This year marks the 20th anniversary of the European Voluntary Service (EVS). We decided to celebrate this event by writing about the experiences of the recent EVS volunteers that CREED hosted in 2015 and 2016.
The EVS Effect was an EVS project coordinated by YINFO – Genclik Bilgi Merkezi Dernegi, a Turkish NGO, in which YINFO was also the sending organisation. The hosting organisation was CREED, from Piatra Neamt, Romania. The project involved two volunteers: Alpaslan Gunebakan and Mehmet Ali Amkioglu.
Alpaslan Gunebakan is 29 years old, he is from Gaziantep, Turkey. He was a volunteer in Romania for ten months from April 2015 to February 2016. Among the tasks and roles of Alp during his EVS, he promoted EVS and Erasmus+ in schools and high schools, he presented Turkish culture to children and young people from Romania, he interacted with children from social centres and with Down Syndrome children and young people. He was also involved in the organisation of nonformal activities for the community, for example a Living Library. His main aim for this experience was to improve his English, and such international experience helped him achieve this language progress. “The English language became a part of my life”, said Alp at the end of his EVS in Romania. Furthermore, he says he became more organised due to the fact that he had to plan his budget and travels. He improved the skill of teaching his native language, being in charge of a Turkish course held for citizens of Piatra Neamt. The intercultural aspects of any EVS experience are very important, too: “I always looked around to learn and to understand this new culture. I’ve been open minded with everything new. I also shared our traditions with local people in English and I’ve found out many similarities.”
Back home, he started being nostalgic about his EVS experience: “I sailed to new experiences, to new life in a country which I didn’t know that afterwards I would consider it as if my home country. I had many question marks in my mind and the biggest one was whether I would be able to speak English well. I was ready suffering to do it but I don’t remember that I had been so happy at any point of my life as I was in Romania. I have regretted for nothing, maybe I could have studied more but it is ok. Sometimes I was bored, sometimes I was annoyed but now, I don’t even remember what. I would like to thank everyone whoever I’ve met in Romania it couldn’t have been better without all you guys but I think Romania deserves the biggest thank. Thank you Romania.”
Mehmet Ali Amkioglu was the second volunteer hosted in the project The EVS Effect. He stayed in Piatra Neamt from July 2015 to April 2016. He will be soon 23 years old. He was searching for international opportunities at the end of his university studies, considering that this kind of opportunity would help him develop himself both personally and professionally. He was in a short-term EVS in Slovenia before coming to Romania, so he tried first to go in an EVS project for a short term and after he wanted to be EVS volunteer again, for a long-term project, because he found EVS a really helpful and useful experience: for his development, for travelling and seeing other cultures, for interacting with people from other countries. He considers that the main skill that he developed during his activities in Piatra Neamt was the public speaking skill. He was involved in various types of activities, but he appreciated the most the opportunity to speak in front of 20 to 50 people, through the EVS presentations he held in high schools, to promote EVS programme among young people in Piatra Neamt. In this way, he prepared himself for the future he wants to build in the business field, where the public speaking skill is essential. He was also involved in activities with children from social centres in Piatra Neamt, with whom he was happy to spend time with, playing educational games and participating in different workshops with them.
“The EVS experience was unforgettable for me. I met many nice people and I am working to think now like an international person, with an open mind. I improved my language and personal skills like public speaking. It was an amazing experience also because I lived for 10 months in a different country and culture and for the last 3 months I lived alone and that made me a very strong person.”
First Step of EVS is a project started in 2016, in which the sending organisation is Istanbul Arel University and the hosting organisation is CREED Romania. At the beginning of this project, 2 Turkish volunteers are hosted in Piatra Neamt, for a short-term project of one month: Beytullah Aslan and Uygar Ekeyilmaz.
Beytu is 25 years old, he graduated from Antalya Akdeniz University in 2015, he is a journalist. He is interested in playing chess and guitar. In addition, he is involved in volunteering projects. First, he was a volunteer for different projects in Turkey: “Throughout 3 years, I have been in a project organised for children. The purpose of the project was about the cinema: children who have not seen a cinema theatre had the opportunity to visit one for the first time. In university, I was a volunteer and helped children to learn history. I have also organised a short film festival for amateur directors for 3 times.” Beytu also likes volunteering activities connected to his hobbies: “When I started to play chess, I was 10 years old. I played as a professional player in high school. I taught chess to many children as a volunteer. I think chess is a very good game because it makes the person careful.” In Romania, he had the opportunity to meet children who participate in and win chess competitions: I think some Romanian children are very good at chess. I didn`t teach them to play chess, they taught me chess because they are smart and friendly. His volunteering activities are various, his aim being the happiness of the persons involved: I worked at Ulker Children Cinema Festival for 3 years. This Festival showed films to children for free. On April 23rd, National Sovereignty and Child`s Day (Turkey`s special day), this festival hosted over 400,000 children and made them happy. Now, that he had the opportunity to be an EVS volunteer, he would like to benefit from other international volunteering experiences, too.
Uygar is 23 years old, he is studying Journalism. He is also a free-lance photographer, he likes going climbing and making camps in the mountains. He worked for different organisations, as a photographer and as a visual supervisor to some events. His previous experience as a volunteer shows that he likes to combine volunteering with his hobbies, for personal satisfaction and for helping the others through volunteering activities: “I organised 4 mountain climbing festivals as a volunteer, including all universities in Turkey and we had some visitors from other countries too. It was about climbing a mountain called ‘Kizlarsivrisi’, from Antalya region, in Turkey. Each year on February we welcomed visitors for 4 days and made a united climbing together. For the volunteer part, we worked as a team to organise a route to the mountain, made sure we had supplies for climbing and made sure that climbers felt safe when the festival began. It was a friendly environment and I had a chance to meet new good people.” “First Step of EVS” is his first international volunteering experience, but not the last, for sure: “This is my first E.V.S. project and I am sure that it won`t be my last one. My project in here is about 1 month, like a short period and I am already planning for long period projects. Nearly 3 weeks here and it already feels like home. During those 3 weeks, I made a photo presentation, helped kids to play games and have a good time, met some good people and also made a blog about Piatra Neamt. When you go a different country, you can easily analyse differences and similarities between your country and the visited country. Every decision you make is an experience that is useful for you. If you are interested in travelling, meeting new people, being a volunteer, don`t miss E.V.S. projects.”
20 years of European Voluntary Service (EVS) mean 100.000 supported volunteers, developing their skills and competences, for short-term or long-term projects. From local activities to European or worldwide events, every activity they are involved in means an opportunity to learn something new, to discover themselves and a new culture. CREED is thankful to all our previous and current volunteers for their active involvement and we promise to continue our EVS projects, for youth development!