EVS stories

Maria Fedina. Master of Social Sciences and an EVS volunteer at International Department of Movement for Decent Work and Welfare Society.

 

 

Less than 1 week is left until the end of my project. It’s time to summarize the results, to see what have I accomplished and learnt, as well as to write a report for the sending organization, and fill Youthpass in. For this last post I’ve decided not to write about my experience and International Department, but to ask former volunteers about their projects. Followed are their stories they have shared.

 

 

 

Darina Vorobyeva, the first EVS volunteer in Gibanje, she was implementing “Volunteering for employment” project in 2013-2014.

Darina was quite a unique volunteer. Already before her project started, she had been living in Slovenia and studying here at the Master’s degree programme, which means that she was already familiar with the country and already gained some local experience. Nevertheless, as Darina says, she was really excited about starting the project at Gibanje, since she “really wanted to work with people who were very passionate about what they were doing and who sincerely believed in importance of their work”.

Darina got information about the project from her Slovenian friend. Continuing with the exact timeline and scope of the project, she describes: “I was working on the project called “Volunteering for employment”, which was focused on fighting against youth unemployment in the EU and especially in Slovenia. Project was mainly dedicated to research and comparison of different approaches to employment policies in different countries. At the end I presented a written report about what I have learned and achieved during her research”. Her responsibilities in Gibanje were indeed diverse: “With Gibanje we organized many workshops and seminars connected to employment process, how to find a job, how to prepare CV, Russian language for beginners. Moreover, I was a part of the 1st summer camp that later on became an annual event and the conference where people have a chance to discuss employment issues, especially for precariat and try to find a solution”. Sharing her overall impression about the project, she says: “The main advantage was to be part of a team, being included in many local and international activities, learning new things and meeting amazing and inspiring people.” Of course, Darina’s EVS was not only about work at Gibanje, she also had free time for her own activities, for example, she was travelling around country and abroad, as well as was meeting with her friends. Interestingly, her volunteering experience didn’t finish with EVS project  at Gibanje – after it she went straight to Sochi Olympics as a volunteer!

Summing up her experience as an EVS volunteer she concludes: “I think everyone should live abroad because it really opens your eyes on many things – not only problems and advantages of your own home, but also it teaches you to be more tolerant and respective towards different cultures and countries. This experience is priceless. <…> I am very grateful for the chance to meet amazing, passionate, hardworking people, some of them became my really good friends. All that I learnt during the project is countless, and I do use the acquired skills every day”.

Olga Lebedeva came to Gibanje in July 2014 to take part in “Job shadowing” project, which lasted for 1 month. Before that, in 2010 she was an EVS volunteer in Zveza Škis, so stay in Gibanje was not the first Slovenian experience for Olga. Below is her Slovenian story.

«I learned about Gibanie from Marco, with whom we had been acquainted for a long time. In 2010 I went to EVS in Slovenia for half a year to Zveza ŠKIS, where he was then president. I really enjoyed Slovenia that time and I was looking for opportunities to go for another project. I learned that the European Commission had a Job Shadowing project, which lasts for one month, and I told Marco about this possibility. Gibanje submitted the application, it was approved, and I went.

When I came back to Slovenia 3 years later <in July 2014>, I felt at home and I already knew some members of Gibanje. It’s true that the fields of activities of the organization were not entirely familiar to me, but I hoped to learn more about them, and actually this was the meaning of the Job Shadowing project – to get acquainted with the activities of the organization, to learn the methods of its work and share experiences». Apart from these activities Olga was helping with preparation of annual camp “Pogum za spremembe”, worked in the office, translated the organization’s projects’ description to English and Russian, was writing the application for youth exchange project, made Gibanje’s account in Salto Youth and LinkedIn. As for her responsibilities during the previous EVS project, she was filming and montaging several promo videos for various Slovenian student organizations. She was in the organizations in Krško, Koper, Sežana, Idrija, Slovenske Konjice. She was also writing articles for the website, as well as teaching Russian. In her free time Olga loved to walk around Ljubljana, read, watch moves, write blog. Sometimes she also met other EVS volunteers. ;ore than that, she was travelling: sometimes to other student organizations, sometimes to visit other volunteers, sometimes just to visit some beautiful places. While Olga was travelling mostly in Slovenia, once she went to Venice to see the carniaval with her Slovenian language group. She was also impressed by the excurssion to the real coalmine in Velenje.

