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Kindergarten with a Spanish accent – voluntary service in Lublin

European Voluntary Service Programme allows you to go to another country for a period of 2-12 months to work and learn about the culture of this country. This is how two Spanish women, Laura and Irene got to go to Lublin for a year. Read about their story.

The girls are hosted in Lublin by Sempre a Frente foundation. The volunteers arriving in Eastern Poland can help with various projects conducted by the organization: they support the activities of Center for Information and Youth Development, they work in the common room, they prepare projects concerning Jewish culture, or as in the case of Laura and Irene, they support carers in the kindergartens.

Unusual everyday life of a volunteer

- „We work with children aged 3 to 6. We help the teachers in everyday activities: we take care of the children, prepare dinner and go for walks and trips with them” – says Laura about her project. The girls not only perform their everyday duties, but also add a lot from themselves: „They’ve already conducted mini-lessons of Spanish for the children, taught them to sing songs and organized art workshops for the preschoolers” – adds Monika Mieleszko, EVS coordinator from Sempre a Frente foundation.

Children have the possibility to learn about Spanish culture thanks to the presence of volunteers. Both girls warmly recall the Fire Festival – Las Fallas, which they organized for the children. - „We jointly built a huge figure made of cardboard and paper, but unfortunately we couldn’t burn it! Instead, we danced and had fun together” – tells Irene. The girls quickly realized that they can carry out more tasks than it is envisaged by the program of the day, and EVS is a great moment to implement their own projects: „I was able to organize a theatrical performance for the children, which included juggling and games” – tells Laura about her project organized “beyond the working hours“.

And after work...

EVS programme envisages that a volunteer works on average 6 hours per day. The rest of the day can be used in any form or manner. - „During my stay here, I try to do as much as possible. I signed up for theatrical improvisation workshops and I also participate in tandem language” – says Laura. - „I often go to the library in order to use the Internet and talk with my family” – adds Irene.

The girls also spend a lot of time with other volunteers with whom they share an apartment. There are five of them in total: three people from Spain, one from Georgia and one from Azerbaijan.
- „Due to the fact that it’s getting warmer now, we go outside or have a barbecue, we also travel around the area together” – sums up Irene.

The volunteers also have Polish friends. They are guided in this new situation by a mentor, i.e. person selected by the host organization to assist a volunteer in the case of problems and to spend some time together. In practice, the mentor usually becomes a very good friend. Laura adds: „Also the friends of my mentor soon became my friends and now we go out together and benefit from the things offered by Lublin”.

The road to Lublin

How to find the right project of European Voluntary Service? You can search for it in EVS database or in relevant groups on Facebook. It was this way that one of the volunteers got to Lublin: „She was chosen thanks to the open recruitment, in which any person from any Erasmus+ country could apply” – tells Monika Mieleszko about the recruitment process. Other road leading to the dream voluntary service is contacting an organization that sends people to voluntary service. The second volunteer got to Lublin using this method:
An organization from Alaquas in Spain conducted internal recruitment and people willing to participate in our current projects applied to it. Then, through video conferences and conversations, analysis of their motivations, expectations and commitment that they wanted to contribute to the project, we selected suitable candidates to participate in the European Voluntary Service” – adds EVS coordinator.

You don’t have to choose one particular objective immediately. - „While going to EVS, I primarily wanted to improve my English, so I applied for voluntary service in England or Ireland. Then, the organization that was sending me started to show me offers from Romania, Macedonia and Poland. This was when I had concluded that it’s so far different then Spain and something that I would never have thought about, and so I am here.” – recalls Irene. Both Irene and Laura looked for work associated with child care and using various ways they reached the kindergarten in Lublin.

Adventures of Spanish women in Poland

Going for a long-term voluntary service is also a clash with new culture, customs and language. - „I have to speak Polish in the kindergarten and I help myself with gestures and body language, and... they somehow understand me!” – tells Irene. - „The biggest test was the work. Children do not speak English and I had to quickly learn in order to stop repeating „I don’t understand” in every troublesome situation” – recalls Laura. The coordinator also mentions the problems with Polish: „In the beginning, the girls had problem with a language barrier, but now they have wordings for any situation and they understand a lot!”. Each volunteer has also the opportunity to participate in a language course, which is provided by the host organization.

Trip to Lublin brought many surprises, especially due to the fact that both Irene and Laura have never been in Poland before. - „Before my arrival, I’ve never seen the snow. It was a real shock for someone who’s from Valencia!” – tells Laura about her winter surprise. Irene was surprised by the personality of Polish people: „People keep a little more distance here. Besides, I also notice the small differences: e.g. on a pedestrian crossing you always wait for a green light, even if not a single car is passing at the moment. In Spain this would be unthinkable!”.


To go or not to go?

When the girls were asked if they would recommend going to European Voluntary Service to someone else, they without hesitation admitted that it is worth to try it out, select interesting topic and consider for how long you would like to go. For people who consider it, they convince that EVS allows acquiring new skills, as it was the case with Irene: „I’ve learned how to be more independent, how to take a greater care of my money and my English has improved. I’ve encountered something completely different and it has allowed me to open to new things”. Laura adds without hesitation: „It’s a unique experience and if you’ll find motivation and willingness within yourself, then you’ll have the time of your life”.

It’s time to look for your own EVS project, apply, pack your bags and... hit the road!

Katarzyna Płachta

Published: Fri, 29/07/2016 - 10:11

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