WHAT IS EVS?
‘EVS’ is the abbreviation for European Voluntary Service.
EVS is a project made by the European Commission that allows a young person (18-30 years old) to become a volunteer in another country for a specified period, normally between 2-12 months.
The service activities can be, for example, in the field of environment, art and culture, activities with children, young people or the elderly, heritage or sports and leisure activities. Each project has three partners: a volunteer, a sending organization and a host organization. The project needs to take place in another country than where the volunteers live (i.e. it’s not possible to search a project in your own country).
EVS is non-profit-making and unpaid because you are participating as a volunteer (all volunteers, though, have the right to as a minimum get paid a modest amount of pocket -and food money every month, plus to be secured a place to live).
The EVS-period is for a limited amount of time (maximum 12 months), it can be considered as a non-formal learning “course” and a great opportunity to experience new countries and cultures.
The main goal of EVS is to strengthen the intercultural bonds in Europe and to give young people with less opportunities (eg because of lack of money) an opportunity to travel and develop through non-formal learning.
It is possible to become an EVS volunteer in several different NGO’s all over Europe.
You have to find a sending organization in your own country and you have to search and apply for a project yourself (kinda as if you were writing an application to get a job)
Here is a link to the European Commision site about EVS.
and here a link to my sending organisation (AFS) in Denmark.
The duration of my EVS in Athens, Greece was from November 7th 2011 – 6th of June 2012. As a final “product” of my stay as an EVS volunteer here I wrote a YouthPass where I briefly describe what I gained in the different EVS competences during my project:
1. Communication in mother tongue
As a Dane living in a foreign country being surrounded only by people not speaking my native language I understand now that my language is of great importance to me.
I gained more awareness about the structure of my native language by sharing, comparing and discussing this with people of other nationalities than me e.g. Lithuanian, Spanish, Greek, French, Norwegian etc.
2. Communication in foreign languages:
I developed my communication skills by using English and to some point Greek in my everyday life. I now feel more open minded towards -and confident in using English both for work purposes and in a personal level.
My English skills and willingness to take advantage of them helped me meet, communicate and share with people from all over Europe.
I have gained basic knowledge of Greek by joining Greek lessons 90-120 minutes once a week for 4 months.
Because the people I was working with had mental health issues and none of them were able to speak English, I developed my ability to use non-verbal communication through body language.
3. Mathematical competences and basic competences in science and technology:
Working as and having the salary of a volunteer I developed my ability to manage my budget in order to fulfill my needs in a sometimes more alternatively way (writing down my expenses, keeping receipts etc)
By working in a psychosocial rehabilitation unit, talking and discussing with the staff as well as observing and interacting with the residents of the unit I gained more knowledge in this field and experienced a greater understanding of working with people in general.
Also reading articles and having educational meetings with my mentor helped me develop my knowledge about the psychiatric reform in Greece.
4. Digital Competences
The use of Information Society Technology (IST) has been present as a communication tool in work and leisure during my EVS period.
i.e. I have used Skype, Facebook, WordPress etc. as a tool for producing, presenting and exchanging information, thoughts and feelings.
5. Social and civic competences:
Living in a society and environment very different from what I’ve been used to I was challenged to integrate into a new society and culture. Having to do this I faced several obstacles where I had to become more extrovert, open minded and social.
Participating in seminars with other volunteers I had the opportunity to share and discuss experiences, culture, religion, social matters etc. with other youngsters from all over Europe which helped me expand my horizon.
Also during my working time in the unit ANIMA I learned about the importance of teamwork as well as the ability to respect, tolerate and being patient towards people in order to cooperate in a functional way.
By practicing my social skills and gaining new ones through my everyday life and working activities I understood the meaning of being an active citizen in a local community.
6. Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship:
In cooperation with my mentor and one of the psychologists in the unit I formed a personal project that could match both my own goals and be helpful for the organization i.e. I researched on and later practiced “phototherapy” with one of the residents. I experimented with combining my interest of nutrition with mental health and using it in my work in the unit e.g. we arranged “cooking days” with the residents.
I participated in creating an ANIMA/EVS blog where we posted things both about the field of mental health and useful things for future volunteers. I also made an EVS questionnaire with the purpose of making EVS participants reflect on their projects.
Other than that I participated in making a short movie for and about my organization ANIMA and EVS in general.
Doing all these different activities I learned to take an initiative, and I learned how alternative therapeutic methods as cooking together and working with photography can be used as successful tools thus I wanted not only to spread awareness about mental health issues but to do it in a more creative way that would seem both entertaining and useful.
I discovered new interests and gained bigger knowledge in the field of nutrition and health, which I might will be able to use in my future studies.
7. Cultural awareness and expression:
I realized here that the use of photography, drawing/painting, listening to music and dancing are useful tools when you work with people, and in a personal level important for self realization.
I explored different cultures and in that way became more aware of my own i.e. I took part in traditional activities and celebrations as Easter, Carnival, several religious customs and cultural events such as going to an opera in Greek and participating in public events for youngsters. I also shared the culture of the people I lived with (Spanish, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Portuguese) and in this way became more aware of my own culture.
8. Learning to learn:
During my stay in Greece I was given tools in order to take advantage of my knowledge and how to put it into practice. I learned how to make a plan in order to achieve a goal by asking and answering questions (what, why, how, when, who) and to visualize e.g. by drawing a triangle representing the three basic elements for achieving something (needs, knowledge and resources).
Through my project in Greece I was able to reach the following goals I set for myself, such as: Experience, live in and to some degree integrate into a different culture, to meet and make connections with new people with different backgrounds, to become more independent by trying to live on my own, to become more open minded , to gain basic knowledge of Greek language and finally to make a connection between art and mental health.