Syndicate content

Anca's and Loredana's EVS experiences 2005

The following text is a translation from http://users.skynet.be/bij and was originally published in French.

The European Voluntary Service (EVS) offers to young people aged between 18 and 25 a unique opportunity to leave for another country as a volunteer.

This voluntary service is done in the framework of a project proposed by a local association to the national agency of the host country. There are over
4500 projects in areas as varied as: art, culture, environment, social activities, health, ... All those projects are non-profit-making and they should be to the advantage of the host organisation. Careful: they cannot be remunerated neither be substitutes for an employment (the young volunteers' accommodation
and food expenses are paid and they receive pocket money.)

Objectives

  • Offer the young volunteers the opportunity to learn new skills and get training outside the school environment (non formal education)
  • Promote intercultural learning and solidarity
  • Promote active participation, responsibility taking and autonomy development of the young people
  • Contribute to the development of the local collectivities
  • Promote the exchange of experiences and good practice between partners.

Loredana and Anca are two young Romanians who went through a 6-month European voluntary service (EVS) at Views' itself, from June to December 2005. You can read a translation of their testimony as it was published in the Journal of the BIJ.
In summary, this is what they retained from their EVS :

Loredana :
"This kind of experience can help anyone to get to know their own abilities and to discover themselves more in depth as well as to gain more strength. Being supported as a beginner before starting with your own projects is a great opportunity."

Anca :
"Work for VIEWS within a European Voluntary Service represented a great challenge for me : it was the opportunity to learn so much about visual impairment and about the European projects; it was a new culture, new habits; it was getting to know new people and... getting to know myself.
After 6 months, I felt like I had evolved as a person and I started to see more clearly what I wanted to do on a professional level. And I had new friends, people that I know I can count on..."

Interview of Béatrice Willemaerts, VIEWS' Chairwoman

Béatrice, what did it mean to you, a European Voluntary Service, before you could experience it ?
To me, it meant an opportunity to be proposed to young people for making longer stays abroad than the summer exchanges, which can only last for 3 weeks.
Throughout our action we are indeed always striving toward the autonomy of the young visually impaired people.
Being autonomous during a 3-week stay is impossible. Whereas the EVS put the young people in a dynamic situation, since they have to work, in a social situation which is open since they have at the same time to live, work and meet other young people; and, in the long run, that allows them also for some autonomy:
autonomy because they have enough time for acquiring enough mobility and dayly living skills but also autonomy in a global way, in the organisation of their life and their environment: learn how to manage one's day and one's time alone, take the initiative of meeting with people or not, etc.

Organise one's environment and one's life but even beyong that, set up one's life project ?
Yes, that's right, one should not forget about that "life project" aspect. That is: the work that young people do during their EVS matches if not with their life project, at least with some project of their own. On a longer period of time, the young people get the opportunity to be faced with reality : is what
is happening what they had thought? How are they able to cope? And they can think out their (life) project.
Yes, the duration of the EVS, that is what allows for new things.
Things that they would not have had the opportunity to meet or to do by other meanshz ?

Perhaps there are other means ! Anyway, being out of home, out of their usual environment, whether it be the family, school, professional or friends' environment
and this, during quite a long time, that puts them in a framework where they have to re-think about everything by themselves, where they can count only on themselves: that was the aspect in which I was really interested.

And now that you have experienced the EVS ?
Loredana and Anca have both told me that they did no longer think about their future in the same way since they EVS, that many things had changed for them in their mind. In any case, they feel like they can apprehend reality in a more concrete way. There were things they had to say goodbye to and that was
not always easy - they spoke about it - and they met with opportunities of which they didn't even know they existed: outside or inside themselves...

Can you give a more concrete example ?
Everything that concerns the European projects ! Their 5-day training about European projects in England really opened new horizons to them; when they came back, they gave sense to what they thought until then in a little bit confused way about their future and their life project.
We had a discussion and we then set up courses in mindful learning, with distinct objectives for each one of them, so they they could acquire the necessary skills to the later realisation of their project.
They indeed have a great project that they are considering setting up together. That also means that they find that they do work well as a team; they feel very much complementary, as well at work as at social levels.

