Volunteers’ Voices 1/2014: Volunteering in Europe

Editorial: Outlooks on Europe

Four years ago, this time around, I was browsing the online database of the European Voluntary Service. I read the volunteer work descriptions and tried to figure out what was all the talk about sending and coordinating organisations, projects and accreditations actually about. I tried looking for placements with different types of criteria. Organisation topics: children and youth, education, art and culture. Project duration: long-term. Location: I wasn’t sure. Going to France would help to refresh the language I had dropped in high school. An organisation in Romania was looking for volunteers to a project on origami art. Or what about Eastern Europe? Slavic folk tradition, shades of the former Eastern bloc, languages difficult to pronounce with all those sibilant sounds and consonants.

At the end of spring, after a few applications sent to projects around Europe, I one day received an e-mail with photos of children taking care of hamsters and pet rabbits in a zoo club of a leisure time activity centre located in a small town in Czech Republic. Another day I got a phone call from Bucharest, right in the middle of the preparations for my upper secondary school graduation party. At some point while browsing the web I had also found the website of ICYE Finland. Step by step, the pieces of my EVS puzzle began to find their places. By the beginning of September the image was complete: a night coach took me from Tallinn to Warsaw and a train next morning further towards “the heart of Europe”. With me I had a book about Prague, some salty liquorice as a present for my future colleagues and a PowerPoint presentation about Finland on a memory stick.

I spent twelve months as a volunteer club leader and English teacher in a small Czech town. Among the things I learnt were certainly taking care of small pets and pronouncing long sets of consonants, but there was a lot more as well. My vague ideas on “Slavonic” and “Eastern” were transformed into actual encounters with an interesting country and its people. The community formed by other EVS volunteers offered diverse points of view to Europe. Amongst those views, one where a Turkish volunteer was kept waiting for her Visa to be accepted for several weeks, while me and a German volunteer had travelled all the way from our homes without anyone even checking our IDs. A Ukrainian friend of mine had a map of Europe attached onto the ceiling of his room. Sometimes we would lie on the bed and look up to his home country in the middle of the map and to mine somewhere on the border of the paper, and we’d think about borders and how they are drawn, and about our own impressions of the words Europe
and European. For most of the time, we’d come up with more questions than answers.

The experiences of other volunteers and the variety of volunteer projects were a motivation to get all the more acquainted with international volunteer exchange and its multiple premises and goals. After returning to Finland I’ve had the chance to continue with these topics by volunteering for ICYE Finland. In this magazine you will find experiences of EVS volunteering both in Finland and other European countries. I wish all the readers a sunny start of the spring and inspiring moments with the volunteers’ stories.

Mirjami Ylinen

Mirjami Ylinen
Editor of Volunteers’ Voices 2014

In the magazine

2 Pääkirjoitus: Näköaloja Eurooppaan
5 Kutsu Maailmanvaihdon kevätkokoukseen
Teema: Vapaaehtoisena Euroopassa / Theme: Volunteering in Europe
– 8 Eväitä elämään vapaaehtoistyöstä Euroopassa
– 11 Espanjalaisena Suomessa – EVS tarjosin mahdollisuuden
– 14 From Europe to Europe to Get to Know the World
– 16 Berlin has it all – vapaaehtoisena kansainvälisen ICYEn toimistolla
– 18 A Priceless Opportunity
20 ICYE-verkosto tavoittelee tasapainoisempaa vaihtoa
22 Hallitus valmiina uusiin haasteisiin
24 ICYE around the World: New Volunteriing Possibilities for Young Swiss
26 Half Way There – Memories from the Mid-Term Camp
27 Tammikuun leiristä – leirivetäjien kokemuksia
29 Experiences from the Mid-Term Camp
31 Tule mukaan Maailmanvaihdon toimintaan
32 Lehden toimituskunta
33 Tapahtumakalenteri