EVS: a way of life

What is EVS? Maybe you still  don’t know what this is all about. So today I have the honour to present Rubén who will tell us about his experience and the feelings afterwords. He is a Spanish ex-volunteer who did his EVS in Moldova in the journalism field. I met him at the 20 years of EVS in Castilla y León meeting, the one I had met  Emilio, where we shared the nostalgia for our EVS times. Ruben’s story is full of  remembrances and details about what means experiencing a new country not everybody has heard about.

Rubén EVS story

I still remember my mother’s face when I told her I was going to Moldova to volunteer for one year. Moldova? Where is that?- she asked arching her eyebrows with a surprise expression. The scene was repeated every time I told somebody about my plans. That’s how I realised what EVS meant and how hard it was going to be to explain it to people.

I packed without thinking too much and headed to Chisinau, capital of Moldova. I still remember that it smelled like rain when I landed.

More than a year after, there’s no single day that a though or a conversation take me there: Botanica, Valea Trandafiliror or a walk under Stefan Cel Mare’s watchful eye. Amongst my memories, it lives the image of a blurred city, immersed in the mist of a temporary paralysis; a Sunday in the trolley bus taking me to an unpronounceable name place. The smell of wine. An unrecognizable and unknown musical piece. A furtive love. And back to the rutine. A scene kept where the good memories are saved.

When I came back home for Christmas, everybody asked me about Chisinau and my mother still didn’t know where Moldova was. It’s difficult to sum up in a few words all the experiences you live, to try to condense the colour of the buildings, the people’s faces, the smoking chimneys…I remember speaking about Transnistria, an imaginary country- de facto- that a few people know while my friends looked at me amazed.

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Moldova’s faces

Thinking about Chisinau after the EVS is like wearing a diving suit. A place for myself full of memories, anecdotes, trips and unique moments.

After a while, and coming back to the present time, I can say that EVS meant a change in the way to look at things. A new way to look further than what can be really seen.

It’s difficult to find similar experiences to the ones lived during a year volunteering once you’re back home; but I can totally tell that EVS never let you go, because once it’s over, it becomes part of you, your personality, it lives inside you in your memories. That’s why I think EVS is nothing but a way of life.

Sometimes I remember Chisinau with nostalgia, some others with enthusiasm. I like to think that one day I will hug the streets of the city again while I eat placinta watching the sunset between the grey blocks of Botanica.

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EVS. Are we waisting our time?

The person behind that question is Emilio, an italian ex-EVSer whom I met in the meeting 20 years of EVS in Castilla y León celebrated in August in Ávila. So, yes, we have a collaboration post today! Emilio is sharing his EVS esperience and where this has led him. This is his story:

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Emilio during his EVS in Spain

When I applied for the project, a short term EVS in Spain, I was not even sure about it. It was 2013, I was at the very beginning of that amazing thing that Erasmus+ is and I took part in my first exchange a few days before. At that time, there was still Youth in Action programme and my first experience with it was such a shit, that it made me think it could be just a good way to get funds from EU doing nothing and actually many guys do the same, just start a new entity and write projects and apply, then write and apply again and so on, it’s not a secret. But the majority of the associations truly believe in it and they organize good projects and most of all really need volunteers to continue their activities.

As I said, I wasn’t sure about it. But then I got the email, “Dear Emilio Bianco you have been selected…”. Oh God! I couldn’t believe it, 1 month in Spain, in the deep north, so far from Barcelona or Andalusia, another Spain actually. And I checked that small dot on Google Maps thousands of times, just a couple of houses in the middle of nowhere. Am I ready? What am I going to do there? And if I don’t like it?

But I liked it. One of the best experiences of my life. I’m still part of that association (Imágenes y Palabras), I’m still friend with the president, one of the few people I really care about what they think, we talk often and of course, a part of me will be always there.

