An interview with Esmeralda Gonzalez – EVS volunteer

by Richard Lucas

September 2014

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Introduction

Esmeralda Gonzalez wrote an article in the Krakow Post about how volunteering in Krakow changed her life for the better. Many years ago I went on a SCI/IVS workcamp in communist Czechoslovakia. I have always thought that being active, contributing, working, doing something useful is often more fun and rewarding than relaxing, chilling out and doing nothing which is so often promoted as a route to happiness. So her headline really appealed to me.   I approached her asking for an interview because I wanted to draw attention to the benefits of volunteering in general also find out more about her story and situation here in Krakow.

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Please introduce yourself.  What stage in your life are you at,  what are you doing here in Krakow?

I am a journalist and  I currently work as an intern in Krakow Post. I started on June and my Leonardo internship will finish in December. I also work for a company in Krakow, I am an agent of Customer Service in Spanish for an airline since December 2013.

When did you first think of working abroad as a volunteer ?

In September 2011, when a friend from college told me that she was going to do an EVS in Amsterdam. She explained me the project and it sounds so amazing that I started to research information and thinking about doing it. In January 2012 I started to search projects seriously and I was sure I wanted to go.

 

How was your idea of coming here  received by your family, and friends?

My family and friends always supported me. I was very happy and excited with the experience, so they were glad for me too.

you say EVS is not so well known. I agree, I heard about it for the first time from your article. For the benefit of those who didn’t read the original article please describe what EVS is and how to get involved . and give links so that readers can check out whole programme and also find the partners through whom they must  apply.

European Voluntary Service is a programme supported by the European Union Commission, framed in Erasmus+, for people aged between 17 and 30 who want to be a volunteer in a foreign country in the UE.  There is short and long term projects, mine was 9 months.

It covers all your costs (food, accomodation, insurance, 90% travel costs, pocket money)

To volunteer, you need to find a sending organisation in the country where you live (in my case, Spain) and a hosting organisation where the project will take place.  Volunteers work for a maximum of six hours per day, five days per week.

http://strim.org.pl/en: It was my hosting organization, but it is also a sending organization for Polish people who want to go abroad as EVS.

http://europa.eu/youth/evs_database_en: In the European Youth Portal you can find more info about the program and the organizations

You wrote about the challenge of finding a partner who wanted you as a volunteer. What advice would you give to someone who wants to improve their chances of being accepted as a volunteer.

Write a nice motivation letter where you explain your reasons to be a volunteer and what makes you special for the project. You should describe yourself and your experience (not only about work or studies) and how you will help or support the project. Organizations likes people with initiative and a lot of new ideas to share.

What local support is available to the EVS volunteers in Krakow, do you have a local or national co-ordinator who helps you deal with the challenges of life in a new country. How do you get to know about other EVS volunteers in Krakow. How do you find out what is going in Krakow  – are you networked with local volunteer support organisations like those here

There is a National Polish Agency which organize training courses (one in the beginning and another in the middle of the project) where you can meet volunteers in Poland and you can express your opinion and ask for help.

My hosting organization, STRIM, is in contact with other associations which has EVS volunteers, such as Internationaler Bund. We organized International Volunteers Day Party together and I met other EVS-er in Krakow.

What have been the biggest challenges for you and the others here in Krakow?

Obviously, the Polish language and the weather. The language is very different than Spanish and it was a challenge to understand people in shops, etc. The weather is also different and I needed a lot of time to get used to the cold and the snow.

What particular issues topics  do you want to draw attention to in your work for EVS and Strim ?

In the office, I had several tasks although the most important is organizing events and meetings for the other volunteers and helping them when they need something from the office. I organized some cultural meetings to visit Wieliczka Salt Mine and different museums in Krakow, a film session to watch Schindler’s List movie, and one of the most great parties: International Volunteer Day. For this day, we made a performance show with juggling, a theatre play about cultural shock , we sang a volunteerism song created by one of the volunteers, we danced a Polish song and we prepared international food.

Furthermore, I helped to organize a theatre club for 10 EVS volunteers called Legendary Krakow. In April was the premiere of the play theatre for children (in English and Polish) about Krakow legends. Also, in December I organized with some Italian people Migrant’s Day, a meeting to talk about migration in Poland, with international music and with a big talk where migrants from Italy, Georgia, France, Spain and Bulgaria told us their experience working in Krakow. I was the mediator of the talk (I asked them in a stage) and, then, I made a video about the event. In fact, I made many videos since I am working in the office (You can watch them in the section Photo/ Video)!

 

 

On the other hand, I organized my own project, a contest to promote Spanish language and multiculturalism! In my contest, there were two categories: a photography contest and a short story contest in Spanish for native speakers and for students. Both had the same topic, International cultural experiences. We celebrated the Awards Ceremony in Rajska Library and it was amazing!

Are there any things about the programme you would like to change? what are they?

We had to collect food receipts (fakturas and paragons) every month to show how much money we spent in food and drinks. It was very tiring work because if you spend more than 10 zl, you had to ask for an invoice (faktura) and it was very hard when I did not speak the language!!

