Meet Seweryn who is volunteering in Germany

Germany vs. UK – culture differences

First of all tea, tea is a national drink of Britain, it is a tradition to drink it at any possible break time: in the morning, evening even midday breaks. This unfortunately is an aspect which lacks in Germany, and a lack thereof is likely to cause frustration for a German is much more likely to drink coffee with tea being reserved more for the elderly. For someone like me who doesn’t drink coffee it was rather a shock and immediately had to stock myself with some Earl Gray and Green.

Demonstration in Berlin, this is a weekly occurrence, left right, centre etc.

Another rather stark difference is the mentality especially when it comes to communication, a typical English interaction starts with two people exchanging pleasantries, what went right is the code that the British speak, what went wrong is something you learn after a compulsory cheeky pint with the lads 😉

Opposed to that is the German style of directness, for instance let’s say your pet passed away, in Britain you can’t just say that, you have to entertain your listener and having established a right level of trust such information can be shared; British people are often confounded having to listen to a German who they have never met before tell them how their marriage is going, how their kids are at school, what prospects do they have, it all leaves us with just ‘woah’ and ‘wow’ So that just happened!

Furthermore it is hard to disguise your emotions, in Britain we have a culture of understanding that what one sees is not necessarily what one feels, we have to guess and can never be sure, given the circumstances assume what someone feels despite what one says, in Germany what you put out either verbally or via expressions is what is taken for granted, it is what it is without further need to occupy yourselves with the feelings of others. It sounds harsh and can initially produce many incorrect conclusions, after all who is to know that you sitting down with a grumpy face in the morning doing work is not you being dissatisfied with what you do or others but just letting the morning tea kick in and carry on doing what you enjoy!

Another difference is following the rules, in Britain it goes: ‘if it’s not going to kill me and I can get away with it then let’s do it’. We are quite averse to danger and strangers but when it comes to cutting corners we do it, nobody bats an eye since everyone does it! Cross the street where you weren’t supposed to, ‘ehh, whatever’ says the chap next door, ‘back in my days I did the same’ an intergenerational understanding and trust is the story of the British. Germans however, oh that wouldn’t fly with them!

Coming from the Prussian style educated people, obedience to the state and the rules is overly upheld, and cutting corners is a risky business, it’s 2 am middle of the street with no cars and 2 minutes till the light turns green, well you better wait, God forbid you cross and someone sees you, if you’re lucky maybe their stern look of disapproval will be it but if you’re unlucky a hefty fine is already being written by the local Polizist.

No cars, ready to cross? Oh no, don’t even dare!

Another difference is how they educate people, a typical British school teacher will tell you what to do and write, your goal is to remember and apply further, the ground is set you just need to make sure something grows out of it. Memorise and apply and there’s a lot of freedom to do what you want. Teachers are there to teach what is in the curriculum, your own motivation and passion is what is supposed to drive you through the boring bits. This isn’t always a good thing, students are segregated into ability sets based on that curriculum with set 1 as the highest and set 3 as the lowest but nothing is more demotivating than being put in the lowest set despite some initial motivation, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure for those selected systematically to be lower.

Germans on the other hand do things differently, a teacher doesn’t explicitly say do this and that but rather it’s always on you to follow your intuition and use logical thinking skills to produce an effective solution. Let’s say you want to connect a device to the right port, a British teacher would just say connect the yellow cable to the yellow port and then connect it via HDMI into the television so you can move on with the lesson, a German teacher on the other hand will ask you questions and the task is on you to figure out how everything fits. The usual boring bits which are seen as nothing more as a distraction or annoyance are given greater attention in the German world. Initially seen as rude or impolite, or even pointless for a person raised in Britain, the genius of that reveals itself with the fact that it teaches patience and thoughtfulness; not brushing things aside to get to the ‘fun’ bits but seeing the potential fun in what is normally brushed aside, a valuable life lesson which may betray the secret of stereotypical German efficiency, after all if you take care in performing even the most mundane tasks, you are bound to do everything right, right?!

Elections, Germans unlike us in Britain take their democracy seriously.

 

Text and pictures by Seweryn, EVS/ ESC volunteer sent to Germany by IB Polska.

Among young journalists

Last week  I had a pleasure to participate in classes provided by Staromiejskie Centrum Kultury MƂodzieĆŒy in Cracow. I was invited  as a guest to journalism classes where children learn the basics of journalism and media knowledge. I heard that for the past weeks they have learned what an interview is and they were preparing to conduct and give an interview. This day was a big day for them, because they had to do their first interviews. I was a bit surprised that the guest that was invited to this special day – was me!