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Emilio’s EVS activities

So what is EVS? One of the main (and most difficult) questions people face when they go for this kind of project. We never know how to answer. EVS is sharing, coworking, EVS is laugh, EVS is peace and happiness but at same time fight: fight against someone we don’t like, fight against ourselves, our fears, our expectations. EVS is love, self reflection, so many feelings we can’t even describe, but IT’S WORTH IT!! Oh God if it’s worth it…

After that, I finished my Masters, I studied more to become an environmetal journalist and then I started working in an NGO, writing about good examples to share, good practices to make our planet better and to take care of our common house.

And now? Whilst writing I’m packing my stuff again because I’m leaving soon. It`s worth it, trust me! It’s something that changes your mind and your way to look at the world and everybody should do it. That’s why I decided to go for a long term EVS. Where? Kenya (dreams come true).

CHEERS!!!!!

Emilio

20 years of EVS in Castilla y León

From 24th to 27th of August I participated in the meeting 20 years of EVS in Castilla y León organised by the Spanish National Agency in the village of Navarredonda de Gredos. During the meeting EVS and ex-EVS volunteers, coordinators, mentors and youth workers related to the EVS program, explored and discussed about the situation of the Service after 20 years, especially in the region.

While we had a walk through the stunning surroundings of Navarredonda de Gredos, we had the chance to walk along our experience with the EVS. I was inspired by walking with someone who is still doing his EVS and got the opportunity to see how is to experience it in Castilla y León. We were also discusing the challenges the program goes through in the region and trying to find a way to solve them.

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Workshop to increase EVS visibility

We created a Coogle map (soon available) where all EVS related people are tagged and eager to give information and tips about the program, as well as some proposals for the policy makers to implement the visibility and dissemination of the program, which we think it is the main challenge. We came to the conclusion that people in Castilla y León don’t know the program and are not aware of the the benefits it could bring to the region.

Personally, I discovered that there are other EVS experiences way more different than mine. I met people who volunteer in a 7 inhabitants village; who started a career as a trainer; who put their passion in REVE (the Spanish association of ex-volunteers), who are planning to to stay in Spain after, who dare to get into the unknown and who share those feelings after EVS with me.

It is hard to have such a connection. But when there is a common experience, as the one we had, is much more easier. Let’s keep the EVS connection!

Featured Photo via VisualHunt.com

EVS didn’t changed my life. It changed me.

Coming back from EVS is hard. We all know that. So many memories, friends, experiences, travels…and so on. We have been told that we are going to go through that process of adaptation to your home country, those feelings of nostalgia and treasuring moments and the will of staying in the host country. But what happens in reality? Well, in reality, people fall in love during EVS and start a relationship; people finally get a job in the host country; people start volunteering in their homeland; people move to another country looking for similar experience; people keep long distance friendships; people start connecting with foreigners living in their country just for the sake of not speaking their mother tongue which now sounds weird…The list is endless.

What I realise as the time pass by is that my life after EVS hasn’t changed that much. But I have. I’m still living in my hometown; but my heart and mind and looking for new experiences abroad. I still sleep in the same room I used to sleep when I was a child; but now is full of memories of my EVS and the travels that came after. My best friends are the same; I only have added some more. They might not be close in kilometers, but they are close to my heart. I’m walking through the same streets I’ve walked my whole life. I just wander like a stranger with other city maps in my mind, trying to discover new places in such a familiar place.

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Dare to jump

Photo credits: Thomas Leuthard

So yes. I have changed a lot. I am now aware of the world that is outside. And that is not so big. At least not big enough so two friends can not meet again if they want to. I have learnt that we never stop learning, especially from ourselves. Our inner world is probably bigger than the Earth. And as the Earth does, we change. We live in a constant change influenced by what happens to us, the times we fall and the times we stand, the times we dare to discover and try; and of course all the footprints people we meet on the way leave on us.

I like to think that when we meet somebody, we don’t lose a small piece of ourselves; we just share a piece with the other. And that is what happened during and after my EVS: I became a collector of other people’s pieces.

Photo via VisualHunt.com

5 reasons to go to the Digital Participation Camp

Every year in July a big event takes place in the town of Münster: the Digital Participation Camp. It is a 10-day camp organized by The Global Experience where young activists from all over the world work in digital projects for social good . This year from July 17-27th we exchanged ideas, created and implemented projects and changed our perspective of the world.

