After a few articles about Belarus, let’s talk a bit more about the European Voluntary Service (EVS), that has now changed of name and recently became an Erasmus+ Volunteering activity as a part of the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) all-new program. I know, it sounds complicated already, but don’t worry it’s going to be okay. I’ll keep calling it EVS anyway but, just so you don’t get confused if (or should I say, when) you also want to apply, it works basically the same although it’s not the official name anymore.
So, the EVS is a program funded by the Erasmus+ institution, itself funded by the European Union. It is dedicated to people between the age of 18 and 30 years old, with or without an academic background, and theoritically with or without any language requirements [I say theoritically because in practice, let’s be honest, you should speak at least more or less English, or maybe the language of the place you’re going to. It’s always possible to do an EVS without this language requirement, but it would just probably be more difficult for you]. Projects are created by local NGOs or public administrations, who then can ask for a certain number of volunteers. Each volunteer needs to find a hosting organization (the one where they will work) and a sending organisation (most of the time from their country). Sometimes, a third part can also be present, the coordinating organization, which will receive many volunteers and then dispatch them in different hosting organizations.
Some sending and some hosting organizations already have agreements between each other, which means they’ve already been working together, they trust each other, and they can more easily send each other volunteers. So, there are two strategies to find a volunteering opportunity.
1) Find a project and a hosting organization on the database, and then look for a local sending organization at home who agrees to send you, or, the other way around
2) Find a local sending organization and ask them with which countries they have parternships to apply through them directly.
EVS projects have a wide range of topics, of duration, and of conditions. It’s very important to understand that they are all different, so read carefully before applying anywhere. They can last from 1 to 12 months, they can be in the countryside, in capital cities, about youth work, about the environment, about disabilities, about arts, even about programming, or gardening, or human rights awareness, and so on. You can be the only volunteer there, or work in a team of two, three… or twenty people. Also, not everyone has the same opportunities : it depends on your nationality, and on organizations partnership, which is why you can often see on the dedicated Facebook groups « Call for Spanish only » or any other nationality. So, don’t be frustrated, it’s just the way it works.
Good news : although it’s funded by the European Union, there are also « partner countries » which are participating in the program, such as Georgia, the Balkans, Ukraine, Norway or Belarus to name just a few.
The whole process of application changed recently, and now you should start by « Joining the Corps » (which sounds a bit scary I have to admit), before you can have an overview of the different existing opportunities. Then, you can apply, wait to for an interview, get accepted, and go ! Easy, right ? 🙂 Of course, it’s not always so easy : some people can apply to one million project before getting an interview – some have problems with the visa even after getting accepted – and some projects don’t get the funds at the last minute. I could write about so many different situations for one hour but I understood lately that my articles were too long so I’ll try to keep it short today and stop there about the EVS general information. And, anyway, even though it might not be an easy path, there is always a way.
To illustrate the diversity of EVS projects, I will finish by briefly present two very concrete different projects I’ve been a part of, not both time as a EVS volunteer though as you can only do the long-term EVS one time!
« Ambassador of the European values »
First as a Service Civique volunteer (basically the French EVS) but working with many EVS volunteers, from October 2017 to June 2018, at the Maison de l’Europe de Bordeaux. It was my first experience as a full-time volunteer. During this year I learnt so much in terms of skills, in terms of friendship, and about the EVS program, that I decided to try it for myself.
« Communication through Culture »
Which leads me to my second experience, as a EVS volunteer, from September 2018 to July 2019 – yes, it’s still happening! – in Minsk, where I work for the LYVS association and the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus. It’s almost a year abroad, and again, I’m learning so much from my host country, I’m having such a great time, that sometimes I’m even considering to stick around for a bit longer… But let’s see 🙂