3 volunteers, 2 months, 1 project.
Ana, Marina and Lucija spent 2 months volunteering in an organization “Radi Vidi Pats” on an EVS project „No bikes, no party“ funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Commission. As their sending organization, we´re sharing their experience, read and get motivated!
I got a chance to go on an EVS in Liepaja, Latvia. I was supposed to be a volunteer of the „No bikes, no party“, EVS project I found super cool from the start. And so, in lack of a better summer plan, along with 2 other girls I had just met, I flew north. Didn’t really know much about Liepaja at that point, except that it has a beach. A nice beach with a wannabe Hollywood sign.
First impressions: the sea was cold and lacked salt, and the way they make coffee is abolutely abhorrent. Still, not many bad things apart from that. We got to explore the city and met a bunch of friendly and supportive people while preparing for our project to start. Basically, for two months over the summer, we were supposed to meet and greet people from all around the world, who’d come and stay for a few days, and we’d organize some travel-related workshops. At the beginning, I was really unsure of how will I contribute to the project and what will my exact role be. I didn’t think there’s anything relevant I can “teach” people about travelling since I had never organized workshops of any kind before. But it all fell into place very quickly once the whole thing started. Everyone chose topics they were comfortable with, based on their experience or hobbies. Or we’d just put a blank map and a bunch of empty post-its and called it Creative cartography workshop. That one was my favorite.
I got a chance to go on an EVS in Liepaja, Latvia and I gave it a shot. And I’ve learned a lot from the whole experience. Met loads of new people from all over the place. People from Japan, Australia, Mexico, Latvia, China, Canada… Some of them stayed only for a couple of days. Some of them I got to know throughout the entire two months of my stay. And together we’ve partied, worked, fixed bikes, climbed trees, drove a taxi on the water, slav squatted, and went to prison. So yeah, I’ve definitely made some new friends along the way. Also, I had a romantic photoshoot with a pink unicorn on the beach. Which shows you you can do anything.
EVS gives, in my opinion, great opportunities. Allows you to travel. To explore a new culture and meet fantastic people. But also, to discover more about yourself. And the cool thing is, anyone can do it. No experience or money is needed. And it’s normal to have no idea what’s going on at first or what are you supposed to do. It will work out just fine. My time in Latvia is coming to an end and I must say, I’m sad to leave. I even got used to the cold sea. The coffee is still disgusting though. Ana Koren.
„Where the hell is Latvija, what are you talking about, How…? When…? Why…? What…?”
So, that’s my mum who wasn’t very happy when I said I will be volunteering in another country for 2 months. But let’s start from the beginning. I’m Marina, from Croatia and I accidentally applied for EVS, so my experience is little different than other EVS volunteers. Usually person decides to go to France for example and he is looking for NGO-s and/or project that he is interested in, then there is procedure of writing a project and waiting for EU to approve it etc. I just wanted a break from my life in Zagreb and I found perfect opportunity. I was just scrolling on the internet and doing nothing in my life when I saw article called “Who wants’ to spend summer on Baltic Sea for free?” The only conditions were that you need to be between ages 18 and 30, and speak English fluently. I didn’t even think about it, I just started to type them how awesome I am. The next day the girl who organized the whole thing called me on Skype and after 10 minute talk she just said: “okay, we are buying you a plane ticket next week”. So now comes the talk with my mum from the beginning of story. I come from a small town where people are conservative, not very educated, so it was really hard to explain my parents and relatives why would I go to another country just to volunteer there. Usually when people go abroad they come back with new Mercedes, and I will go back with 3 new shirts that I bought in second hand shop. Also my parents still think I am in Litva, after I told them 17 times that I am in Latvia. So in that one month before I left, I explained 529 times what I will do there (and they still didn’t get it), and I was listening how someone will take my organs, or sent me to slavery, oh and also that it will be war in Latvia, or Litva or whatever. So with all my fears, I had to deal with other people fears and stupidity. Luckily I had 2 two jobs and a lot of responsibilities, so I didn’t have time to really think and imagine how it will be and what is waiting for me in Latvia. The furthest I got in my mind is airport, it was my first flight so I was kind of afraid, but not the flying itself, I was afraid I will get lost on the airport or something like that, my mind is weird, I know. So, yeah of course I was afraid, I didn’t know many information about the work I will do, organization, country, people that will surround me. But 1 month I am here and I am still alive with all my organs, I made new friends, met a lot of people from different countries and cultures who just don’t care how, when and where, they just want to travel. Every day I am reminding myself to enjoy every moment because this right here, right now is an unforgettable experience and even if everything becomes usual after some time, it’s not. This experience really opened my eyes, eyes to world that I didn’t even know that exists. When you live in small country, small town, surrounded by same people all the time you don’t even think there are hundreds of people just traveling around the world with no more money in their pocket than you have in yours right now. You just need a courage to go into the world. Marina Rogulja.