There might be many reasons to be in such a camp: to change the world, to meet new people, to exchange knowledge, to change your point of view, to pitch an idea… Here are my 5 reasons to attend the DPC.

1.Where the magic happens

Imagine around a 100 people from different countries, with different cultural backgrounds, believes, ideas, languages…staying in the same place for 10 days. Put them together to create and develop amazing projects related to human rights, transparency, refugees, women rights and stereotypes. Mix all those hours of hard work with big motivation to change things and there you go: MAGIC! The DPC is the best place to learn not only from others but about yourself.

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2. Sharing is caring 

The Digital Participation Camp takes places in a school where we all work, sleep, cook, eat and basically anything you can imagine together (including showering). This 24 hours a day contact creates a unique atmosphere where there is always people around to share tasks, a deep conversation, a night out or personal stories.

3. Inspiration everywhere

What I have found at the DPC is inspirational people, strong women and men willing to change not only the world, but themselves. Human beings ready to break stereotypes, to find their inner self and live the life as they want to live it. Each human being at the DPC is a story. And all of them have their own space at #humansofDPC

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4. Social good

The aim of the DPC is to develop digital projects to have an impact in society. This year we held 6 different projects.

Akhbar Meter: this Egyptian initiative looks for transparency in media by encouraging people to read critically the news.
Part Of wants to integrate refugees in the German community through local clubs.
HarassMap seeks reporting sexual harassment incidents in Egypt.
I paid a bribe aims to fight corruption in Egypt by reporting and creating awareness.
Ziag is a bridge platform to connect refugees with local community in Austria.
Video team has produced videos to show that at the end of the day we are all humans, regardless the labels we usually use.

Besides these teams, organizing a camp like this means a lot of effort. So I would like to thank the organizers, administration and logistics team, Social Media team, technical support team, kitchen teams and every volunteer contribution that made the DPC became real once again.

5. And fun!

While we did all that, we also had time to enjoy, to taste food from all over the world, to dance, to sing around the piano, to sit around a barbecue at the lake, to discover new places, to ride a bike, to travel or to eat a lot of Nutella.

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Do you still need more reasons to go?

Photo credits to Alexandra Corbu and the Social Media team of DPC16.

Encuentro INCUAL-ÍZATE

El pasado fin de semana tuvo lugar en Zamora en encuentro INCUAL-ÍZATE, financiado por el programa Erasmus+, para poner sobre la mesa la situación de las titulaciones de tiempo libre y los certificados de profesionalidad. En el encuentro participábamos monitores y coordinadores de tiempo libre, escuelas de tiempo libre, técnicos de áreas de juventud de ayuntamientos y expertos en certificaciones y cualificaciones de la Administración regional.

Los objetivos del encuentro eran los siguientes:

  • Obtener unas líneas de trabajo que fomenten la transparencia y el reconocimiento de las competencias y de las cualificaciones adquiridas mediante aprendizaje formal, no formal e informal, facilitando el camino hacia un Espacio Europeo de las Aptitudes y Cualificaciones.
  • Apoyar la participación activa de las redes de la sociedad civil y las organizaciones no gubernamentales en la aplicación de políticas de juventud relativas al reconocimiento de la educación no formal.
  • Apoyar el Diálogo Estructurado con los jóvenes y fomentar su participación activa en la vida democrática.
  • Acabar con la des-información e incertidumbres existentes en la juventud que posee una titulación de Juventud (Monitor/a y Director/a-Coordinador/a de Tiempo Libre) sobre los procesos de Certificación Profesional en el ámbito de la Educación en el Tiempo Libre y su Futuro Profesional.

