Meet Marta in Bulgaria

My EVS adventure started 5th of September 2015. During 9 months of my project I had pleasure to work in Sofia, Bulgaria. My hosting organization SMART Foundation has many goals but mainly they work with youngsters using non-formal methods of education. As a part of amazing team I had opportunity to learning and teaching in all fields of daily life.

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Girl?s power! ? SMART Foundation team

But let?s go back to the beginning. When I?ve decided move to Bulgaria I didn?t know much neither about country and culture nor about people with whom I will be living. I just knew that my flatmates and workmates at the same time, will be from Spain and Germany. The moment when we met in our new apartment for the very first time was beginning of great friendship and cooperation. We all chose our EVS project because we liked description of organization and work, but not because about country. It was really big experience for all of us to start living in country which we didn?t know much about. Mariann (19) and Javiera (25) are two girls with big hearts who made my time in Bulgaria really inspiring.

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New Bulgarian friend, me, Mariann and Javiera.
Our first travel together to Kopriwsztica, Bulgaria.

First months of work were a bit chaotic, we spent long time to know each other, our straightness and weaknesses and interests. That time made us great team with heads full of ideas. It was main aim about our project to ?Explore Volunteer Spirit?, to make our ideas come true and use our skills to organize activities in association. We?ve had opportunity to work in different places among Sofia like: orphan houses, youth centers, primary schools and detention center for refuges. We?ve organized many workshops, trainings for youth workers, travel presentations, social events, languages tandems etc. Each of us was interested in something different and our coordinators were supporting us in all kind of activities.

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 International day of Earth 2016 ? cleaning action around youth center.

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Festival for parents and children. Familiaton 2016, Sofia.

My time in Bulgaria was mostly dedicated to refugees situation. We joined to ?The Refugee Project? where we could use our skills gained in SMART to teach refugee children and make them smile every week. I was leading classes of English for youngsters, where all formal methods were useless ūüėČ Through fun they were learning basic English words and expressions. It was kind of experience which changed my point of view for my life and opened my eyes for refuge crisis in Europe. At the end of project I?ve used my days off and support from my hosting organization to volunteering in the biggest illegal refugee camp in Europe on Greek-Macedonian border. I spent three weeks of cooking and distributing items for around 10 000 people in that hopeless place. It was this kind of thing which changing your life for 360 degrees.

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The Refugee Project in Sofia.

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Idomeni ? Refugee Camp in Greece.

After nine months I can say: I know Bulgaria! Maybe I still don?t understand, but I had chance to discover beauty and complex of this country. With other EVS volunteers we were sharing observations and differences between our homelands and country of roses. With our Bulgarian friends we tried to learn language, traditions, traditional dances (my favorite) and history to be able understand better Bulgarian culture. Most of the time with good weather during weekends we were traveling around country, tasting Balkan flavors and discovering unique landscape.

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Buzludzha communist party monument in Bulgaria.

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View for beautiful Plovdiv from one of 5 hills in the city.

Sooo ?

What is EVS for me?

It is cultural and language challenge 24/7. It is about beautiful people from all over the word making you every day more interesting. It is about discovering and developing yourself. It is about time which you will never forget.

I had opportunity to feel happy, disappointed, fulfilled, useful, useless, homesick, lost, beautiful, strong, helpless, involved, weak and finally more powerful. EVS made me more confident about my prospects and future and brought to my life a lot of new, amazing friends.

I?m writing this post from being back in my comfort zone in Poland, but definitely I can recommend EVS for everyone who wants to have bag full of memories, challenges and good work experience ūüėČ

Meet Lidia in Spain

From Poland to Vallecas

I am still in Madrid and my adventure with Spain hasn?t finished yet, but I already know that it is one of the best experiences in my life.

Lidia

 

I do my voluntary work in Asociación Cultural San Pablo, in Vallecas, that is a district in the south part of Madrid. I spend my time there working with children, helping them to do their homework, to study, we also organize free time activities, workshops, weekend trips, camps. The other part of my project was giving language workshops, in my case it was Arabic.

But the most important part that makes this experience so precious are people that I can share it with my dear ?Vallecas team?: Eneli (Estonia), Lisa (Austria), Jasna (Serbia), Shana (Belgium), Igor (Denmark), Enrico (Italy),  Etienne and Emmanuel (France).

I also got used to a Spanish lifestyle. Siesta, sun, everyone being late, nothing starts on time, no worry, no hurry, tapas.. There are way more differences between Poland and Spain than I thought, but discovering them was really fun.

