicating with the stakeholders in Poland, translating and editing of the website, newsletters and promotional material.
I also took a language course and managed to master some basic Finnish, but I have to admit I've never scored so poorly on any language test in my entire life.
How would you describe the working environment in the organisation?
The atmosphere at the office is laid back, yet still professional, and all volunteers are treated with equal respect. Steven, the project coordinator, values everyone's ideas and opinions, and is always supportive and concerned about everyone's well-being.
How would you evaluate your overall volunteer experience in Finland?
I've been here for three months now, and so far, it's been a very positive and worthwhile experience, despite the widely known downsides of living in Finland, like the weather, shockingly overpriced alcohol and a gentle vibe of social alienation.