What have you not yet done in Krakow. (or Poland) that you want to do before you leave

I have never been in Mazurek and I would like to visit all regions in Poland.

If people volunteer more for the experience, making friends and  fun, than worrying about how useful and valuable their job is: is that a problem?

Volunteering is good a thing, no matter the reason that you have had to do it. For me it is not a problem if someone decides to do it for the experience or meeting new people.

What sort of training, preparation and orientation did you get to make the most of your time here  ?

I had some preparation training in my sending organization, AIPC Pandora, in Madrid. In total, there were 4 meetings about multicultural environment, Europe history, the private insurance that we had in EVS and other issues. I also had 2 trainings in Poland, one in Warsaw and second one in Torun.

What are you most proud and happy about so far from your experience in Krakow ?

I am proud of all what I did in STRIM office. I organized a lot of events and I was very happy with the people that I met.

What do you see as your future choices after you finish your EVS experience. Might you stay go home or do EVS somewhere else? What impact has EVS had on your ideas of what you can do with your life? What would you like to be doing in 5 or 10 years from now if things went exactly as you wanted.

I did my EVS one year ago (from October 2012 until June 2013) so I don’t know how to answer these questions. When I finished my EVS I decided that I wanted to come back to Krakow after the summer to work and I did it. 🙂 EVS is a program that you can do only once. It is not possible to do more than 1 project (you can stay at maximum of 1 year) EVS changed my life and my way of thinking in so many ways. I am more open-minded and I growed up a lot. It is impossible to describe how much I gained thanks to this experience. In 5-10 years I would like to live in Spain, Madrid, with my family and friends. I would love to work as a journalist in my home country and I think that this time abroad can help me to get it, because I am learning a lot, improving my language skills and I am sure it will be very positive.

What can you tell us about your experiences here that are interesting/fun and has nothing to do with your EVS

It was very fun thanks to the people that I met, from different countries and cultures. It is very nice to live in such a different place. In the beginning, everything surprises you. I think everybody should live abroad for a while to understand how it feels. I

 

So you know all the EVS volunteers in Krakow ?

i know that Strim organization will host 20 new volunteers in October, but they are not here now. I don’t know about other associations

 

I’m going to  organise some kind of event – like a thank you and also PR – event where we get all the EVS-er together get them to say what they are doing in one minute, and introduce them to other organisations in Krakow. Of course we will invite you 🙂

Thank you for your time, and contribution to  making Krakow a better city to live in

Annex

If you want to know who is sending and receiving volunteers in Krakow go here

http://europa.eu/youth/evs_database_en

on the left side of the page, you can search the organizations by country and city. For example, if you put Poland and Krakow the below 23 results appear

EVS accredited
No: 2012-PL-83
  •  Receiving
 Children; Education through sport and outdoor activities
 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2013-PL-7
  •  Sending
  •  Coordinating
 Anti-discrimination; Education through sport and outdoor activities
EVS accredited
No: 2013-PL-168
  •  Sending
  •  Receiving
  •  Coordinating
 European awareness; Media and communication/Youth information
 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2011-PL-249
  •  Sending
  •  Coordinating
 European awareness; Youth policies
EVS accredited
No: 2012-PL-98
  •  Receiving
 European awareness; Children
 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2012-PL-31
  •  Receiving
 Environment; Children
EVS accredited
No: 2013-PL-86
  •  Receiving
 Art and culture; Education through sport and outdoor activities
EVS accredited
No: 2012-PL-50
  •  Receiving
 Disability; Education through sport and outdoor activities
EVS accredited
No: 2013-PL-223
  •  Sending
 Education through sport and outdoor activities; Environment
 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2012-PL-30
  •  Sending
  •  Coordinating
 Development cooperation; Media and communication/Youth information
EVS accredited
No: 2013-PL-61
  •  Receiving
 Disability; Children
EVS accredited
No: 2011-PL-320
  •  Sending
  •  Receiving
  •  Coordinating
 Disability; Health
 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2013-PL-80
  •  Receiving
 Art and culture; Disability
 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2012-PL-69
  •  Receiving
 European awareness; Children
 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2013-PL-81
  •  Receiving
 Art and culture; Environment
 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2013-PL-15
  •  Receiving
 Children
 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2013-PL-54
  •  Receiving
 Disability; Children
EVS accredited
No: 2012-PL-182
  •  Sending
  •  Coordinating
 European awareness; Art and culture
EVS accredited
No: 2011-PL-254
  •  Receiving
 Disability; Youth policies
 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2011-PL-250
  •  Receiving
 Youth leisure; Children

 Szkola Podstawowa nr 24 w Krakowie

 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2013-PL-124
  •  Receiving
  •  Coordinating
 Art and culture; Children
EVS accredited
No: 2013-PL-83
  •  Receiving
 European awareness; Art and culture
 KrakowPoland
EVS accredited
No: 2012-PL-32
  •  Receiving
 Children; Disability

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About richardhlucas

business and social entrepreneur pl.linkedin.com/in/richardhlucas
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