Let me tell you about the first half of my one-year EVS project in the Netherlands. Before a proximate beginning of the project there was an active preparation of documents, for what I'm thankful to NGO “Stella” and everyone who took part in it!
With beginning of autumn, 12 volunteers gathered to obtain unforgettable experience of adventurism and responsibility. On the 1st of September Amsterdam greeted us, Chris – the main person from the hosting organization took some volunteers with me to the village Lunteren. During a week we had a chance to adapt for new impressions: we got more familiar with each other, travelled to near-by cities, met with members of the hosting side.
“Siza” organization invited 3 volunteers and me. The working place is located in a big park. I work at one building of the complex, where there are 12 clients with mental and physical handicaps, 15 workers and 3 interns from educational institutions.
My working responsibilities are quite various. Except that I'm serving clients, at the beginning of March I was invited to work on Tuesdays to the place that's performing entertainment and spending free time together with people who are limited in their abilities. In the team where I'm working from the beginning of the project, I am responsible for preparing food and feeding 3-4 people, we can go for a walk in park, I have a chance to amuse clients by playing guitar or reading books. According to our schedule we can visit swimming pool, sports hall, theatre and other services. In case I get bored, which happens quite rarely, I can always engage myself into folding laundry after the washing. At the beginning of June there is a planned trip to the recreation center around the Haag, among the nature and close to the seaside, where we will be able to enjoy our vocation together with clients and colleagues.
TTotal amount of my working hours are 36-40 per week, including about 2 hours traveling a day and 2 hours Dutch class every week. My working team is quite friendly and open for cooperation. When I had demonstrated interest in office work, I was invited to the main office of “Siza”, where during several hours of excursion I was acquainted with project management and distribution of obligations among hundreds of workers. Also, four volunteers together with me were conducted a “Siza-tour” where we were traveling to different locations of our organization. We had a chance to see differences in working conditions of our colleagues and obtained more information about client’s service.
Volunteering for sure has already made a positive impact on my personal qualities. Working in a team, every day I'm improving my ability of cooperation and coordination actions with other workers. While getting practical knowledge and experience in sphere of social worker I've learned more about my profession and its perspectives in future. Also I feel myself more confident in time-management and budget planning. While traveling around the country, learning new language, meeting different people and celebrating national holidays we have a chance to become a part of society where we are to stay during a year.
At the end of October there was a first training for volunteers, were participants from different projects met. During five days we were practicing various workshops, got more information about EVS and became aquatinted with Dutch culture. Because I visited Ukraine at the end of January my second training was postponed till March. Throughout it we were sharing our experiences, impressions from the last half a year and were planning our future goals in volunteering. Obviously, after the training we’ve got lots of new information and contacts.
Since beginning of a project a volunteer from Hungary and I were accommodated in a farm where we had pretty decent living conditions. The landlord is keen on volleyball and he invited us to play with him and his friends so once a week I have a chance to do some amatory sport. At the beginning of April we moved to the apartments, closer to center of the village where we have separate bedrooms, one living room, kitchen and bathroom. I live in a village with about 12 thousands inhabitants, there are 6 different churches, 3 of which I have already visited. Also I have a chance to buy a museum card for 50€ and attend governmental museums of the Netherlands for free. In my opinion, cultural integration depends more on knowing the language, that is a challenge for me. There are no problems in communication with colleagues as everyone can fluently speak English. Nevertheless, all the documentation that can be useful in serving clients is maintained in Dutch. Rock Solid Foundation volunteers have a chance to visit Dutch classes every Fridays morning.
Except working, volunteers have enough of free time. As for me traveling is the most interesting way of spending it. Receiving 270€ per month we also have a card to travel for free in the Netherlands. Visiting Amsterdam, Den Haag and other places I've met this kind of people who adore their traditions and respect morality in relations. With a great pleasure I have also visited projects of other volunteers. From beginning of November and mostly till the end of April there are lots of rains and it's very cool. However, it didn't stop me from buying a second hand racing bike and enjoying cycling trips during a sunny weather that will be dominating with beginning of summer.
If some difficulties arise in any sphere of volunteer activities, each of us have mentor that can provide help. Also I'm always in touch with “Stella” organization.
I'm overwhelmingly glad to be a part of this great project!
Best wishes, greetings from the Netherlands
P. S. Unfortunately I don't have an opportunity to share with you all the variety of emotions and flashbacks from the first half a year of my project in this short letter. If you still don't know what EVS is, let it be your personal discovery!