At the beginning, the teacher introduced me to the young students. They looked a bit nervous, but for sure not more than me. Then I was asked to tell a bit about the life of a foreigner in Krakow and about my volunteer work. Some children could not resist asking questions in this moment, they were so interested. After that students got into pairs and came to me pair by pair to ask me interview questions that they have already prepared during last classes. Some of them were so interesting. They asked me if it is difficult for me to learn polish and work with kids with disabilities that can not speak spanish or english, they wanted to know what I like the most in Poland and what is my favorite polish dish. Some kids asked what are the differences in the teaching system in Spain and Poland and where children are more polite in schools – in Poland or in Spain.

At the end everyone thanked me for the interview and it was really nice. Even some students wanted to ask additional questions apart from the interview, because they were curious about life in Spain. I saw all children very interested and focused on the work of a journalist.

They did a good job and I hope that in the future they will become great journalists!

Author: Javier Aldana

Meeting between generations in DPS HelclĂłw

Today EVS volunteers Maria from Greece, Josie from Germany, Aurore from France, Maram from Egypt and Zeynep from Turkey visited a place where old people with disabilities live (Dom Pomocy SpoƂecznej im. Helclów w Krakowie). At this interesting meeting the volunteers did some activities to present their countries.

Team of Volunteers ready to action!

Specifically, Aurore from France and Maria from Greece showed to people traditional dances from their countries and put traditional music.  Also Maria and Zeynep make a presentation. At these presentations they showed photos of their countries and they talk about customs and habits typical for Greece and Turkey. People seemed to enjoy it and I think it was a nice opportunity for them to meet people from other countries and listen about other cultures.

Also music was in the event! Josie sang a songs and played music and some people were given an instrument and they have to play music too. The people enjoyed it and they seemed very happy.

Last but not least volunteers cooked a traditional meal of their countries and people who were living at the center tried it. Specifically, the volunteers prepared chalva, Turkish cookies and tiramisu. In general, it was a nice meeting. Both volunteers and people who were living there enjoyed  it.

For old people it was a nice chance to meet people from other countries and spend their day in a creative way and for volunteers it was a nice chance to meet people at a different age and see how works the organization who hosts old people with different kind of problems.

The more you know about different things from you the better you become!

Volunteer got smal hand-made gifts from Seniors

Author: Maria Vezyrea from Greece

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.

 

 

Meet Marija and Series of: How I got addicted to ERASMUS+ projects: Introduction: The beginning

Hello everybody! My name is Marija and I am 25. Do you want to start traveling and get addicted by discovering something new? So, please read my stories carefully, and I am sure you will get interested in this projects.

It all started when I was 21. I was in my second year of University in my country, Macedonia. One day, at the Faculty, one of my colleagues came to me and asked: “Do you want to go to Turkey for one week?
With covered food, travel expenses and accommodation?” Of course, at first I said, I have no idea what are you talking about it, tell me something more. What is it about? What I will do in Turkey? With whom? How is it possible that I do not pay for accommodation, travelling and food??? Here was his answer: “So, my dear Marija, the European Union has a program which offers to the young people across Europe to travel, learn new things using non-formal methods of education and make friendships around Europe. That program is called ERASMUS+.

However, this project that I am talking about, is part of this program and it is called Youth Exchange. In other words, this is a project led by one organization (usually Non-governmental Organisation), which has international NGO’s as partners, and they organize a week (7-10 days) on given topic where around 25-60 participants can take part. In this specific project, they should have 30 participants from 5 countries, one of them is Macedonia. The others are Georgia, Azerbaijan and Romania. And of course Turkey, as a host country. So, they need 6 participants from each country, who will have non-formal activities and tasks, so in the end they will get more knowledge about the multiculturalism in Europe. The topic of the Youth Exchange is “Small steps, big effects”.

Back to the main point, the NGO which is international partner from Macedonia, is looking for Macedonian participants and I remembered that you are always open to learn something new, so I was wondering if you would like to be part of this group of six young people! In addition, definition for young people in the EU is 18-30 years old, which means that all the participants on this project are between that age. Back to your question about how is possible that you do not pay anything of this, here is how: The European Union is providing all of the expenses. The only thing you need to do before you go there is to buy your flight (travel expenses), but during the project or some days after the project is finished, you will get your money back on your bank account, or in cash (depends on the hosting organization), because they need to reimburse every participant for their traveling to the country of project and back. That is how this ERASMUS+ program for young people works. Do you like the idea now? We already have five participants, would you like to meet them all and to make your first international friendships next month? “

I will keep you updated what happened after. I hope you realize that I accepted being part of this Youth Exchange. And for sure I can say, that was one of the best decisions I have ever made!