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Foro abierto con el responsable del Instituto de la Juventud de CYL, Eduardo Carazo

Durante el sábado hubo distintas ponencias para exponer la situación actual de los certificados de profesionalidad entre las que se estaban las de los responsables del ECYL y del Instituto de la Juventud. Después de formaron grupos de trabajo para crear unas líneas de actuación en materia de titulaciones de tiempo libre y empleabilidad; la adaptación de las Escuelas de Tiempo Libre a los Certificados de Profesionalidad; y por último, el futuro de las titulaciones de Tiempo Libre. Las conclusiones y peticiones extraídas serán trasladadas a los responsables políticos y administrativos para que pueda haber una mejor adaptación a las necesidades reales en el ámbito del tiempo libre.Son éstas:

  • Dificultad de acceso a las titulaciones.
  • Creación de empleo temporal y sumergido; para evitarlo se propone la profesionalización de las titulaciones de tiempo libre.
  • Unión entre empleo y voluntariado, contemplando este último en la vida laboral.
  • Creación de sinergias entre la dirección de juventud y las Consejerías de Educación y Empleo.
  • Adaptación de las empresas de Tiempo Libre a los certificados de profesionalidad.
  • Flexibilidad en la legislación en cuanto a las instalaciones y el profesorado.
  • Creación de sistemas de calidad.
  • Valoración de la experiencia de formadores y monitores para dar cursos de certificación.
  • Posibilidad de adaptación al certificado.
  • Eliminación y modificación de algunos de los títulos de tiempo libre.

Tras la finalización del curso, se nos ha instado a participar en los encuentros regionales que tendrán lugar en las próximas semanas en las diferentes capitales de provincia.

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Life changing training

Extra, extra! Update with fresh video from the training.

From March 2nd to 10th I was one of the participants/trainers of the training of trainers It’s up to me 3, in Diepenau, Germany. The aim of the training was to create a new generation of trainers by using learning by doing methods. The main objectives were:

  • Know-how: learn why and how somes activities are done and what is behind the scenes.
  • Improve our soft skills.
  • Provide and receive feedback.
  • Know different styles of trainers.
  • Self-assesment to evaluate our qualities.

What did we do? We spent 7 days working, learning and living together, pushing our limits in very different situations. Each of us had different challenges; for some it was the fear to stage; for others to express their feelings, to manage and deliver a workshop or to work with deadlines. We had many sessions on listening skills, debates, creativity, non verbal communication, public speaking…and the crucial point of all of them was the debriefing. That moment where everybody felt free to express their feelings about the activity or to keep them for themselves.

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We also had leisure moments where we put all our imagination and efforts. Specially challenging were the national evenings, where national groups had to prepare dinner for more than 40 people and present their culture and traditions. But that was not all. During the whole training more small workshops were developed according to our knowledge and needs. There were specific sessions for women and men, quizzes, acroyoga sessions, weird abilities trainings… In addition, we enjoyed our free afternoon in the close town Minden, a lovely and peaceful place to keep the ideas flowing.

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A very important topic of the training was team building. I was not only encouraged during the work in small teams, but also as a big group. The gossip box and the secret friend game were the perfect combination to keep the spirit up. Every small detail was taken into account to create and maintain the atmosphere of a group working and learning together.

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This training was special not only on a professional level, but also on personal level. We had time to reflect, to think about the past and the future, to make ideas happen, to go with the flow, to take the initiative, to listen, to hug (remember it was one of my New Year’s resolutions), to learn that there are no bad and good feelings, to take others help, to surprise others, to relieve others and above all, to accept. We went through a lot of feelings during this training, more than any ever. From frustration to happiness, from fear to gratitude.

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After the training some projects are already drafted, some partnership ideas have appeared and some friendship have started. And most of all, we got the seed of being the best trainers ever. And now it’s up to us.

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As a conclusion, one of the sessions come to my mind. The workshop delivered by one of the groups, made us think of a inspiring moment in our lives we wanted to share in one minute. We had 10 minutes to prepare it, practise in front of the mirror and get ready for presentation. My idea was, of course about my EVS; more specifically about how it happened. A lot of people used to ask me why I had choosen Serbia to go on EVS; then I started the story from the beginning to finishing saying that Serbia had chosen me. As in life, sometimes we don’t know where to go, but life knows where to take us.

 

Photo credits to Ayhan Feraset.

