Thursday, November 17, 2011

2011 EVS Final Evaluation Seminar - Joe tells all...

Concordia's ex EVS volunteer
Joe who went to Austria
tells all about last weekend's

EVS Final Evaluation Seminar
in Bradford

The seminar was great - there was a big group of participants (I would estimate somewhere around 35 people) but the trainers did a great job of making sure everyone got to know each other. It was great to meet so many other volunteers and hear about their projects and their experiences abroad. In my experience EVS volunteers also tend to be really interesting and fun people to spend time with, and this seminar was no exception. In terms of the seminar itself - my EVS finished over a year ago and I've been busy with plenty of other things since then, so I was unsure if it would be helpful for me to attend an evaluation meeting so long after the end of my project. However despite the late date I actually found it really helpful to spend some time looking back at my experiences of Austria and what I learnt while I was there, and reflecting on how EVS has impacted on me and my plans for the future. We also received information about further mobility opportunities offered by the other strands of the European Commission's life-long learning programme, such as Leonardo or Grundtvig, which I will definitely be looking into! In short it was a great weekend and definitely worth taking part in.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kelly on EVS in Iceland - 2011

It is unsurprisingly difficult to know where to start. With 6 months of time already having trickled by there is obviously too much to say… But for a general overview of my time so far, EVS in Iceland has meant…….

“Workcamps” with international volunteers around the different parts of Iceland, learning to drive a tractor, discovering the magic of Icelandic turf houses and turf as a building material, sleeping outside in the summer night sun (no darkness!), staying inside in the winter darkness (too much darkness!), planting trees, herding hundreds of sheep, learning how to milk a cow, seeing the northern lights, eating cured shark, cleaning the coast and building furniture from the driftwood, discovering the Icelandic Sagas and beliefs in hidden people and elves, building a children’s playground, organising and leading a bicycle camp around the south of the country, making a vegetable patch and greenhouse, frosty mornings, sitting in “hot pots” and hot rivers (a favourite Icelandic past time), often seeing more animals than people on a daily basis, alien landscapes and lava fields, huge open horizons, fishing, never having the same day repeated, painting, learning how to build a shelter with just wood and rope (no nails!), glaciers, volcanoes, sleeping in bunk beds, hiking, always cooking in huge quantities, strange dentist visit (they have TVs on the ceiling!), new people, new ideas, new recipes, lots of energy, tiredness, silent landscapes, noisy houses, and the strongest WIND.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Steph on EVS in Hungary - 2011

A Lot of Red Tomatoes

My hosting organisation’s website proudly bears the moto ‘Everybody is other in another way’. I like this sentiment, a lot, it summarises perfectly how it feels to be here. The language barrier, interacting with the disabled residents, how everything is different yet oddly fits together to make somewhere I feel I can call home. My first two months have gone so fast it feels like I finished hanging my photos on the wall of my room only yesterday, yet when I think of the things I’ve done and the progress we have made it feels like I’ve been here my whole life. The first few weeks were all about guided tours around our new lives and the paperwork to suit, but as the days marched on we soon found ourselves making friends and finding novel ways of communicating with the world around us.

For those who don’t know, Hungarian is an isolated language which contains many unnecessarily long words and bears no real resemblance to any western European language. This coupled with the fact English is not often phonetic makes remembering how to pronounce things almost impossible and as such I am sceptical that I will ever become proficient but I will endeavour to continue trying. Another hindrance is the pesky English accent I own as, when we go round the room practising pronunciation, the Germans get a big thumbs up, the Dutch make a reasonable attempt and I get a 'well at least you tried' kind of look.

