Solidarity, a truly universal language
Volunteers from all over Europe that have have taken part in the European Voluntary Service (EVS) met with the Instituto Andaluz de la Juventud last week in Malaga. For 20 years, the EVS has enabled over 100,000 young people, aged 18 to 30, to live in another country providing their service in a non-profit organisation.
One of the volunteers, Víctor Serrato, had a life-changing experience volunteering with the programme. Serrato was in Brno (Czech Republic) in 2007, and his experience had such an impact on his life that he continued working with the EVS and has returned to the country several times. Now, he works as a coordinator for one of the organisations (Iniciativa Internacional Joven) in charge of promoting awareness about the volunteering projects in order to get people interested in the EVS.
After volunteering for 12 months on a project helping the disabled, Serrato was immersed in Czech culture: “The difference between this project and those run for Erasmus students is the contact made between the volunteers and the local community, and living alongside one another. I don’t know of any Erasmus student who has come back speaking Czech, but I learnt it in three months.”
Despite the novelty of EVS, Serrato is saddened by the lack of marketing for the volunteer programme. “Everyone knows about ‘au pairing’ and Erasmus years abroad, but not this programme. It is not as popular even though it contributes the most,” Serrato explains. “Although the other programmes receive a lot of money and publicity, the EVS is also there to help people.”
Sedar Ocaksonmez, who is from Istanbul (Turkey), is one of the 24 volunteers currently working in Malaga. Ocaksonmez, who arrived in October and now speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent, wants to remain in the city. He chose Malaga due to its location and the Andalusian culture. “I like to hang out with people from Malaga in order to understand everything a bit better,” Ocaksonmez notes. For him, the best thing about these volunteering programmes is the opportunity to get to know and visit new places, “even without any money”.
At 30 years old, Ilaria Cangiulli from Tarento (Italy), is at the upper age limit for volunteers working for the EVS. She is part of a rehabilitation project that works with prisoners. She decided to come to Malaga because she liked the concept of volunteering. Hiking, language exchanges and workshops are some of the many things that Cangiulli is involved in.
David Forte, who is also from Italy, designs projects for an association called Arrabal, which all three volunteers participate in. He arrived in Malaga for the first time last March. The climate and people are some of the best things about the city, he says. However, the problem is how quickly the Spaniards talk. But, for him, “getting to know people from other countries is the best.”
The EVS provides housing, helps out with travel costs between Spain and the volunteers’ home countries, and a budget of 300 euros each month. Now, it belongs to an array of European programmes in the EU’s Erasmus+.source surinenglish