And, one should not shrink from saying so, at the visual level.
Yes, at the visual level. from the start we had said: there should be two volunteers, one visually impaired and one sighted; but of course there was no guarantee that the relationship between the two would wor well…

Very concretely, what can two young Romanians, the level of French you did not know before they arrived, do to help you in the dayly management of Views?
First of all, their level of French is absolutely satisfying for verbal communication !
As there were the two of them, I have hesitated quite a long time about giving them tasks that they should do together or giving them different tasks; and I have done both! At the level of the big projects, I have shared responsibilities and now they are themselves each in coordination with external people for their project's realisation.
Thanks to them, to their enthusiasm and the work that they've done, quite a few new projects have arrived; it is clear that, had I been alone, I could not have considered managing so many new projects. Being supported by them was very important to me.
The EVS, that was also a way for you to ensure a certain $pérennité to one of Views' missions, that is organise the summer exchanges …
That was our first idea... I should actually have started with that answer as the EVS were first put into place as an answer to the fact that an organisation in an country has a right to receive funding from the Youth Programme only once for setting up a youth exchange. It had been organised in Belgium in 2005,
so that the young people needed to organise it in 2005 in another country and $tourner from one country to the other: the young people were very enthusiastic but at the same time very realistic: "It seems so complicated to do, we would never dare just go for it"; so, we realised that those young people who wanted
to set up an exchange should receive the opportunity to get trained during another exchange; and that's how we came to the idea of organising a second exchange in Belgium, but differently from the first one, that is that the project would be taken in charge by two (non Belgian) European young people who
would come to Belgium to see from inside "how it works". From the start, the young people themselves said: "It's a big project, there should be the two of us and it'd be better if one of us be sighted."
However, the first answer I gave about what represents the EVS, is MY "real" answer: since Views' creation in 2001, my objective has always been to give young visually impaired Europeans the opportunity of going abroad for a period of time long enough for them to get their autonomy, think about their life
project, etc.

The EVS is for Views also a way to enlarge and that the activities eventually do not remain in Belgium but get European-wide and possibly multiply themselves.
That's an evolution in Views' project ! It is when reading the EVS action of the Youth Programme that I have realised that young people meet together and go abroad and do this in a much more concrete and practical framework than I had first thought and I really find that a plus. Also the fact that it is European wide and not in one country only.

To sum it up, it is true that the EVS meets with the wish of quite a number of young people, whether they be visually impaired or not. And I am very happy about the way things have $settled se sont mises en place this year. Reinforcement of the autonomy, that is obvious; reinforcement of the life's project, that is obvious!
As concerns sharing the work between sighted and visually impaired workers: there, $$on n'en est encore qu'au début : it is true taht working with a visually impaired person is not $obvious $évidet at all…
In the people's mind ?
In the people's mind but also very practically speaking when one has to organise the work to be done… It is true that it is easier to give work to a sighted person than to a visually impaired person and that one has to think about it each time... I think that one spontaneously feels more like give work to the
sighted person because it is easier, but that is not our role ! And one should pursue the search !
Certainly! If you, a blind young woman's mother, you have that tendancy, what about a person who is not acquainted to visual impairment …
This is why we have to create new tools; very concretly, it can be data processing but also a working methodology; or even in data processing, set up methodologies in the use of the data processing tool so that some tasks get easier to do: for instance, filling in a table; or how to get around tasks to be done by
ordering them: by starting with some tasks rather than by others, one can lose less time...

Is this more difficult for a visually impaired person that for a sighted person ?
It is not always obvious: the visually impaired person often tries to do the same way as the sighted person, while she sometimes needs elements that the sighted person does not need in order to work; so, the visually impaired person should first acquire a number of skills before getting to do the task itself..

Can you give a more concrete example ?
It is obvious that the visually impaired person will work more slowly that the sighted person and that there is a loss in $$working rendability. I have worked with one blind, one partially sighted and one severely partially sighted youngsters... The three of them are young people with different visual
impairments, the three of them are intelligent, speak several languages: so the problem is not to be sought there; I really think that it is an issue in relationship with the visual impairment...
This is something one should really know when starting to work with visually impaired persons, whether non or partially sighted, and this is something that is very difficult to accept, for them and for us.

I really think that one could partially compensate for that loss in $$rendability by developping tools. And that aspect is certainly one of my objectives within the EVS... have adapted EVS . Really... And in that area, there's a lot to be done.