Dates: 15. 8. – 10. 10. 2017
Venue: Sofia, Bulgaria
Programme and action: Erasmus+, KA1, European Voluntary Service – short term
Volunteer: Ivona Pokorná
Participating countries: Bosnia and Hercegovina, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia
Hosting organisation: Bulgarian sports development association
How to make your EVS unforgettable
You have many options. Imagine – you will lose your passport, smash your car and break your arm. Would you ever forget it? I have been chosen for EVS in Bulgaria. Do you know the country? Here in Czechia it’s a place, your friends/family will ask you “why”, when you tell them, you wanna go there.
“Why not? There is Greece and Turkey next to. I wanna go there by car, to be free and to have a possibility to go wherever and whenever I want. And I will go there through Hungary and Romania, so I can visit a friend of mine.”
My father told me: “Be careful. There are many gipsies and refugees in Romania. Don’t stop anywhere except of big cities! I have seen in news, refugees are blocking roads and kidnapping trucks. They hide themselves inside and force a driver to take them through borders. And I remember, when we were there and we stopped somewhere in a forest for a picnic. It was the end of the world, you wouldn’t expect anyone there, but in a few minutes, gipsies started to gather there and watching us. We took our stuff and ran away. But I don’t want to dissuade you, go there. Just don’t take my car.”
And my mother said: “Jesus Christ Bulgaria? They don’t even have toilets! They have just a hole in the ground and they throw a dirty toilet paper to a corner. Hopefully not in Sofia, but it was typical when we were there.”
Even my Bulgarian friend living in Czechia dissuaded me! Thank you guys, that’s exactly what you wanna hear, when you have already been chosen :-D. So I took mom’s car, when my father refused to lend his to me, and went forward to a new adventure.
Now comes the hardest part. This is supposed to be a short article. How can I squeeze it into a few sentences? I have met so many amazing people and I have learned something from each of them! Even from 15 years old kid, it is unbelievable for me. I could be his mother! When you are adult and experienced and you talk to young people, you usually hear a voice from a past. You hear yourself in their age, opinions you have already changed, issues you have already passed, nothing what can enrich you. But sometimes it happens you meet someone who surprises you.
And that’s what it is about. You learn from people, from talking, from getting to know different characters. A topic of the EVS was organizing sports events. There were: an international championship in badminton, some small sports events for children and an international conference European Everyday of Sport, which was a peak of everything and we – 4 volunteers from 4 countries – were supposed to help to organize it. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
Well, in the reality we haven’t organized anything. Small events and 2 championships have been completely organized without us and when we were supposed to participate on an event, we got some stupid easy task and we were connected to wi-fi all the time and chating. We were feeling desperately useless and bored. On the other side work in the office was better. We made some desk researches, translated a website to our languages, posted updates on social media, made a presentation for the conference, a content for the website, collected and prepared invoices for a final report for European commission, and also many stupid easy tasks like uploading pictures on websites of course. When you do that, something what even a monkey can do, and you consider how much you cost (accommodation, pocket money, travel expenses), you feel guilty. But someone has to do it.
You have to realize, that EVS is not about providing professionals to a hosting organization. It’s about giving you, volunteer, an opportunity to learn. Learn about diversity and similarity among different cultures, learn that Bulgaria is not that undeveloped as my parents think, learn about real issues they face to. As I said, we were volunteers from 4 countries, so we could compare our policy, our economic situation, religions. I have learned more about Islam, about different attitudes to the religion, about tolerance in Bulgaria or Bosnia. Because what are aims of E+ projects? To build cooperation and mobility among European countries, support learning, reform, encourage young people to take a part in European democracy, reduce unemployment – simply to build the strong and united Europe by non-formal and informal learning. That’s how it works. I have learned a lot. Even though I have not done important tasks, I have seen what you have to do when you want to organize international conference. I have seen what problems you can face to, what can fucked up. Even though I have not organized any E+ project, I have a theoretical base how to do it from the begin to the end.
So in general, it was really valuable and unforgettable experience. Despite I have eventually not lost my passport, smashed the car or injured myself. You don’t have to kill yourself, just be open, listen to, observe and learn! It is always up to you, how much you will get from it. You have an access to information you are interested in. Don’t expect that someone will serve it to you on a plate. Take it!