Why not try? #5 Series of: How I got addicted to ERASMUS+ projects Chapter 2: Training course is about


Hello everybody! My name is Marija and I am 25. Do you want to start traveling and get addicted by discovering something new? Read my stories carefully, and I am sure you will get interested in this projects. I hope you read my first two articles, how my story started.

Well, this is how it went with the projects called Training courses. Going back to the definition about what ERASMUS+ contains, using non-formal methods of education: There are Youth Exchanges, Training Courses and European Voluntary Service. That is all under the big umbrella of ERAMUS+ program.

When I had my first Youth Exchange in Turkey, we had one session about what is ERASMUS+ and how does it work. On that session, I learned that the part of ERASMUS+ that includes non-formal education contains all these Youth Exchanges, Training Courses and European Voluntary Service. Since then, I was wondering what and how does it look like to be a part of a Training course. By theory, I knew that on a Training course can participate only a Youth Workers, which means that people who work in NGO’s, with young people, with methods of non-formal education, people who are actually organizing a lot of activities.

I participated in two Training courses. First one was in Tirana, Albania in 2014, the second was in Newcastle, England in 2017. During one training course, you will usually meet less people than on a Youth Exchange, and it includes more “professional activities”, if I am allowed to call it like that. From my point of view, when you are on a Training course, you will spend more time working on a professional level, sharing experiences, sharing good practice with the other praticipants, while during the Youth Exchange, you have more time to discover yourself. Yes, this difference between the projects is small, but at the same time, it helps you grow as a person. Of course, the travelling is a part when you discover, make friends, which is also the part that is common with YE, but during the sessions, there is something which is called how to work with young people and which methods to use. This is the part why these projects are called- Training courses.

Again, the official language of the projects is English. So, again you build your vocabulary listening to the others and using your own words to express your feelings and needs on another level.

Ah, and yes. There is always a facilitator- man and/or woman. Usually, these facilitators are giving directions to the participants what to do. And another difference is that during these projects, you will work mainly individually, not always, but mostly yes. And then, you will share what you discovered with the others and you will have kind of a feedback. This part of giving feedback is something that no training course can pass without doing it.

One of the lessons I learned was: As far as you want to travel and discover, take all the opportunities that ERASMUS+ is giving to the young people from all over Europe!

My EVS encounter with ABLED

Hi, I’m Bruno, 28, from Portugal. In this post I will share my experience meeting a Paralympic team in Kraków and having fun playing Boccia with students from a special school.

On the 22nd of April, me and other volunteers agreed to meet with physically disabled athletes who had just finished the marathon happening that day. We had the opportunity to interview the winner of the race, RafaƂ Szumiec. Even though I had to wait for a transcript of the recorded interview to actually know his replies to our questions (was held in polish), it was very empowering to peer into the mind of a person who suffered a crushing blow that would defeat lesser men, but not him
 the finishing strike was his to deliver.

RafaƂ was a professional cyclist before the accident which robbed him of mobility from the waist down. So this was a man with a love for competitive sport, who was driven to excel and not resign to 2nd places. This defining features remained unchanged after the accident.

This strong willed man shared with us that his main concern was how to rebound quickly and return to competitive sport. He adapted to the whims of fate and got proficient in other sport modalities, namely handbike, mono-ski and wakeboard. He’s since participated in several competitions all over Europe and co-founded VeloAktiv, along with Katarzyna Rogowiec, a sports training group for Paralympic athletes, where mutual support, camaraderie and tough training sessions take place.

The fact that he achieved 1st place in Cracovia Marathon was not at all surprising, given his dedication to what he does. I saw in him a man that has come to terms with the fragility and unpredictability of the human condition, but nonetheless able to draw forth from a soul not at all diminished, but forged by fire.

Sometime after I had the chance to participate in a school event where volunteers and special needs students came together to play Boccia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boccia). It was certainly fun to play in 2 vs 2, without any need to “hold back”, since these students were well versed in the game and also due to this being a sport where mobility is not quite so important as intuitive understanding of the physics at play. In this way, with assistance from another person and with the aid of a special launching ramp, the student can give instructions regarding positioning of said ramp and finally “throw it” where intended. One of the students, Konrad, was particularly good at it and it was a joy to be paired with him.

