Tuesday, June 4, 2013

News from our EVS Volunteer in Hungary!

Our EVS Volunteer, Abi, is five months in to her 11 month placement in Hungary. If you like the sound of her project--you're in luck! Compass is looking for another EVS volunteer to start in July. 

Find more info HERE , or email evs@concordiavolunteers.org.uk  

Sziastok from Hungary!  My name is Abi, I am 22 years old, and I have been an EVS volunteer in Kaposvár, Hungary for about 5 months.  I am therefore now living proof that you actually can go and live abroad for a year, at virtually no cost to yourself (flights, food, accommodation and pocket money all paid), so long as you are willing to volunteer as for the European Voluntary Service.

 In Kaposvár I am a volunteer for Compass Európai Ifjúsági Közösségért Egyesület, which does three main jobs together with quite a few other smaller ones.   

So they:

  • Promote Youth Exchanges and EVS to local people, especially in schools.
  • Act as a sending, hosting and co-ordinating organisation for EVS and a sending organisation for Youth Exchange.
  • Hold language clubs where local people of any age can come and practice their language skills with a native speaker for 500 HUF per hour – which is about £1.45.  
They also:
  • Hold dance clubs and drama clubs
  • Coordinate volunteering at the local theatre and cinema
  • Visit a kindergarten to help the children with creative activities
  • Help out at community events like festivals and marathons
  • Visit rural villages
  • And more…

I can definitely say that since I’ve been at Compass, no week has been the same!

Compass EVS volunteers (and there are 15 of us now, soon to be more) live together in two flats in the city centre.  We come from Romania, Turkey, France, Germany, the UK, Spain and Italy.  I share a room, something I haven’t done since I was seven years old.  But it’s good fun. You learn something new every day, whether it’s about someone’s language, or their religion, or what they like to eat for breakfast.  And in return, you get to show people what tea with milk tastes like.

One of the best things about living in Hungary is that suddenly everything becomes more exciting. We shop at Tesco and Lidl, where there are rows and rows of cottage cheese some of which is covered in chocolate.  There’s almost no butter, and the only butter there is comes in tiny pats of 100g each.  There are huge jars of pickled vegetables of almost every kind imaginable, rows and rows and rows of cold meat, a tank full of live fish, almost no brown bread, and chocolate with custard, apricot and biscuit, Oreos, blueberry, pear, caramel, yoghurt, and rice.  Even a supermarket can be an adventure.  

As for Kaposvár itself, it’s beautiful.  There are huge buildings of many colours, pink, yellow, green, blue, orange; broad streets; fountains; statues (this is the city of painters); and green spaces everywhere, including a very scenic lake behind Tesco.  On Sundays you can go down to a market where old women sell live rabbits and honey and vegetables and enormous underwear.  And if you go into the bakeries you can get freshly baked bread and poppy-seed cakes, or cherry strudel, or rolls just out of the oven. 

As for the volunteering?  I can only say I’ve learnt a lot.  Before I came I was slightly terrified of small children.  But now I’ve spent hours playing with them at kindergarten, I’m not even fazed when a small boy sticks his finger up his nose and then wants to hold my hand.  I’ve taken classes of primary school children and teenagers by myself and lived to tell the tale.  And now I have no fear of approaching anyone to talk in a lively fashion about the delights of Youth Exchanges – even if I have to do it in my terrible Hungarian.  Sometimes it’s difficult: people are so afraid of seeming stupid or not being able to understand that they don’t even want to try saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘the sun is shining’.  But that only makes it more satisfying when they do suddenly pluck up the courage to have a go.  And other times it’s really easy and fun.  I once went to a class in a local high school with another volunteer to give the students the task of introducing themselves with a lie.  Before we told them the task I explained that I was the daughter of Prince Charles and had been given an elephant for my birthday which I rode to school every day.  And the lies they told in return were fantastic: we had the third anti-christ, Jesus’ cat, a lion hunter and the divorced wife of a sheikh who had a camel fetish.

And in between language clubs and visiting schools and kindergartens and office work there’s always something else going on.  We spent three days walking around the city centre in period costume as part of the Festival of Painters.  I’ve handed out nuts and water and dried fruit to runners of half-marathons.  I’ve made at least 50 flags for children to wave at the Day of Poets.  And I’m always looking forward to the next challenge and surprise…