I am a volunteer that signed up for a project called „No bikes, no party“ which accepts travelers in need of accommodation and gives them a place to sleep, eat, meet other people and participate in a wide arrange of workshops mostly covering travel related topics.
I remember my mom saying that I didn’t start packing and preparing early enough. I disagreed: „I just don’t like to live forward when I can live now.“ And being in such a mindset I didn’t think much about my upcoming EVS until it really started happening. As always, I packed my bags in the nick of time and arrived at the airport to meet my future colleagues and roommates. After doing some acro-yoga and capoeira at the airport with them and playing some mind games on the way to Liepaja I decided I like these guys. That is, I realised it won’t be boring. Our receiving organisation picked us up from the airport and drove us straight to our future residence. I would say my first impression of that night was… hm, freaky. Oh, yeah! Did I mention it was night? ‘Cause it was. Pitch black, driving through unfamiliar teritory with unfamiliar people. We were left on a construction sight where the travel scho0l was located. Our future residence… hm… didn’t seem inhabitable when you looked at it drom the outside that night. „Ok“, I thought, „They probably cleaned up inside though.“ Well, they actually did but because of the state oft he building it didn’t really seem so. Fifteen years of non-existing human presence does that to an old shoe factory. Conclusion: It didn’t seem inhabitable from the inside either. Checked with the other volounteers: didn’t seem bareable to them. When I bounced onto my bed dust came flying through the sky. The bunk bed didn’t have a ladder for getting up and the volunteer that was on the lower bed had parts of wood falling down on her face and a bad cough and running nose from alergies. Hm… Maybe I should have started preparing earlier? Maybe by asking where we were going to end up. But hey, let’s see what we can do out of what we have. Those first few days the air was really filled with skepticism and I even remember suggestions of going back home before we sign any sort of contract. But hey, we remembered that we could communicate! Communication is always a good thing <3 With open ears it end up in mutual understanding, solving problems and loads of more good stuff too. So yeah, our problems were solved. We moved to another apartment and had enough time to make the place of our project livable for our future guests. We prepared the house and the workshops and got to know Liepaja better. And after a week of accommodating it seemed the more I stayed the more I liked where I was and what I was doing. It was a really amazing project filled with amazing people. Although I was prepared and had knowledge to share about traveling I learned a great deal of tips and tricks from the other travelers and the other volunteers as well! I cought up on some basic Latvian soon so I could go to stores without using interpretative dance which I found amasing. Our neighbour at the apartment was also awesome and we managed to befriend each other even though we didn’t have a normal method of communication (we don’t know that much of Latvian and Russian and she didn’t know Croatian or English) so interpretative dance did come in handy. We baked pancakes for her, she yelled at us for being loud at night and then took us to a trip to a nearby lake and through a region called Karosta. As well as developing language (mostly random Latvian, Russian and Danish), travel and interpretative dance skills I learnt how to drum some basic rhythms, how to juggle with flower sticks, how to advertise efficiently with guerrilla marketing, where can you pick up fresh water from rivers, some new recipes, something more about bikes and bike parts, how to ride freak bikes, acro-yoga, and… Most importantly I learned more about myself here. On what I should work, what I should improve. Which things work in which situations and which not. And I got to travel a bit too! If you manage your free days carefully there is a lot that can be seen and experienced. Liepaja by itself is beautiful but so are Sigulda, Cesis, Jelgava, etc. And the nature here too! We even got a chance to go to Estonia and Finland and it was a really amazing experience! As for volunteering here, I loved it. I was already familiar with leading classes but now I was mostly talking about and teaching things that I loved. So I was never tired of it. As well as doing workshops and taking care of the school and travelers we participated in night bike rides around Liepaja (and once even Grobina), made documentary evenings, made LGBT related events, helped out at the bike workshop and the youth festival, made a charity event for a local dog shelter and loads more. I think I already said it: the more I stayed, the more I liked it. It has certainly been an awesome experience out of which I’m going out a bit more knowledgeable, a bit more skilled, with a few more friends and dear people that warm my heart and an eager anticipation of another EVS project in the future. Lucija Šalinović.
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