All in all, I believe everybody got something out of the experience. Games in general are (mostly) always a great way to bring people together, foster co-operation and realize individual contribution as complementary to team effort in the pursuit of common objectives.

Due to the limitations these students have to live with, there can be a tendency towards isolation from the “outside world”, so I’m sure they appreciate opportunities when they can interact with people other than their immediate circle and transcend interpersonal barriers with something as simple as a game of Boccia.

Fun & easy ways to get better in English

ALTERNATIVE WAYS OF LEARNING ENGLISHBelieve it or not, there are plenty of ways to learn every day something new. Let’s take an English language for example.

Even though English lessons are full of interesting materials, games, videos and songs, sometimes it can be very tiring to to learn all the grammar rules that are written in the plan. After few months of being a volunteer here in school, I noticed one interesting thing. Students who are playing computer games are very good in English for their age. They were more confident to start a conversation and their vocabulary is wider. Maybe their grammar knowledge is not the best, but they are not afraid to talk and to make mistakes. We all know that the mistakes are one of better ways to learn. Over time, with help of computer games, children can develop other skills, like memory, fast decision-making and social interaction.

There are also other ways to learn English. Listening to music, reading books and articles, watching films and TV series in English is great way of learning language. In fact, that’s where most of my vocabulary comes from. I like watching TV series and that’s how I learned a lot of English phrases. Also, my pronunciation got better. Besides this, some songs helped me to remember some grammar rules and how to spell some words. For example, I was looking for the lyrics of the song “Soldier Of Fortune” so many times that I had to learn that the word “Soldier” is written like that, not “Solider” which I thought before. Thanks to the song “Simply The Best” I remembered that article “the” always goes before superlative.

So, my advice to the children would be to watch their favorite films, TV series and cartoons in English, to listen to the music in English and to try to understand the lyrics and over time the improvement will be visible.

By Natalija from Serbia

How to live a memorable day at the ?Farm of Life?

Article written by Ilde Navarrete

In the next few lines I will describe what I experienced during my day at the Farm of Life the 3rd October 2015. Little did I know before about the picnic, only that we paid a visit to know their wonderful and brand-new facilities and that my friends Alicia and Berkay assisted during summer there. Moreover it is one of the hosting organizations that IB Polska is cooperating with. Helped by the representatives of IB Polska and many of my volunteer friends, I took part in the welcoming picnic the people at the farm organized for everybody who was interested. The event lasted since the early morning to the afternoon.

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The farm is designed to host autistic residents, as well as to serve as a venue for different workshops and activities for those who live at their homes. Other than workshop rooms, residential spaces, and gymnastic halls, the farm also has a huge extension of green areas where animal huts are located. During the couple of meetings we attended, we organized additional activities for the families visiting the picnic, I was assigned to prepare a gymkhana with scoring games and a mini-marathon to somehow inaugurate the new green path that the farm offers. It was for me a great pleasure to count with the support of some of my workmates and friends who showed great interest in helping together with the care of our IB Polska coordinators and farm staff. It is important to mention that we were also helped by volunteers from Ukraine who were present during the picnic. Other than our activities, volunteers also prepared some delicious food treats such as Spanish gazpacho and potato omelets or French croissants.

Our volunteers? gymkhana included a set of challenges based on the different continents (jumping as an Australian kangaroo, hitting balloon animals at an African safari, the American gold Rush or painting in the European Renaissance, as examples). Families and other visitors were collecting scores through team work in all of the games that volunteers led. In the end of the day, the best scoring participants plus the people participating in the mini-marathon received very nice presents on behalf of the farm that everybody took with smiles on their faces and the purest feeling of pride. It is important also to point out the interest of visitors and residents of the farm to participate in our proposal of activities and know more about the activities organized by Internationaler Bund Polska.

So this was the result of joining together a bunch of talented volunteers plus coordinators, tasty food, entertaining activities, and the effort of people who really care about what they are doing. It made us able to enjoy an amazing life learning experience for which I still thank to each and every participant.


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Here you can find more details about Fundacja Wspólnota Nadziei and about Farm of life (Farma ƻycia):

Biuro Fundacji WspĂłlnota Nadziei
Więckowice, ul. Ogrodowa 17,
32-082 Bolechowice

http://www.farma.org.pl/