Friday, May 11, 2007

Claire is currently on an EVS project in Germany. She is volunteering for a European music organisation for young people in Munich. Claire has also taken part on other Concordia short term international projects in France, Croatia and the Czech Republic. She also co-ordinated a project in Iceland last year.

My EVS Experience:

My EVS isn’t exactly a typical project, but then again, I’m not sure what is! I am spending a year working for a European music organisation for young people in Munich, Germany. Throughout my time at university I took part in many different short term volunteer projects in France to help my French studies, but also in Croatia, the Czech Republic, England and Iceland. I had some amazing experiences and wanted to have the chance to volunteer for a longer period of time when I had finished at university. At the same time, I wanted to get valuable work experience to kick start my career in European Cultural Management. There’s a huge variety of projects on the EVS database and I found a project which was exactly what I wanted!

I work in the office of the music organisation where I organise various projects. These include concerts and tours for young musicians and European conferences. So far, this has taken me to Russia, Poland and Liechtenstein and trips to Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria are lined up for the next few months! In St Petersburg I was helping to organise a European conference which was really interesting and brought me into contact with many people from all over Europe. And of course we all had some time to do some sightseeing!

In the office with me are 2 German volunteers and we also spend quite a lot of our free time together. I’ve been on 2 seminars for EVS volunteers in Germany which have been good fun and have enabled me to meet other volunteers and see new parts of Germany. There are quite a few European volunteers in Munich and we meet up quite often. My placement organised my accommodation for me: I have my own flat which is part of a beautiful big chalet owned by a friendly couple. It’s on the edge of the city centre and only 10 minutes walk to the office.

I love living in Munich: it’s a beautiful city and there’s so much going on. What’s more, it’s not far to the Alps and I can see them from my office window! At the weekends I meet up with friends, go to concerts and the cinema and generally explore the city. And I’ve been on quite a few day trips into the mountains and to towns nearby. Aside from work trips, I’ve also been on weekend trips to Salzburg and Bratislava and I’m planning to go to Italy and Slovenia in the summer – it’s great to live somewhere where you can just sit on a train for a few hours to go on holiday! - Claire

Click here for more pictures of projects in Germany

Click here for a country profile of Germany

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Besty's EVS journey to Russia

Besty Barkas started her EVS in January in Russia. She is based in Nizhny Novgorod which is 600km East from Moscow and is volunteering with NNVS. Her first blog is about her 'Green' journey to Russia from the UK by train.

My journey from London to Moscow was in three stages, London - Brussels, then Brussels - Cologne, then Cologne to Moscow. It took only an afternoon to get to Cologne by high speed Eurostar and Thalys train and was a very comfortable journey. It is also foreigner-friendly; in the station and on the train to Cologne the announcements were made in four languages. However, as soon as I stepped onto the train in Cologne, I felt as if I were in Russia already: all the passengers and attendants were Russian-speaking and all the signs were in Russian.

I had two nights on this train, and it was a good opportunity to practice my language - the sociable atmosphere on the train means it is easy to make friends. At one point, a few ill-placed comments by one of the attendants provoked the whole carriage into a heated debate on sexual equality - a great insight into social attitudes in Russia!

The time went surprisingly quickly as I had a ! good supply of the essentials - books, magazines and cup a soups. We stopped twice for border checks - glad I got a Belorussian transit visa before I left as I avoided being thrown off the train at the border. I arrived at the impressive Belorusskiy station in the morning, about 40 hours from when I'd set off. I think it's much nicer to arrive in a country at the train station - it always tells you so much more about the place, than airports, which are all the same.

From Moscow I got another train to Nizhny Novgorod, where I was met at the station, finally relieved of my heavy suitcase and taken to my new flat. I'm living with two other EVS volunteers - I think EVS volunteers are generally a pretty interesting group of people, most have probably done some voluntary work, abroad or in their own countries and so they have interesting experiences and perspectives to share.

I'm looking forward to my on-arrival training which starts tomorrow, which we new volunteers will do together.


2nd update - What volunteering Besty has been doing?

It seems like only yesterday I arrived here - the time has flown by! It's been alright, not too cold, although there is loooads of snow - I had to literally tunnel out of the flat this morning. In answer to the question everyone's been asking, I've not been drinking too much vodka actually - no-one here seems to have a taste for it - not like the hardened British student drinkers in Moscow!