The first word I mastered was, of course, thank you, as this knowledge alone can, with the assistance of lots of hand gestures, get you pretty much anything you want. Next I memorised the days of the week and the words 'open' and 'closed' so I could read the opening hours of all the shops and the local outdoor swimming pool. Since then my vocabulary has become a lot more eclectic as it has been driven primarily by the autistic people we assist. Colours were fairly easy to remember due to the extensive drilling which comes with overplaying Jenga and colouring in picture books. Next I progressed onto the phrase 'a lot of red tomatoes' which evolved due to one of the residents who carries a Spar offers magazine everywhere with him

which contains a picture of a punnet of, yes you guesse d it, red tomatoes on the bottom right-hand side (half price at only 210 forints in case you are interested). My latest language acquisitions are the ability to say ‘come here’ and ‘change your shoes’ in an attempt to maintain some level professionalism being able to assist with day-to-day duties when the clients are not themselves working in the sheltered workshops. Finally I can now say all of the characters from the tale of Winne the Pooh in Hungarian, thanks to a game of memory, well you never know when this might crop up in conversation. So yes, you are correct in thinking that I can’t (yet) coherently buy a train ticket to Budapest but I can tell you that Winne the Pooh is yellow.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rebecca in Germany on EVS - 2011

"... best of all, I have assisted on two school trips. One week in the Harz... and one week in Sweden..."

I arrived in the evening of the 13th of August and was met by another Finnish volunteer who is also working on the project. Shortly after we met 3 more German volunteers who we would be working and living together with for the next 11 months. The flat is very closely situated to the 3 schools that we will be working with and I was very impressed by the efforts of the community here to renovate and equip the flat in order to help make us all feel comfortable. Unfortunately we were not able to receive the internet in the flat until 1 ½ months into the project, but we found ways to keep ourselves busy (most notably, attempting to understand all of the American/ British television series which were dubbed in German, let alone German T.V =P).

I am beginning to make many new friends around here with people from the youth centre, the other volunteers, the teachers and the students. Although some of these friendships will take a while to form it seems that they will be long lasting.

The work we have been given here, at times, has not seemed like a lot. We have been sharing it together between the 5 of us. However, I think as we start to find our feet’s better, the work load will start increasing.

The tasks I have done so far include:-

  • Making a photo chart of all the teachers.
  • Supervising at break times and in the library has given me a chance to meet and talk to the students and also the librarian, who does not speak English ;)
  • Currently I am helping to create archaeology workshops and an English language conversation group with the teachers. I am also working with a German volunteer to create a cooking group.
  • have translated some documents and started working to find more partners for the school’s youth exchange programme.
  • I have attended a first aid course and a church ceremony! (at the beginning of the year to welcome the 5th graders on their first day at school)
  • And best of all, I have assisted on two school trips. One week in the Harz getting to know the 6th graders and one week in Sweden getting to know the 10th graders.

I soon expect that my level of German will increase rapidly. I am taking a course that runs two times a week, when my German language level increases I will find it much easier to work and live in this society.

I have been very happy with the level of support and hospitality that I have received from my host organization to help me branch out and find new activities and people. I was especially impressed when all the staff sung me happy birthday which was co-ordinated in a choir by a music teacher during a staff meeting!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hayley in Denmark on EVS - 2011

"I am working at a social café for the ...Youth Red Cross ... [it is] entirely volunteer run giving it a very fun, relaxed, friendly and social atmosphere."

Never, have I felt more terrified than I did in those first few days of my EVS placement. I had inadvertently accepted a placement offer from a religious co-ordinating organisation and was therefore in the midst of morning prayers, faith workshops and gospel rehearsals – an uncomfortable position for a ‘non-believer’ such as myself. However, I was soon to discover that many of the other international volunteers (there are 25 of us from 12 countries) were also previously unaware of the religious nature of the organisation and that there was would be no sinister conversion attempt and things started to mellow out.

For my project I am working at a social café for the Ungdommens Røde Kors (Youth Red Cross) where, as well as developing a slight addiction to coffee, I have the responsibility of trying to maximise the profits. With the exception of a part-time manager who deals with all the dull legal and paper stuff, the cafe is entirely volunteer run giving it a very fun, relaxed, friendly and social atmosphere. Day-to-day activities can include organising music events, parties, workshops, making coffee and food as well as trying to think up of innovative ways of improving the cafe without spending any money. Not only am I gaining great project management skills, but I am also doing so in the knowledge that all of what I’m doing, is having a postive impact. It may be a small impact, but a positive one nonetheless.