EVS, Mon amour

I always thinking to do an EVS, since I discovered – vaguely – what it was. It’s one of those ideas that at some point you forget how it was born, but slowly you start to think about it more and more. For me it was another possibility to work in the cooperation and development field, that is what I studied.

I came across the vacancy for this EVS by chance, scrolling down my Facebook home page. I joined the interview, it went well and since last October I’m in the big and powerful SCI world: precisely, at the International Secretariat in Antwerp, the coordinating office of all the branches and SCI groups around the world. I’m in charge of the communication part, social media, blog, website, the newsletters, (yes the newsletter, so if you receive that thing called the SCI E-Zine at the end of each month, read it! Because it’s really hard to put together information from Australia to Norway, passing through Sri Lanka).

Why the EVS? Because it’s a good opportunity for young people to do something different, to live abroad, to work in an international environment or at least in an environment different from home. It’s the opportunity to go beyond what you believe, and follow your dreams. Which can be living some months abroad, volunteering, joining an environmental cause or educational one in a country different from yours, or simply learning Spanish, the EVS is an opportunity for everyone. And it needs to be taken. So, here I am.

Why SCI? I didn’t have direct experience with SCI before this EVS. I love communication, cooperation and everything that links those two things, so I was following them on Facebook. I knew their workcamps, I knew about their short course on project planning, which I was always thinking to participate in, but the moment was never the right one. And then a dear friend of mine was in Mongolia with SCI, I wondered: in Mongolia? What brings an Italian NGO to do something in Mongolia? I didn’t know, but it made me curious.

Anyway, as soon as I arrived in Antwerp I was immersed in a big amount of names, stuff, people and acronyms. Do you know how many acronyms there are in SCI? A multitude, after 8 months I still confuse them. In 8 months I wrote articles for the website, gathered volunteer stories from around the world, communicated with the other branches, stalked the other branches to have articles and contributions for the newsletter, made the newsletter, started to use MailChimp (I really need to say it, because MailChimp is amazing!), worked with graphic programmes, tweeted, created Facebook posts, uploaded videos on YouTube and Vimeo, made photocopies, scanned, made coffee, swept. And then made a lot of Tiramisu. Made a big amount of Tiramisu. Here comes the Italian girl, so let her cook. And we should say the truth, we love cooking. At least, most Italian people. And so the third week  I was here, I invited all the office and VIA office (the Flemish branch of SCI) to my place for an Italian dinner. Appetizer, three kinds of pasta and tiramisu’. We never say no to food, especially if we cook it.

Why Belgium? I was thinking of the EVS more as an opportunity to live the NGO from the office side, since the last two years I worked on projects on the field.  I wanted also to work in communication for non-profit, my passion, which I experimented with already some years ago. But, I also wanted to find a way to get closer to the magic Bruxelles world, which right now, I don’t think is really magic, but for someone who studied Political Science, Bruxelles is an opportunity. If you are lucky, a really good one. And then this call was a real stroke of luck, it put together the communication for non-profit and the proximity to Bruxelles. And to the French fries (or Belgian, to be politically correct). And to the chocolate.  And to the beer. Ok, bye Italy, I will go.

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The EVS taught me that SCI is not just an association, but it’s a lifestyle. It’s a place of amazing people, who never give up, who sharing, who experience, who work hard and believe in a better world. The SCI Italy I see from here – a privileged position to have a glance on all the branches and their activities – it’s a daily inspiration and source of activism and ideas. It’s maybe one of the most active branches that I come across every day on the web, together with the Catalan one. Then there is the German methodical one, the Swiss punctual one, the British super fundraising one, the super kind Ukrainian one, the one super active in Bulgaria, the one in Sweden who reposts everything we post on Facebook, the one in Kosovo, who I love because I know Kosovo, the Greek one, who always organizes evenings with their volunteers, and many others. I know them all. I know what they publish, what they promote, the way they do it, who is going to answer their private Facebook chat. But the Italian one, ah! The Italian one I have in my heart, especially because they are truly feminist, as I am.

SCI taught me that everyone speaks English in their own way. That it is better to travel by bus or train, than the airplane, for the environmental impact. That in the office you can  do the compost with worms, but we – in the office –  eat only oranges and we drink tea, and the worms will die because we don’t have any other organic food to feed them. That the project officer speaks Dutch and Czech, my communication officer and supervisor Turkish and English, the administrator officer Finnish, my coordinator Serbian, from the other EVS volunteers one speaks Finnish and one Cantonese while the Service Civique volunteer speaks French. And then there is me, who speaks with gestures.  That SCI Is pet friendly. And environmentally friendly. And interculturally friendly. Therefore, SCI is friendly with everyone, because smiling is more simple than getting angry (but you should read the newsletter, otherwise I will get mad).

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International Secretariat office staff and volunteers 

Belgium taught me that the life here is easy going. That the sunset will arrive always later day by day. That after work you can have a beer on the Schelde, the Antwerp river. That I wanted to see Bruxelles, but Antwerp is more and more beautiful, so beautiful that I don’t want to leave anymore. That you can do yoga at the park. That all the supermarkets have fresh baguettes. That if you are going to the pub and you don’t drink at least three beers, you are none.  That if you don’t eat frites after your beer, you don’t know what you are going to miss (and of course, they will absorb some beer).
That with the train in a couple of hours you can cross all Belgium. That the trains are amazing in Belgium, that Trenitalia move out.  That you can make an appointment at the doctor with an sms. That the waffles are amazing, sweet and super diabetic. Then you just need an sms to make an appointment at the doctor to do your blood test. No problem.

You should do an EVS with SCI, now or then. Because it makes your life beautiful.

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Story written by Martina Pieri, actual EVS with International Secretariat of SCI, in Antwerp.  Original article on SCI Italy web site.

Want to have your own workcamp experience? There are plenty of long term voluntary projects you can still join, just check our database!

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