Čau! (Hi!). My name is Tetiana Mazurenko and I have been an EVS volunteer in the project “EVS 4 sustainable life” in Sigulda, Latvia for one year.
It’s very hard to find words to describe this experience not getting too emotional and the first words that come to my mind are: "amazing, incredible, breathtaking, outstanding, marvelous, awe-inspiring" Imagine that you would need to describe one of the happiest times in your life and continue the list) I have got a dream job and inspiring surroundings, beautiful nature, and opportunities to develop and implement my potential - my EVS is about how dreams come true:)
The most popular question at the on-arrival training, where volunteers from different countries are gathered together, is "Why Latvia? Why did you choose Latvia?" (among other countries in Europe it is not the most obvious choice). I came to Latvia by a call of the heart, it was the only possible choice for me, the only country applied for. For a long time, I have been inspired by stories about the Singing Revolution and the Baltic way, admired by Latvian traditions, most of all by the Latvian Song and Dance festival and all of this was an extraordinary wonder for me, like a fairytale. My curiosity was thrilled to discover how reality is different from my imagination:)
And I am a very lucky person because I have got so much more than I could dream about... By a happy coincidence, my EVS happened the same year with 100 years of the Latvian Independence and the Latvian National Song and Dance Celebration (if you want to understand what I am talking about, please check this: https://youtu.be/TYIgwyML7WQ) and I have got a chance not only to witness but to participate in it. To sing on the stage together with 16.000 singers choir is an incredible and unforgettable feeling:) https://www.instagram.com/p/Bk8uTzxBGTs/
Moreover, the choir I have joined was in the top 20 best choirs in Latvia:)
And my project has happened in Sigulda - one of the most beautiful places in Latvia, part of the majestic Gauja National Park. I have got a house with windows looking into the forest, that’s a big change for a girl from one million population city:) This closeness to nature, connection, and interaction with it are one of the most impressive features of Latvian life and I am going to miss this part especially)
Of course, EVS is first of all about work and bingo! I have got the work of my dream:)
I have been working in the field of formal education before and I was thrilled to work within the non-formal education:) I was doing EVS in the Sigulda Youth Centre which used to have 3 departments: 1. Children’s group, “Kastanītis" (age 2-7), 2.School-age children's center "Ideju Namiņš" (age 7-12) and 3.Youth Initiative Centre "Mērķis" (age 12-20). During the first week, I had a chance to work with different target groups and to choose which one I prefer to stay with. I have chosen to work in the “Youth Initiative Centre”, but I still had the freedom to implement my ideas for younger children in "Ideju Namiņš".
To be honest, I have got too much freedom in this project and it was the best and at the same time the scariest thing at the beginning of the EVS - it provides so many opportunities, it gives you the power to decide and to create but at the same time, it puts a lot of responsibility on you:) I am grateful for this because it eventually shows you how much you are really responsible for your life and how much really depends on you:) As a side outcome, I have learned to generate ideas, to take initiative, to plan, to minimize costs, to work in a team and to measure results. That was great practice for my management skills:) Besides my assistance in daily activities of the JIC "Mērķis" I have been implemented my initiatives in different directions:
- promoting Ukrainian culture with a series of cooking workshops and workshops about Ukrainian traditions, decorating Pysanky with children for Easter;
- after my travels to Italy and Iceland creating events to promote cheap traveling;
- events to promote Erasmus + programme,
- events to promote an active lifestyle and mobility for youngsters,
- providing Russian language lessons to youngsters,
- creating a Photo quest for a local community,
- designing Christmas postcards for the Youth Center, posters for every event,
- writing my first application for the Youth Exchange:)
As well I took an opportunity to implement activities not only in the Sigulda but in Youth Centres from other cities: I have been making workshops in Jelgava, Brocēni, Vecumnieki, Ropagi and took part in a camp for youngsters "Let's do it in English" in Alūksne.
My favorite part of working in the Sigulda Youth Initiative Center was to work with youngsters in developing their own ideas. It really made me proud to see their personal growth and I value this part of the job the most:)
There is a quite popular quote of Marcel Proust I like to refer: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
It is the best way to summarise the EVS experience - it provides you not only with the opportunity to travel and change your usual landscape, it gives you an opportunity to grow and explore, to extend your inner borders and find out new truth about yourself, to discover your inner world and to find a better way to improve yourself in the outer world. It expands your horizons and enriches you with new friends, knowledge, skills, and competencies, it empowers you with new wings and strengths to make changes back home:)
From my experience, I would like to encourage you to follow your dreams, to challenge yourself, to dream big and believe in yourself - it is really worth it!
Wish you to learn it from your experience:)
Tetiana Mazurenko, Odessa