While talking about her experience at Gibanje, she notes: «I liked very much that there are enthusiastic people working in the organization who are ready to dedicate a lot of their time and energy to the cause. And they are always ready to help, if necessary. And they also know how to have fun. It was very pleasant when they supported my modest attempts to speak Slovenian.

About  the disappointments. It seemed that there was no work exactly for the volunteer. Sometimes there was nothing to do».

As for the cultural and personal experience in Slovenia, she adds: “Slovenia has always seemed to me a kind and hospitable country, I felt very comfortable there. I quickly got used to transport in Ljubljana, and then in the whole country. People, it seemed to me, by the character are very much like Russians, maybe they are more polite. Also, Slovenia, despite its small size, seems very large and diverse, because it has everything: mountains, sea, valleys and castles – you can travel a lot and always find something new.

I didn’t have a cultural shock, it was rather when I returned back to Russia. Out of habit, I continued to greet people in the store or in the elevator and received strange glances in return. Together with that, my views on Slovenia and Russia did not change much, maybe, I only noticed in Slovenia some good things that I would like to see in Russia. To greater extent the views on myself have changed, on the relationships between people. I’ve discovered some new qualities in myself”.

The time after her EVS project was not the simplest one: “It was hard to return <to Russia>, especially after the EVS, although half a year is not such a long time. But you get used to being not just you, but a EUROPEAN VOLUNTEER, and that means something. And when you come back, here it does not mean anything. Finding a work took a long time. Not everyone understood what was happening to me. And, of course, I wanted to return, so I found the opportunity in three years to come again, that time to Gibanje”. Experience that Olga had gotten during her EVS project in Slovenia was useful for her: “When I returned after the EVS, I worked in my sending organization, there it was necessary to communicate with organizations throughout Europe, so the absence of a language barrier was very useful. The guys from Slovenia were coming to work in our children’s camp. And we sent several EVS volunteers to Gibanje. So the cooperation continues”.

Summing up her EVS experience and analysing it from the today’s perspective, Olga concludes: “For me, this project was a very good experience. For the first time, I lived alone, and even in another country, so I realized that I can be independent. I became much more open-minded, I got many friends with whom I still communicate, I saw many things that I would not have seen in my life. I remember with warmth that time. It seems to me that life somehow expanded after the project. From another perspective, if I could change something, I  would be less embarrassed to speak Slovene. And I would go back to a few places, where I did not go because it seemed to me that I did not have enough time”.

You can check Olga’s personal blog here: https://olyalebedeva.livejournal.com/27345.html

Natalya Chernova was the second EVS volunteer. She was working at Gibanje from October 2014 till September 2015. She is the second volunteer, who is still living in Slovenia.

My good acquaintance from Sodrujestvo Olga Lebedeva advised me to go to the project, and she experienced all the delights of this program in one of the most, though small, beautiful countries in the world, Slovenia. It was through her that I met Marco Funkl. Having become acquainted with the information about the Gibanje and their activities, I realized that this project is for me. At that moment, I studied in the graduate school in Kazan, so I was interested in the research part of the project, which Gibanje provided. In fact, this is a rarity, if you go deeper into the search for volunteer programs, you can find that EVS projects are mostly related to working with children or people with disabilities”. Her goals during the stay in Slovenia were the following: “to get acquainted with the new culture, new people, to get a wonderful experience of working abroad, to immerse myself  in the problems of unemployment and precariat – before the project, this term was not even familiar to me”.

