European Voluntary Service: Learn While You Help

  • 30 May 2016 9:00 AM
European Voluntary Service: Learn While You Help
Volunteers do good in foreign countries<br><br> The European Voluntary Service offers young people the chance to engage in volunteer work in a foreign country on the continent. The 21-year-old Imke Langmann from Germany thought it sounded good. Her choice of venue: Budapest.

What is your motivation and how long have you been here?

I moved to Budapest in February and since then I have been working for Menedékház Alapítvány (Shelter House Foundation) where we help homeless families and especially children. This is the main focus of the organisation. I am originally from Minden in Germany but I lived in Kiel recently. I got to know the European Voluntary Service (EVS) last year through a friend, and I was immediately interested.

I have always wanted to participate in a volunteering project abroad. In terms of timing this was perfect for me. This way I can spend the time I have to wait to continue my studies with something valuable. In addition, EVS does not demand such a high advance payment: Other organisations demand fees that are downright utopian. I applied not so long ago, only last September, and actually I was late for the deadline. However, the project leader thought that this spontaneity was especially convincing and finally decided on me.

Why did you opt for Budapest?

Besides Budapest I applied for other projects, for example in Spain, France and Great Britain. Finally it came down to Budapest, and I am happy about that. I already knew that it is supposed to be a beautiful city but I had never been in Hungary before. So I did not really have a specific expectation about the country and the people. It’s quite funny that I feel a little bit like in Germany here, partly due to the high number of German shops. On the other hand I see Budapest as a multicultural city with both European and oriental influences.

However, it’s interesting that the country is somewhat underdeveloped in terms of feminism, at least this is what I have experienced. This is also true for working conditions. There are four of us volunteers here – the others are from Turkey, France and Spain – however when the coordinator meets us in the morning he only shakes hand with the men and not the women. In the meantime I learned not to see this as a means of discrimination, still it left a negative impression on me.

If you would like to participate in the European Voluntary Service you need to find a sending organisation first, such as Voluntary Social Year, which offers the relevant places. This organisation then accepts the application and looks for a host project abroad together with the volunteer.

What is your working day like?

The week always begins with a large donation from the Metro supermarket on Mondays, which we have to pick up. Usually I work 30 hours a week, mainly giving English lessons for children in kindergarten or primary school. I always have to work on their discipline and motivation but this is exactly what motivates me. I often have to communicate using my hands and feet in my everyday work. Although I am studying Hungarian, sometimes it gets really difficult because of the language barrier.

Besides us, international volunteers, mainly social workers and Hungarian volunteers are working for Menedékház Alapítvány. We have two buildings. Twenty-five families are living in one of them currently, who are receiving accommodation in return for a low financial contribution. The other building houses a so-called shelter station, where homeless are cared for and fed. About 160 people are cared for each day here.

We EVS volunteers are also living here. Because of that we learn in a really intensive way about what these people have to endure. Although I don’t know all the stories, the usual difficulties are rape, prostitution or just general poverty. What is particularly impressive for me is that people often are able to fight against their life story, and they don’t let me in on their negative experiences.

Speaking of poverty and homelessness, the places where I become extremely aware of these problems are the metro stations. This is a topic where the government definitely needs to act and catch up.

What are your plans after finishing your assignment in Budapest?

I will leave in September. Next I would like to study sociology and European ethnology in Hamburg or Kiel, since this is what I am interested in and what I could also experience in the Hungarian capital: the complexity and dynamics of society and their intercultural exchange. This is an interest that I would definitely like to become my profession later on.

About the European Voluntary Service

International Youth Services (IJGD: Internationale Jugendgemeinschaftsdienste) has been offering European Volunteer Services for six- to 12-month periods since 1996/1997. Its offices are in Berlin, Bonn, Hildesheim and Magdeburg.

The EVS is part of the EU’s educational program called Erasmus+ (2014-2020), aiming to enhance solidarity, active European citizenship and mutual understanding between young people. Volunteers live and work together on charitable projects and they have the chance to collect new impressions, ideas and perspectives.

The volunteers receive pedagogic support before, during and after their service – language skills are not a requirement. During working for EVS the family is entitled to child support. Each project can be completed in the social sector, for example working with disabled people, children and young people, with the elderly or in nursing or counselling centres.
Ecological projects are also available, for example in restoration, habitat and environmental protection and educational centres. In the cultural sector they can support people in taking computer courses, working in convention houses or in (inter-) cultural youth education.

The project includes travelling to and from the venue; health, liability and accident insurance; accommodation and meals, and the costs of local travel and travel to the seminars. In addition there is the pedagogic support including preparation, intermediate meetings and follow-up, and a local language course and allowance for personal costs.
It’s only worth applying once it’s clarified if the potential employment place is looking for volunteers at all. It’s advisable to ask via email if they have a vacancy for the applicable period. If there is no answer, call and ask again. The application has to be handed according to the information available on the specific individual position.

In general an application via email is appropriate, sometimes even by post. However, sometimes a telephone or Skype interview is possible or required. The application should include a cover letter, a resumé with photo and a motivational letter. Employment places often have their own application form. It’s important that all the documents should be translated to the local language of the employment place. In case of emergency you can rely on the English language.

Source: The Budapest Times

Republished with permission

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