After our on-arrival training I felt a bit lost and confused about what I was doing - as did the other volunteers. I've found it really useful to be living with other international volunteers to share experiences and support one another. Now, after a month I feel we're finally getting started with the projects, but I've realised how much time can go by before you can get stuck in - there are lots of people you need to meet and become acquainted with, and your course of language lessons to sort out, before you can work out a proper timetable.

I'm co-coordinating (!) a big event which happens every April. It's called the Little Prince and it lasts 2 weeks. It's an event for the children in the orphanages in the Nizhny Novgorod region (about 50 orphanages but probably they won't all take part).

Other than generally helping to coordinate our Russian volunteers and promoting the event in schools and orphanages, I myself, along with other international volunteers, am organising an international day within the two weeks with games, food and activities from other countries. This will be on the 1st of April. I

'm also organising English classes for some orphans and for my colleagues in the office. And having Russian lessons myself. But I've still found time to explore the town a little bit and get acquainted with some of the local bars and their devotees!

Click here for pictures of projects in Russia

Click here for a country profile of Russia

Duncan's EVS adventure in Iceland

Duncan Hammet is a Concordia volunteer currently in Iceland on a 7 month EVS project with WF Iceland. He started his EVS in April 2007.

The next diary extract.

I had a good day today in the Botanical gardens, helping to dig the vegetable patch. I've realised that as a British person, I am/feel closer to the Icelanders than people from
France and Germany. For example, the traditional Icelandic lamb is the same as English Sunday roast. Also, at weekends, Icelanders get very drunk, just like British people.

My first month in
Iceland is almost up and it has been interesting to say the least. After a few problems with baggage, or lack of it, upon my arrival, I have managed to settle in. I am currently living in a shared house close to Reykjavik city centre; however I will soon move to Keflavik, where the airport is. So far, I have met volunteers from Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany and Greece, and it has been interesting learning about the different countries in Europe. The one thing everyone noticed is the lack of trees here in Iceland – the soil has been eroded so much that trees don’t stand a chance of growing here.

During the Easter period, Icelanders take a long vacation (in fact I have spent more time resting than working). I hired a car with some other volunteers and travelled to the south, where we visited the Blue Lagoon (a large geothermal outdoor swimming pool), Gullfoss (a large waterfall) and Geysir (which erupts every 10mins).

The project I am working on is called Clean Up the Coastline, and involves organising cleaning up the beaches of
Iceland in 5 years, through 2 week work camps. In September, the aim is to visit schools and teach about recycling and conduct beach clean ups with the children. Finally, we hope to have a garbage art work exhibition somewhere in Reykjavik, also in September.

My role so far has been organising the project and creating marketing material – I took the good old Corel Draw with me. Also, I am in charge of the Clean Up the Coastline blog, which is supposed to be updated regularly.

The landscape is strange, like a desert, and reminds me of the surface of the Moon. The people are even stranger – a night out in
Reykjavik is something to be experienced. The locals dress in suits and ties and get completely plastered! One Icelander said beer is the devils drink – I think a reference to the price of beer, which is 600kr, equivalent to £6.00.

I went whale watching on the first day of summer, which is also a holiday. This isn’t all as its hyped up to be, as the whale sightings are random. I saw one come close to the boat, but wasn’t quick enough with the camera. The window for taking a photo is only 3 – 5 seconds as they come up to breathe. Most sightings were from a distance, although it was obvious when a whale was sighted as everyone on the boat rushed to one side, resulting in me being crushed!

The end of April saw Veraldavinir preparing for a seminar on immigration issues in
Iceland. This was held in the soon to be famous Gunnersholmie, in the south of Iceland. The day before the participants arrived, the WF volunteers were responsible for making beds and cleaning the community centre where the seminar would take place. The participants were from many countries in Europe, including France, Belgium, Estonia, Palestine' (from YAP) and Spain. The EVS were in charge of the cooking, but could also take part in discussions during the day. The first day was based around ‘what is immigration’? My small group discussed whether I was an immigrant in Iceland and it was decided that the word immigrant has negative meanings and implications. I also cooked a chicken curry for the seminar group.

The last weekend in April saw a clean up activity next to the house of the Icelandic President, conducted with children from immigrant families. The weather was very windy but a lot of rubbish was collected. Part of this activity was game where the children had to make animals from the garbage found on the beach. The following day saw a large debate on immigration in
Reykjavik City Hall, in preparation for the May elections. An interesting point was made in that all Icelanders are immigrants as they are descended from Danish settlers.

We are now preparing for the new EVS to arrive in May and hopefully move to a bigger house in


Rainbow at Skorgor Foss, Iceland

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