"Say hello to tolerance" My experience in Slovenia
What I was actually doing in Slovenia? I participated in a one of project which is part of Erasmus + program. This is the European Union's education, training, youth and sport program for the period 2014-2020. Similar programs, which has the possibility, in principle, free to go abroad to get additional training for informal way, has been before this program and probably will came after this.
Erasmus+ program is based on three pillars of activity. In youth field one of that is youth and youth workers' mobility, which includes the European Voluntary Service (EVS). EVS is the opportunity to experience working as a volunteer in one of the European country about interest topic and get to know language, people and culture of the country. EVS impact studies shows that participation in voluntary activities improves foreign language and intercultural communication skills, develops solidarity and community and helps to discover future opportunities and more. EVS is open to all young people, regardless of their previous experience, the professional or the specific preparation, level of education, economic situation, special needs, gender, religion, language skills, etc. For example, you don't have to know the language of the destination country or if you have disability it's no problem. The most important is the desire to contribute to the community and to the selected topic.
Voluntary service is for those who:
* are 17-30 year old (for youth, in Estonia is a youth 7-26, in EU to 30);
* want to broaden their horizons and to live abroad for some time;
* wish to contribute with voluntary work for some organization and community;
* recognize that the self-test assembly is something that would be for them;
* want to learn a new language;
* want to get better person, and to make the world nicer.
EVS is a collaborative project, there is always at least three partners: volunteer, sending and hosting organization. In finding the project partners is helpful European-wide voluntary service database (http://europa.eu/youth/volunteering/evs-organisation_en), where you can find organizations within Europe who has the right to receive and send volunteers. By the support of the both organization and the help of the Erasmus+ program voluntary service project will happen. Estonian organizations that receive and send EVS volunteers: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1HxpohtGEbLFrrhi7jfsu_NMhjek.
The project will allow practically for free. According to the standard of living in the destination country is provided for the amounts of aid to cover:
*international travel costs (if the trip is not just a luxury, or you don't choose tickets at the last moment it is usually possible to handle with the predetermined sum);
*accommodation (typically the hosting organization organizes and the volunteer don't have to think about that);
*food (generally during the first month you should use your one money and on the basis of receipts they are giving back the money, of course is intended the limit and if you are buying luxury things then yes it's hard to manage, typically reimbursement rate is ~100€)
*local transport (within reasonable limits but generally the accommodation place is on walking distance, and there is no need to travel with public transport, except in exceptional cases);
*language training (a specified number of hours);
*pocket money (that is once again ~100€ and you don't have to collect checks);
*professional and individual support;
*all EVS volunteers are covered with a common security system called Signa and involved in the training cycle of volunteers.
Opportunities for volunteer work are very different. There are projects about the environment, culture, education, social work, youth work, sports etc. The project's success depends mostly about that how appropriate choice is made about the topic of the project. Because of that you have to think carefully in which area you want to your project and what could be in a future most benefit. You should figure out do you want to go to near or far away from home country. Accordingly from that you can choose a suitable host organization. In Erasmus+ Youth in Action program it is possible to volunteer in Europe or more far away.
Services generally last for 2-12 months. Considering the period of induction and the time what you need to study local language, it’s more useful to do services that last for more than six months. Then you will get more a real feeling about living in the other country and getting better experience about betting to the community. But in the other way, it is also possible to do services, which last two weeks since two months, mostly in that case if you are person with fewer opportunities or participating in organizing some of the larger event with group service (from 10 volunteers, like me). Every person has the right to EVS once in a lifetime (exception to the two-month projects, such as I did two weeks in August 2014 the EVS service group in the UK and now I was in Slovenia, but it was now my last chance and never again I can’t do unfortunately more, because of that you should think carefully whether it is worthwhile to participate in two short EVS or perhaps choose another still longer).
I can say from my experience that the group service is very active and social, as well as one of the objectives for you is to find more time for yourself then I would suggest rather a long-term EVS. Now I feel that it was very difficult to find time for myself during the project and a group service is still something quite different than going alone in another country and institution. You are dependent on new employment and about people who are working there, but it seems to me as I have seen and heard the stories all evenings are mostly free and they are giving more attention to your development. You do not have to take account with many other people. Which in itself is a good skill to develop, but if this is not the purpose for you and in one moment you can see that you are not fully determined to test your abilities, because after all, everyone wants to try, and you have to give to others also possibility. But this topic is coming more up when the hosting organization haven’t organized activities in that way that everybody have always something to do. And after all still everything depends from you. It is necessary to raise your hands up and walk out of with your ideas, in addition to the mandatory things that you have to do and with that put your abilities to the test, not to sit in a corner and feel sad that you don’t have to do nothing. I think it was thing what about I wasn’t the most successful of my project. Because my expectations were also that the project coordinators tell more to us what we have to do, but in fact 80% depended of us. It really helps to deepen the attitude that you have to be active, which should be very important for Estonians, because mostly we like to say how badly thins are organized. All the others are doing things badly and also we are not going to do better, but here I can understand that, in fact, I still have to blame myself if things are badly – I have to get up and go out and do.
