Volunteering

What was the EVS for me?
I would describe it as a challenging and beautiful trip that I did not do only physically, but also mentally and inwardly, since it was an inner travel that led me to discover more things about myself.

In nowadays' society of efficiency, productivity and individualism, going one year abroad to purely volunteer and help a foreign community without expecting anything else in exchange requires a sufficient degree of madness, enthusiasm, and joy.

In my case, I had been dreaming about Greek culture, traditions and language for a long time, so it seemed to me the perfect occasion to discover the heart of a wonderful and ancient country that has laid the grounds of a notable part of nowadays' cultural expression, while giving my contribution to it. Of course, I was not sure that it was the right decision, but I took the risk!

What did I do? Why was I needed?
My EVS project was dedicated to supporting ELIX activities and programs, both at local and at European level, while working mainly in the organization's office, with several occasions, though, to promote International Voluntary Service through public presentations which addressed the local community.

Challenges?
Well, I will not lye, the Greek language is not exactly a piece of cake! It requires a very big effort and tenacity not only in studying, but also in creating the everyday occasions to practice it, as most Greeks are polyglots and are very excited about speaking foreign languages.

Furthermore, little by little, despite the many similarities between Italian and Greek cultures, I got to discover considerable differences in behaviors, attitudes, ideas and practices, and I learned how to keep being myself while respecting differences and adapting to them.

Learning achievements?
What I learned was not only technical - e.g., knowledge about European project writing and implementation, IT skills and language and communication abilities in different languages.

No, there is something deeper that perhaps cannot be included in a consumerist curriculum vitae: I had indeed the occasion to meet exceptional people, became more sensitive and committed to urgent topics, such as inclusion of people with fewer opportunities, non violent communication, no hate speech, respect of human rights in everyday life, gender balance and many other issues that in the past I used to consider something really changeable only from the "big powers".

After my EVS, I can say that I have changed my mind, since I have become a more positive and committed person, and I really feel an active citizen. After being a volunteer myself, I now really believe in the value of this experience and try to promote it as much as I can.

Through the encounters that I had, I found out that there is an increasing community of young European activists, full of positive energy and innovative ideas, who strong believe in the fact that change can be determined starting from little steps.

I guess, that the one of the most important results of my EVS is not only the rewarding fact of having become an employee of my hosting organization, but also, that I now feel as part of this community of young believers, as I became even more positive, even more hopeful, even more European.

Francesca M.

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