Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tina in Lithuania on EVS - 2011

"...if you really want to stretch yourself, develop on a personal level, do something completely different, all whilst meeting some amazing people and having some fantastic experiences along the way, then definitely consider becoming a volunteer."


Tina tells us all about her first 5 months as an EVS volunteer in Lithuania...


Well, where do I start?! I’m around halfway through my EVS and with still around 5 months to go, this is the perfect time for me to reflect and write a blog for Concordia…

I am living in Kaunas, Lithuania which is Lithuania’s second city. It’s a nice city – not too big, but substantial enough to have an array of interesting museums, an ancient castle, historical monuments, a beautiful old town, as well as my personal favourite –the two rivers that flow through the city. In terms of my project,I’m working at a day care centre for adults who have psychological disorders, including anything fromschizophrenia to depression. As it’s a day care centre the clients can drop by whenever they like during opening hours, and during this time we run different and engaging activities for the clients to participate in. The activities range from basic health and fitness exercises to arts and crafts to excursions to simply a game of cards or the ever popular ‘Uno’. The work is varied and we have the space to run our own activities and projects, should we wish, which is a really nice way to contribute to the centre and its people.

I have done plenty of volunteering in the past, but nothing on a long term basis like this. And I’m certainly not going to sit here and tell you that it’s easy. It’s far from. But what I will say is that, as clich├ęd as it is – it really doesresemble a roller-coaster with highs and lows aplenty. But I must say that with the lows that come from time to time, the highs are well… they are sky high! So let’s start with the highs. What do they include? Well I would certainly start with the people I’ve been lucky to meet. With so many volunteers you are constantly surrounded with a rich array of different cultures, customs and traditions, andit truly is a network of cultures like no other. It’s amazing. And that doesn’t even include all the fascinating Lithuanians I’ve met who’ve taught me so much about their culture which I’ve been fortunate enough to experience first-hand. The scenery and landscape is also astounding – Lithuania has about 30% forest land, many beautiful lakes and fantastic greenery – I know it’s something I’m desperately going to miss when I head back to England at the end of my EVS. Other than the people and the landscape, the food is fab, the history is fascinating (and very recent and therefore very raw) and the adventurous lifestyle of being a volunteer makes it all very spontaneous and exciting at times.

In terms of the lows, well these are mostly based around the differences in culture. The language was a big problem to begin with – despite living in Lithuania’s second city, English is barely spoken. This caused a great deal of misery and frustration when I’d get lost outside in the -20 weather and really struggle to communicate with people and navigate my way about as I would normally do if I’m lost somewhere. Over time, this has certainly gotten easier as I’ve become familiar with the language, as well as the city overall. And speaking of -20 – the weather! Wow, I’ve certainly learnt how to dress up warm. But one of the lows was certainly when the heating got turned off in our house in April when it was still very cold – the shock in learning that some of the heating in Lithuania is still centralised and controlled by the city astounded me. Being freezing cold in my own room was a definite low. Other cultural shocks and lows have come about, but I would certainly say that you really learn to cope and deal with them better as time goes on, and I know that I have learnt a great dealduring these highs and lows.

In conclusion, if you can do an EVS, you really can do anything. It’s the type of non-formal education you just can’t get from anywhere else – the whole programme is very unique. Do think about it carefully before you apply. But in essence: if you really want to stretch yourself, develop on a personal level, do something completely different, all whilst meeting some amazing people and having some fantastic experiences along the way, then definitely consider becoming a volunteer. Good luck!

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