There is a satirical book in Turkish which makes great fun of all the ideologies that were popular during the collapse of the Ottomans and first years of the Turkish Republic, in of the 12 parts of which a crazy man is entering a school and trying to brainwash the headmaster to establish an open-air school in an isolated island where the students will be educated through learning by doing: the principle of non-formal education. Well, this writer is such a genius exaggerator that he can make you believe this kind of education is nonsense and really sucks. Nevertheless my experience of European Voluntary Service was a practical proof that this thing works extremely well!
First of all, to all the ones who have no idea what European Voluntary Service (EVS) is, it is not eatable, not touchable, but it is something, an opportunity given to the European youth (and some others) by the European Union that allows us to stay in any European country (and in some more places), carry on projects in any one of the many fields for a short or long time without paying any money. The voluntary fields range from media and youth information to health and environment; and all your needs like plane ticket, house, electricity, food, cigarette paper are arranged & paid by the two (of three) actors of the whole thing: sending organisation, hosting organisation (and maybe coordinating organisation). You just find a sending organisation and choose project that you want to work for. All these are happening within the Youth in Action program of the European Council.
So simple... You’ll say a big “HI!” to the hosting country and the answer will be a big “WELCOME!”. For a couple of months EVS will be like a holiday for you. But when you find your place in the project and adapt to the new environment, you’ll start developing yourself & upgrading in a fast pace in many aspects without even noticing.
Oh God! You’ll be surrounded by millions of people speaking other languages! Believe me you’ll adapt and love these people! You’ll make new friends from many countries; you’ll learn new cultures and languages, e new style of having dinner!
Living with others it will be inevitable to discover your own characteristics and develop new ones like tolerance, acceptance and sharing. The feeling of independence will help you understand your real self; and if you are in the beginning of the life and for the boys if you haven’t done your military service yet, trying to survive without your mum will make you stronger! J
In the working place, you’ll discover and develop your talents. Creating and managing your own projects, you’ll develop your leadership skills. The most important, you’ll learn to cooperate with others in a multicultural environment and gain a great team spirit. If you are lucky enough, during your EVS, you can join some training courses and youth exchanges that will make your chance of making friendships and having contacts around the world double or triple!
One of the top benefits of EVS for me is it is a great chance to develop awareness about social, cultural, environmental etc… issues. During your EVS you gain a volunteer spirit that pushes you to try to do something for the society in all your life. Maybe by the end of your EVS, you will have found out that you were born to be a NGO worker.
See? EVS is a compact pack of many opportunities; one of a couple of good things provided by the European Union. And it’s so easy that they beat the ones who don’t do EVS! Pack your stuff, say goodbye to your mum and take your trip! (I wish my favourite satire writer was living now to revise that part of that book! J)
Ayşe Burcu Atabey