The experience from a volunteer’s point of view: European Voluntary Service is a perfect opportunity to develop young people’s skills
ALDA Skopje hosted two volunteers from France in the period from June 2015 to July 2016. Raphael Galvez and Nathalie Bargues are two French youngsters who did an EVS in the office of ALDA in Skopje. They were engaged within the project “Volunteers for European remembrance”, supported by the National agency for European Educational Programmes and Mobility.
The two EVS volunteers were hosted by ALDA Skopje as part of the “Erasmus +” programme, which is funded by the European commission.
1. You spent a year volunteering at ALDA Skopje as part of the project “Volunteers for European remembrance”. What was the main focus of the project?
Nathalie: This project was focused mainly on Youth mobility in Europe and on the remembrance of the Eastern Front of the First World War in Macedonia. Both subjects were really relevant since young people in Macedonia are lacking counselling and information on their mobility opportunities. Moreover, working on projects to promote the cultural heritage of the Eastern Front is important to foster reconciliation in the Balkans region.
Raphael: The main focus of the project for me was to promote the feelings of union and European citizenship, with a more specific focus on Macedonia and the countries of the Western Balkan region, by gathering youngsters from all over Europe around common activities encouraging tolerance and intercultural understanding.
2. Could you briefly tell us what have you gained from the past 12 months as an EVS volunteer at ALDA Skopje?
Nathalie: During this rewarding experience, I learned how to adapt myself, how to implement workshops and international conferences, how to write projects proposals, and I had the opportunity to develop my skills in organisation and in communication. Discovering a new culture and new perspectives, I became more confident and curious, and finally I will use this international experience to develop my professional project.
Raphael: The intercultural aspect of the project allowed me to be even more aware of the diversity of Europe, and to better deal with the differences between people’s ways of thinking on a professional point of view. I also gained insurance in the field of project management at European level, which is a real strength in a world becoming more and more global.
3. What were your activities and objectives for work during your volunteer service?
Nathalie: In order to reinforce Youth participation in the Balkans and so as to develop the remembrance of the First World War in the region, I participated in projects related to these fields, through for example research work, and event organisation tasks. In addition, I was helping in the organization of youth exchanges and conferences, facilitating workshops on French culture, helping to write project proposals, finding partners, and analysing EU funds in Macedonia.
Raphael: During my volunteer service, I was working on youth projects at local and regional levels in the Western Balkan region. I helped to elaborate and coordinate the activities of the Balkan Regional Platform for Youth Participation and Dialogue, one of the main youth projects of ALDA aiming at encouraging youth activism in the society and youth participation in decision-making processes in the region. At local level, I also helped to promote French culture and possibilities of youth exchanges with France for youngsters interested in discovering a new culture and a new approach of education and work.
My objectives were clearly to raise the attention of the youngsters in the possibilities they have to improve themselves and the society they live in, in order not to be just the passive observers of what is happening around them.
4. Would you recommend the Erasmus + programme, specifically the opportunities for EVS, to other youngsters? Why?
Nathalie: The European Voluntary Service is a perfect opportunity to develop young people’s skills and to build a generation of young European citizens, open minded and active at local and European level. This programme is great and unique. It permits to meet really interesting persons coming from different backgrounds, to understand a new culture and to discover the NGO environment and new fields.
Raphael: I would definitely recommend the EVS experience to all youngsters from 18 to 30 years for three main reasons:
- It is first a way for them to explore new centers of interest that may have an impact in their future professional lives.
- The EVS experience is also a chance for youth to get inspired by new culture, but also by new ways of dealing with topics and thus to improve their skills. On the other side, they will inspire people they are working with, underlying an important aspect of the EVS programme: the exchange between people.
- The EVS is finally a way for youngsters to expand their personal network, by meeting people, making new European friends that will be part of their future lives, as well as their professional network, by being in contact and working with organizations and institutions at European level during one year.