I could count time I have spent in metro already in days I guess. That?s the biggest disadvantage of living in Madrid, besides that it is a wonderful city with so much to offer. ¬†And from now on it always will be a special place for me, with all the great memories, friendships, travels…

Project title:  European information and animation for youth, Asociacion San Pablo, Madrid

Meet Justyna in Germany

EUROPEAN VOLUNTARY SERVICE IN BERNAU (BEI BERLIN)

From September 2015 I am EVS volunteer (Erasmus+) in Internationaler Bund in Bernau bei Berlin. The organisation has  many aims. One of them, there is an education centre where young people have supporting and developing courses. The classes are adapted to individual needs of each person. In case of learning problems or preparing for exams, students can get support from teachers and psychologists.

The organisation cooperates with others in international projects.

In October, I participated in the project “Our House of Europe” – Erasmus+ Program (the¬†Youth), organized by Internationaler Bund Bernau, CEFIR in Dunkerque and¬†the¬†Regional Institute in Katowice. Partner schools from Poland were the John Paul II Special Purpose School and Education Center in Jaworzno, and the Secondary and Vocational Schools in Siemianowice Slaskie. The main aim of the project was the European awareness and equal educational opportunities for young people with limited opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills because of disabilities, origin or financial situation. 40 young people from Poland, Germany and France took part in integration games, language animations, various workshops where “Europe” appeared in many views.

The youth knew Bernau, where there was the project, in the urban game:
among others, they were discovering elements associated with the European Union.

Also we went to near Berlin where German young people were our guides. The¬†sightseeing¬†program includes the most popular landmarks of¬†Berlin, such¬†as¬†the¬†Brandenburg Gate, the fragments of the Berlin Wall (East Side Gallery), the¬†Reichstag or Alexander Platz, where many passers-by were surprised by listening to¬†German, Polish and French expressions like “Thank you,” “Please” or “Sorry”.

The interesting task was a simulation of the Council of Europe, where young people played the representatives of different countries and voted for the proposals.

After the first day of the project Adrian FijoŇāek, vice president of the Regional Institute in¬†Katowice, translator and trainer, said enthusiastically:

“Some of these young people the first time meet people from another country. Many of them have never been abroad. Until now they have been able to speak foreign language only during classes at school. Today, they are thrown in at the deep end and they find different ways of¬†communicating with each other: from saying single words, showing gestures, facial expressions, to searching sentences in their mobiles. With great joy I was watching their joy and openness during the integration workshops or language animations. I am glad that they want to cooperate with each other in spite of many everyday difficulties in their schools, homes, communities. Here they are positive, as they say, and try to take initiative. They¬†overcome some limitations or shyness, they find the courage. Today you could feel that¬†they know more than one day.”

There are some impressions of Polish participants:
Wiktoria (17, Chorzow): “I came here to learn other languages, to know new people, their¬†cultures and to acquire new experiences.”
“The atmosphere in our group is very good,” says Ania (22, Jaworzno). Klaudia (17, Chorzow): “Today we have learned different words, communication and¬†teamwork. Also we have learned to be open-minded towards other people not only from our country.”Marek (20, Chorzow) sums up the present day: “We have made first friendships and met very interesting people.”*

A group of each country during one of the evenings presented the elements of their culture. During Polish evening, the participants could familiarize with lots of information about Poland, especially the area of Silesia. They could watch the Krakowiak (Cracow region folk dance) and volunteers were learning simple dance steps; to cheer along with fans of Ruch Chorzow or get a taste of MichaŇāki from Siemianowice (regional sweets) and homemade apple and plum preserves. As part of the information about Poland I had made a presentation “Education System in Poland,” which later turned out to be the starting point for many discussions about some culture differences and similarities.

The project brought young participants many advantages: unusual experiences, a different way of acquiring knowledge, stronger motivation to learn foreign languages and knowing other cultures, and many others. Last day, most people declared willingness to re-take a similar undertaking. So enjoy the opportunities that gives us the Erasmus+ programme!Quotations (my translation from Polish) are from Facebook Instytut Regionalny w Katowicach.In November, I participated in an integration trip for new students of the education centre of Internationaler Bund Bernau. In the undertaking there were students from Bernau, Eberswalde and surroundings. There were integration games, sports, board games, billiard. Together we were making pizza. Moreover, the program includes a guide tour of the Ethnographic Museum in Wandlitz (Barnim Panorama), where we could see old life in the countryside, strictly subordinated to changing seasons.

And in Berlin we participated in Berlin Dungeon, also an interesting show but with less idyllic atmosphere: black humor and horror were leading extreme emotions. We¬†were¬†going around an old town house where personages, with a bit of an eccentric style, told us¬†bloodcurdling Berlin stories. The viewers not only watch actors, but also often they¬†take part in the show. The haunting undertaking. Soon new events so also new impressions, and I am happy to share them ūüôā

Justyna, EVS volunteer, Bernau bei Berlin (Germany).