Natalya was in Gibanje for the whole year. Her project was named “Faces of precariat”. “The project can be divided into several components: research part – a study on youth unemployment and precariat in different countries, organizational part – participation in organizing various events (conference, camp, presentations about Russia, etc.). During the project I was able to participate in the writing of the application for a grant for an international seminar and organizing it. Creative part: I shot the film “Faces of Recrariat”, based on biographical interviews of young people from different countries; a video about the Gibanje in Slovenian; took part in the production of Gledališče zatiranih (10 performances in various cities of Slovenia);  was engaged in photo making and designing the leaflets and brochures for the organization. Language: I attended Slovenian courses. Administrative part: I had to deal with documents (reports, bills, etc.), because at that time there was no administrator in Gibanje”. Natalya was also visiting other organizations, where her friends volunteers worked, in order to give a lecture and presentation about Russia. She was meeting other volunteers quite often, they were also travelling together. “I also started rock climbing thanks to Boštjan, on Tuesdays played basketball with local students, mastered the basic steps of sports ballroom dances and did many other things”. During her project Natalya also went to Czech Republic, Croatia, Turkey, France, and Italy.

Natalya enjoyed participating in the performances of the Slovenian theatre. Also, most of the things she did were initiated by herself. At the same time, as Olga, she says that she was partly dissatisfied that there was not that much work, not that much people who would be in the office.

While describing her cultural experience, Natalya says that she didn’t have any particular problems to integrate to the Slovenian society. “Slovenian culture is very close to the Russian”. Her return back to Russian went also quite smoothly.

The experience she got during the project was valuable indeed. It was especially useful when she returned back to Slovenia for the second time.

Summing up a year abroad, Natalya says: “It was an important moment in my life. I would even say a turning point”.

Artem Chubukov was the third EVS volunteer, who stayed in Slovenia for one year in 2015-2016. He was and still is the only male volunteer Gibanje has hosted so far. Maybe, the trend will change in future J

“I knew about Gibanje from the friends. Once I thought that I would like to travel. But not for two weeks of rest in Turkey, but for a long time and in another country unusual for Russians. Then I accidentally found out about EVS, and about the fact that the Cheboksary organization has partners in Slovenia. The rest was a matter of technique.” Most of the expectations Artem had had before the start of the project were of personal nature: he wanted to try himself in completely unusual conditions and circumstances, to hear his inner voicem and to enjoy freedom. As time showed, he successfully managed to do all of these things.

During his project Artem was preparing a study on the labor market, filming videos for Gibanje, making the organization’s website, systematizing Gibanje’s library. “I was organizing evenings, when we watched Russian films. I was curious, but I expected a little more interest. Also, Marco gave the opportunity to teach Russian for students. But once again – I perceived participation in the project as an opportunity for personal growth not so much in a professional way as in terms of the development of my inner world”. In his free time Artem travelled a lot: “I was at Triglav, was at the European Football Championship in Paris, I made the Balkan trip through all the countries of the former Yugoslavia from Priština to Belgrade. Well, and visited couple of Italian and Austrian cities”.

As for the cultural and personal experience, “many things have become a revelation, you cannot simply list them, they should be discussed behind a mug of dark Laško and with a plate of čevapčiči. Perhaps most importantly, the Europeans I met are very tolerant and tolerant of any particular behaviour, if these traits do not disturb others. It seems to me that there is a lack of such tact in Russia sometimes”. He also adds that “the values of the free world and liberalism in traditional sense which were in the process of formation at that time, got their final shape there, in Slovenia”.

Talking about the overall experience of living a year abroad Artem summarizes: “It seems to me that a yearlong trip before acquiring a family and other responsibilities is a very important stage in the formation of a personality that many young people today are lacking. My return to Russia was quite smooth, perhaps because in Slovenia I realized that it is not being that determines mind, but mind determines being”. If he would have a second chance to take the project, he wouldn’t change anything: “The project made me as I am today, and I like present myself more than myself before the project. So, the project was cool”.