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Sharing Humanity through European Volunteering
Wednesday 19 August is World Humanitarian Day (#ShareHumanity). The United Nations have called on young people to use social media to share their stories, and inspire a greater sense of responsibility, solidarity and social activism.
[Blog update September 2020: European Voluntary Service has been replaced by the European Solidarity Corps. The opportunities described below are still available through the European Solidarity Corps.]
The European Voluntary Service (EVS), part of Erasmus+ Key Action 1, enables young people aged 17-30 to express their personal commitment to these values by volunteering full-time in another country for between two and 12 months. Each volunteer has a sending organisation in their own country, and a receiving non-profit organisation in the destination country. To mark Wold Humanitarian Day, we heard from members of the Irish organisation Voluntary Service International (VSI) about their experience of EVS.
VSI Volunteer Programme Coordinator, Helen Walmsley:
“VSI is the Irish branch of Service Civil International, a worldwide peace movement that began in 1920. We work to promote peace, social justice, sustainable development and intercultural understanding through volunteering abroad and in Ireland.
In addition to our own programmes, VSI has worked with the EVS programme for many years, helping us to achieve our aims of fostering global citizenship and solidarity. VSI is an accredited EVS sending, hosting and coordinating organisation and on World Humanitarian Day we would like to highlight some of the great work that our EVS volunteers are doing. VSI currently have volunteers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, France, Iceland, Belgium, Slovenia and Albania. In Ireland we are hosting a volunteer in the VSI office, and also coordinating an EVS project in Cloughjordan.
Masha Buldakova from Russia is 6 months in to her EVS with VSI, working on our International Volunteer Programme, placing volunteers on projects around the world and in Ireland. Masha has spent a lot of her summer travelling around Ireland visiting VSI volunteers on our projects with community and environmental organisations.
Albina Fatkhutdinova, also from Russia, is currently doing her EVS at Cloughjordan Community Farm in Ireland’s only eco-village. She has catalogued her experiences on her Facebook, Albina’s EVS project in Ireland.
John McTigue is currently doing his EVS in Georgia with Charity Humanitarian Centre “Abkhazeti", a Tbilisi based NGO working with internally displaced people and other vulnerable populations."
Irish EVS volunteer, Paul Cleary:
Paul Cleary is doing his EVS through VSI with Wings of Hope in Bosnia and Herzegovina, helping the organisation’s work on inclusion of women, children, youth and other vulnerable groups through promotion and protection of human rights and mental health.
“I had been working in the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) industry for a few years and I was looking for a way to use my skills to help people. I heard about the EVS/Erasmus+ programme and I was very excited about the kind of activities it offered. I had the opportunity to create a project working with a fantastic organisation in Sarajevo and co-ordinated by the very friendly and efficient team at VSI in Dublin.
The organisation I volunteer at is called Foundation Wings of Hope/Fondacia Krila Nade. It is a grassroots organisation which has been working in Sarajevo since 1995, the end of the Bosnian war in Former Yugoslavia. The main areas in which Wings of Hope operates are education, employability, and psycho-social support. They traditionally worked with people directly affected by the war, but their focus has recently changed to working primarily with children. Among other things, they help people return to school, aid children who have learning difficulties, and provide support to children, parents and school staff in cases of bullying, domestic abuse, and behavioural problems.
My project focuses on providing English Language classes to students. Since my project started I have worked with students of all ages and helped them learn English for school, for work, to prepare for exams, or just as a hobby. They are all fantastic people with interesting stories and it has really helped me to understand the social and political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Sarajevo in particular. I have also worked with staff in the organisation, improving their level of English. Before I finish my project in October, I am hoping to organise seminars with local teachers to share ideas on how to engage students more in the classroom. So far, I have enjoyed every moment of my EVS and I am only disappointed it will end so soon.”
Images courtesy of VSI. We welcome contributions and ideas for ‘Insights’ at firstname.lastname@example.org.