My story started in September 2016 when I began my volunteer program in Naples. Thanks to this, my interest in the idea of EVS began and I was accepted as a participant in the great ECOS double project. The first adventure began on 19th of June and continued until 26th of June. Its goal was to reinforce the theoretical foundations of EVS volunteering and through non-formal education and exchange of experience methods to reach a structured solution for the best EVS volunteering methodologies. To put theory into practice, from 5th to 12th of October, we reunited in Faro in order to share volunteer stories with each other and with the world.
The participants were from eight countries – Portugal, Spain, Greece, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Lithuania – and each country had three representatives. Our trainers and facilitators were Natalie from CVS Bulgaria, and Kostas, from Greece.
During the training our sessions were held at the IPDJ (Portuguese Institute for Sports and Youth), which is next to the sunny park of Alameda. There, under the sounds of walking on the meadows peacocks and through various games, we met each other and shared our experience with EVS. We learned how to learn, how to learn during EVS, how to learn in a new multicultural environment, and how to be creative while learning. We shared our personal learning methods and exchanged experience by conducting in-depth interviews in small groups. In the morning, we tied our partner’s eyes and led him through the park to build trust between each other, and in the afternoon we looked at the roles needed for successful implementation of the EVS program and exchanged experiences from our organisations. We learned from our mistakes and shared our successful methods. We introduced our organisations to build future partnerships. We swam in the crystal-clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean and enjoyed the white sands of Farol Island, part of the Ria Formosa Nature Park, one of the wonders of Portugal. Finally, we created a systematic list of good practices that are necessary for a successful volunteering, reflecting on the experiences during the training. Also, we filmed a video with our music performances that were supposed to welcome the participants in the workshop in October.
The whole training was devoted not so much to the intercultural exchange but to the interpersonal communication. During the Bond-Evening, besides sharing our favourite treats and drinks, we talked about our “WOW” and “Oh, shit” stories, in order to learn more about our good and less positive experiences and about ourselves. During the farewell party, besides sharing our Youthpass certificates, we had to recognise each of us in his child’s photo. We also exchanged an important object for us (and the story behind it), in order to preserve it as a souvenir of the wonderful experience.
Several months passed, and in October, some of us returned to Faro to share our training experience with the new participants.
Once again, we were meeting each other through games. We presented our organizations and volunteer experiences. We created personal books and told the stories from the time of our EVS’. The stories were colorful and different like the books themselves, and finally we felt that what we are doing as volunteers is actually not only for us – but also for the community. Following the exchange of stories and the well-known good practices during the training course, it was time to share with the public and to try to attract new enthusiasts to the EVS family! For this purpose, we were divided into two groups – the first was aiming to create a book of stories, and the second had to make a promo video! I was in the video group. We had a total freedom of action, and many disagreements arose, but we finally managed to work together! We have created a video to encourage other volunteers to tell their stories and to show more people that EVS matters – that is our hashtag – #EVS_matters. We also recorded our stories and published them on the seminar’s page. Follow our example!
The next day we gathered to enjoy the results of the hard work. We did not forget to talk about the European Solidarity Corpse before we venture on an autumn beaching in Faro’s waters. We needed our rest in order to be fully committed to the next task – promoting EVS volunteering in the city and the university campuses.
Whole morning there was an intense preparation. We created decorated balloons and cheerful masks (which the future volunteers were using for the funny pictures in our photo corner), compasses that pointed the direction of EVS, special origami hats and brochures with information – for a few hours we had to prepare all of this in order to be able to promote it in the afternoon. This was our favourite task, because while we were doing it we could really feel the direct and real impact on the community. We could contact the locals and engage them in the idea of volunteering – and we really realised that what we are doing is not just a task for the seminar, but it has a real meaning and a result! (You can see photos and more information on the blog and Facebook page.)
Most sessions took place in the historic building of the Coordinating Commission for the Development of the Region of Algarve. Last day, we also had the opportunity to look at the Regional Museums of Algarve, which is located in the same building. There we met various aspects of the lifestyle and typical crafts of this region. In the afternoon, our sessions were moved to Faro Beach. There, we reflected on the last week under the sun rays and talked with each of the participants within four minutes to exchange ideas and future plans. This also laid the ground for many fruitful conversations that continued at the farewell party in the evening. In this wonderful place, we also got our Youthpass certificates. The documents was first given to a wrong owner, so he/she had to describe the real owner of the certificate in a few words. It was a touching moment in which you can understand how close you became to people from distant countries only for a week! Thanks to the perfect organisation of Natalie and Kostas, we finished our activities just in time to enjoy the sunset! We met it with applauses, and some of us even swam in the sea!
The evenings during the project were also devoted to the exchange of stories. After the evening tour of the city, near the harbour, we gathered to exchange our objects. First we had to guess the owner of the object and the story behind it, and then we could hear the real volunteer’s story! Our evenings continued in various games and conversations in Faro’s plazas and harbours that helped us get even closer. We didn’t feel when the week has passed!
Special thanks to Carlos for the overall organisation and idea of the training and the seminar, to Natalie and Costas for guiding us patiently and with enough freedom and improvisation on the way to learning and good EVS practices, and to Aristea for the media coverage of everything we have achieved together!
We are happy to share the inspiring story of Tsvetomira Minkova – CVS Bulgaria’s volunteer, who during the last year took part in a project, aiming at improving the quality of the EVS experience. If you like this story, you can also become part of the EVS family or to share your story!
Here you can see our video, book, and other interesting materials related to the seminar and EVS volunteering. Especially for the project was created a blog, where you can trace our day-to-day EVS-TurnOn-Faro experiences!
And do not forget: #EVS_matters 🙂