Being EVS Volunteer is a valuable experience for the personal, social and cultural point of view and will give to volunteer an opportunity to be more initiative and solidarity for society. For some person EVS is one way to do something good for society or to support a noble goal or group. For the others it's an opportunity to try something new and learn to know a new country and a new culture. The EVS is also an important learning experience for the volunteer and participation in EVS projects enhances professional skills and competences and thus makes the volunteer more attractive to potential employers. To help the volunteers learned to analyze and but in to words the European Commission has made Youthpass. This is the instrument that will help maximize the use of their experience, which is acquired during participation in the program. Youthpass is the instrument that will help maximize your experience, which is acquired during participation in the program. Youthpass Certificate can be an important document, which describes the outcomes obtained through participation in the EVS project for a future employer or to formal education institution which recognizes non-formal learning experience through the acquired competences. Youthpass Certificate confirms that you have worked as a volunteer in a foreign country and recognizes the competences that you got and developed during the voluntary service. Youthpass idea is to assess the key competences. These key competences, the European Commission took to use in 2006 for the politicians, employers, educational institutions and learners will be able to compare experiences. These are competencies that prepare people for life as an adult, and it is the basis for lifelong learning. These competences are highly relevant to human fulfilment and development, as well as an active civil activity, social inclusion and employment aspects.
1) digital competence: skilful and critical use of info technology, basic skills to use computer and internet;
2) the personal, intercultural, social and civic competence: the ability to communicate in an appropriate manner with friends, family and colleagues to communicate with people of different backgrounds, to resolve conflicts in a constructive manner, an overview what is happening in your village, town, country, Europe and the world, knowledge about democracy, civil society and human rights concepts and ideas, participation in society;
3) cultural expression: the ability to evaluate ideas, experience and know the importance of creative expression, all which are related to the media, music, performing arts, literature and the visual arts;
4) initiative and entrepreneurship: the ability to implement your ideas; creativity and innovation, the courage to take risks, project management skills;
5) communication in mother tongue: the ability to express thoughts, feelings and facts (oral and written) to communicate in an appropriate manner;
6) communication in foreign languages: ability to express yourself in a foreign language and understand, understanding cultural differences and diversity, curiosity about languages and intercultural communication;
7) mathematical competence and knowledge about basic of science and technology: the ability and willingness to use logical thinking to solve everyday problems, the ability and readiness to use knowledge to explain the phenomena occurring in the world, to identify questions and make evidence-based conclusions;
8) learning to learn: how to organize your own learning, the ability to cope with obstacles, be responsible for your own learning, the ability to analyze and evaluate your learning outcomes.
Erasmus + program in the field of youth the main objectives are:
1. Developing key competences for youth (lifelong learning), young people's active involvement in the democratic life of the European, development labour market skills and competences;
2. The progress of intercultural dialogue, growing the solidarity, involvement (including the involvement of young people with fewer opportunities);
3. Improving the quality of youth work, progress cooperation youth work with other areas (labour market, education, etc.);
4. supporting developing knowledge- and evidence-based youth policy, designing the youth field policy, non-formal and informal learning recognition;
5. strengthening of international youth work.
Information about the various demonstration projects: http://noored.ee/rahastus/euroopa-vabatahtlik-teenistus/head-naited/
And finally ... with what you are doing at right now? Maybe you feel that you are looking something right now. That you are not satisfied with what you are dealing and where are you right now. If so, then why not use this opportunity that is given to us. For our fathers-mothers, grandparents and old-parents did not have such an opportunity and perhaps a certain time, the European Union provides for such a possibility, but we will never know since how long. Or from another angle if we are not active and do not use this option they may feel that it is not needed, since the target audience is not interested in it and then we will take this opportunity from others also from our children. And think about how nice it would be to told to your children or children's children about this story, how it went and what you did, and they are thinking “wow my mom or dad or grandma-grandpa is so cool and I would also to go, do and experience : D”.
But yes, in the end, this is a free choice, just I will hope that I gave everything from myself to the people who are around me and now they are aware of this possibility.
And I'm open to any questions in connection with the topic and I am ready to help. I know the sending organizations from Estonia, I know some of the host organizations abroad and can share several groups in Facebook where you can see every day a new projects.
Reelika Lodjak, Volunteer. (European voluntary service in Slovenia September/October 2016. INVOLVED ngo (Sending organisation - Estonia).