Meeting with Open Kraków

On Friday March 22, the volunteers were invited by the City Council to talk about the ‘Open Kraków’ program. The program was briefly presented to us after which we were able to ask questions.

Open Kraków, or Otwarty Kraków in Polish, is a program created in 2016 by the City Council aiming to create an sense of solidarity, awareness and knowledge of the culture and customs of people of different nationality or ethnicity living in Krakow.

The program is firstly addressed to foreigners living in Poland by providing assistance for various issues. Some parts of the program however are also addressed to all of Krakow’s citizens, such as a multicultural festival.

As the program is still recent it is still a work in progress, but the main achievements already obtained include:

  • A welcome package for foreigners which consists of a guidebook full of information about education, health care, social benefits, insurance, work principles, the procedure in cases of crime, renting apartments, driving license, legal advice etc. The guidebook can be downloaded for free here. Additionally, a Krakow guide for families was also created.
  • Information Point for Foreigners, launched in April 2018. The aim of this information point is to provide information on all kinds of subjects in Polish, English, Ukrainian and Russian. In addition to these four languages, help might be provided in another language as the Information Point tries to compose a team as diversified is possible language-wise. The main focus lays on increasing the knowledge of foreigners about their rights and obligations and issues related to city life, increasing civic involvement of the foreigners living in Krakow and their integration with the inhabitants of Krakow and strengthening the information and promotion of activities in the area of integration of foreigners.
  • Interkulturalia Festival with the aim of integrating the local environment around the idea of cultural diversity, good neighborlines, the community of regional and European heritage and respect for religion.
  • Educational and informational activities such as Polish-Ukrainian Culinary-Educational Workshops and Middle East Speaks
  • Conferences referring to the idea of multiculturalism. Issues addressed include gender balance in leadership, multicultural schools, dialogue and intercultural cooperation, Polish Armenians on the path to Polish Independence, migration etc.
  • MURAL project in cooperation with Great Britain, Portugal, Greece, the Netherlands and Germany. This project’s aim is to promote the principles of pluralism and democracy, to support transnational cooperation and the exchange of knowledge and the most effective practices to counteract intolerance.

A few volunteers had some questions about the program as well. Most questions concerned either the specifics of their educational program or the residence / work permit application procedure for non-EU citizens. The question about the educational program was asked by those working in a primary school as they wanted to know what exactly the workshop held in schools consisted of.

More information about the Open Kraków program can be found on their official website.

Meet Izabela on her EVS in Turkey

Merhaba! I’m Izabela, 23 years old and I spent two months in Ankara, Turkey doing my EVS project. Was it worth it? Am I recommending EVS experience? You’re about to find out.

When anybody asks me, why Turkey, I always answer that it wasn’t like I chose Turkey but Turkey chose me. I’m during my gap year, so as it is commonly assumed it’s time for travelling. I hadn’t any specific country I want to visit, nor things I want to do. The only thing I was aware of was my will to travel abroad, no matter where. I found out about EVS projects by accident and applied for some random ones. My project, Meeting of Generations hosted by System & Generation was first to answer my application, so I was like – why not? Ok, I’m kidding, decision was the hardest part of my experience. I talked a lot with my friends, family, hosting and sending organisation. I was afraid of losing my job, taking a break of my volunteering in Poland and most of all that I’m doing it due to social pressure, not because I want it. Words aren’t enough to express how much support and kindness I got; people understood my fears and at the same time enabled my journey. So I took my stuff and flew to Turkey.

My project focused mostly on disabled people but it was mix of everything. In addition to this activity me and other volunteers were teaching English in one school, taking part in meetings with politics, hosting language exchange, working in the office and many many more one-shot actions. What I really want to share with you is my experience of disabled people’s attitude, which I was happy to came across especially in cafeteria I was working. Cafe Down is small cafeteria in the centre of Ankara. Almost all of staff has mental disabilities, not to mention nobody speaks English there so communication was a challenge. Many times we didn’t understand what they want us to do and they didn’t understand what we need. However, despite that everyone were so thrilled that we’re there. We weren’t able to give them much, just a little help in cleaning dishes or making tea, we couldn’t give them even a small talk but that didn’t matter. All we could give and all they needed was our time. Time spent together meant everything. How wonderful philosophy; everyone, no matter of age, religion, country, education is able to give and receive time and that’s enough. Disabled people taught me that I don’t need anything more from people that are willing to see me. It’s like disability opens their eyes for this simple truth that I can’t see. That’s of course not everything I learned during my EVS. But what I find important is the fact that not everything I learned was so beautiful as the lesson above. I found out that what I considered my strength isn’t this strong as I thought. I found out about my new flaws. Everyone before my EVS told me that it would be the greatest experience in my entire life. Everyone said that travelling is so amazing. I blindly believed in all this stuff without any thought and that was my bad. During the journey bad things happened too. And it wasn’t like excitement all the time, I faced everyday’s life and even boredom there. It was my first real journey abroad and the first time I really felt like foreign somewhere, so it was a surprise to find out that there’s something beyond all this great adventures that people always talking about when giving you speech about their travels.

Okay, I’ve got probably little too deep into this but I really hope that my experience and words will be helpful for someone who’s not sure whether to make EVS or not. For me it was worth it, even if I learned there that I did it because of social pressure and travelling is not for me. Now I know that everyone is different and I don’t have to feel about something the same way most people feel. It’s a surprise that it took all of this for me to finally get to know that. Take care and see you somewhere somehow!


Tortilla Festival @ School number 11

On Wednesday 20th of February, a couple of volunteers were invited to School number 11 for the Tortilla festival. It was a joyful event with lots of tortilla, fun and music…

In total, three classes participated in the Tortilla festival. The ultimate goal was to make the tastiest tortilla. In order to do so, the class was divided in small groups of two to four people who then prepared a tortilla at home and presented it at the festival. The jury, consisting of volunteers, then tasted all tortillas and graded them. We must admit that we were surprised by the creativity of the participants! While some tried to respect the traditional recipe, others added some surprising elements like vegetables, meat or even decoration. They were all really delicious and ranking them was quite hard! In the end, we were able to decide on a top three, but not after some debating and discussion between the volunteers.

After eating the tortilla’s, it was time for some musical break. Joao took out his guitar and started playing and singing La Bamba, twice. The first time, only Joao and a few volunteers sang, but the second time all volunteers, students and teachers sang loudly. It’s a fun song to sing and I’m sure some people were singing it all day long as it’s a real earworm!

Below, you can find some impressions from Julieta and Javi, two Spanish volunteers:

Julieta: It was a funny idea that makes children engaged to be part of the event and learn about Spanish culture through it’s cuisine, there was also music by one Spanish volunteer which helped creating the atmosphere. They all did a very good job with their tortillas and sometimes it was difficult to decide.
We end up full of tortilla but we had a great time!

Javi: Yesterday We were in the omelet festival which was very very fun. The children were excited to present their tortillas. First we learnt the history about “Tortilla de patatas” and the children explained how they cooked the tortillas and with what ingredients. Then we went to try those spectacular tortillas of all flavors and shapes. It was a great day in which the volunteers enjoyed a lot with teachers and students.

Text and pictures by Pauline, volunteer from Belgium.