 

 

Fuckup Nights

Sunday night I was reading a magazine I use to read every week. In the last pages there was an essay about failing. Two words grabbed my attention: Fuckup Nights. Brand new concept for me. It was said that this movement born in Mexico, appears as a contrast to the worldwide famous TEDx talks. The Fuckup Nights are sessions organized, firstly for friends, in which people shared their fails stories around some beers. I immediately took note of the concept. A couple of days after here I am, writing about it. And not only that. I am still amazed how everything is conected. Or it’s just that we connect what we need to see connected.

Before Christmas I was looking for some added value for the blog. So I thought about the TEDx videos. They were inspiring, motivating and pure learning. The idea was to post one per week and comment my impressions. But after having viewed some of them, I didn’t feel sure about it. I didn’t know why. I got stuck.

On a recent trip to Morocco, I met a 72 years old man. He looked like another traveller spending some days in the same hostel as us. But one night, we went to have dinner on the terraced roof and the magic started. The man was born in California, but never felt part of the country. On his early 20’s he decided to explore the world. So he took his backpack to travel the world. After some months travelling, he met a woman in Sapporo. And they settled there. He worked for 24 years with one dream: to travel the world again with his wife. After he got retired and moved for some years to California to take care of his mother until she passed away. Then the couple sold everything they had, including their flat in Sapporo, to live their dream. They have been travelling for 3 years. And there he was. Telling us how young we were. And all the things the world has to offer to us.

Today I sent some emails I was too afraid to send a month ago. Afraid of failing. And I’ve already downloaded the Fuckup Nights book.

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Photo credit: Sixth Lie via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Top 5 of 2015

I started with the blog to share how life is after EVS. I intended to write more practical resources, but as the time passed by, I realized I likeed more another kind of content. Instead of those useful tips I should had given, I felt more confortable writting about all the deep changes that came after the voluntary service. So I kept doing that even without notice it.

But a new year has come. Some things will change, some other won’t. I will add more information about opportunities or iniciatives (I promise); however I will keep writting about what I like. And at the end I always write about people around me. That’s what I like.

This are the most popular posts of 2015:

1. From idea to action: I can say this 2015 was a year of training courses under the Erasmus+ umbrella, specially after june. And this one in Madrid was amazing. Not only because of the people I met and the inspiration I got from them, but because of the training itself. The atmosphere created and the content was very special. We need more caretakers than killers!!!

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Photo credit: Agencia Nacional Española.

2. This is Silvia. One of those people I met in a training. We shared the same passion, so I had the honour to host her post about her experiences after the EVS. Thank you for all Silvia!

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3. My Social Media Bridges. I have no words to describe this experience. But since this is a blog and its main content are words… 🙂 I would sum it up with some words: magic, dances, admiration, self-discoverment, understanding.

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Photo credit: Alexandra Corbu.

4. How EVS changed my life. I opened the blog with this post. And I guess people are starting to see the changes coming of living (in) other country.

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Photo credit: lab604 via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

5. A week mentoring in Greece. I had the great opportunity to meet again with people from previous training in Romania. Apart from the stunning landscapes and food, we were conscious of the e-mentor role and its importance.

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Photo credit: artjunkgirl via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Things we should do more in 2016

Today is the last day of 2015. A day to sum up a whole year. That means to remember good moments; learn from bad ones; recall all the smells and colours of the trips done; listen to your playlist of the year; read the postcards you got in these 365 days; print some photos with the people you met along 52 weeks; think where you were last year and where you are now. It sounds awful, but what we do is evaluate. And we do it because we want the 2016 to be better than 2015. Or at least different.

an act of traveling from one place to another

For sure there are a million things to change. I know I tend to exaggerate, but there are literally a lot of things we should do more in the upcoming year.

Learn to go with the flow.

Close old doors, open new ones.

Write to people you care about. Never is too late.

Meet new people. From all over the world.

Give handmade presents. The time you spend making them is priceless.

Discover new places everywhere.

Open your eyes to surprise.

Dance your favourite song.

Travel.

Hug.

 

What should we do more this year?