More than two months ago I was happy to know that I became an EVS volunteer in GEGED (Gaziantep Eğitim ve Gençlik Derneği), in the city called Gaziantep, Turkey. It were 2 the most impressive, full of adventures and eye-opening experience months for me.
The project is called 'TODAYs VOLUNTEERS - TOMORROWs CHANGE-MAKERS'. Frankly speaking, I had no idea how things will go, it was my first EVS as well as the first visit to this country.
The main point of this project - to help everyone in need in general, to teach English in particular. To teach English Syrians, Afghan kids, Turkish students, refugees: everyone, with no exceptions.
At my time of the project, GEGED had generally around 20 volunteers from Italy, Spain, Portugal, German, Romania, and Ukraine as well as local volunteers. Also we had mentors, local and Ukrainian, who were helping us with everything during the project. We lived altogether in a big house, with kitchen, bathrooms, living room, meeting room, balcony and it was great. Spending a lot of time with each other there, we became like a big great family.
We were receiving our monthly money and it was more than enough. I can say I didn’t spend my own money at all. Sometimes we were buying food to cook by ourselves, but most of the time we were going somewhere to eat, because it is cheap and delicious. If you are not vegetarian ;) Because almost all Gaziantep’s food based on meat. Also it is really spicy. But if you don’t eat meat, you can find unbelievably tasty soups and salads. And I fall in love with their food! In addition, if you like sweets, this city is like heaven. A huge choice! Try their baklava, it’s fantastic.
And people here are so hostile! They will help you with everything, will offer tea and most likely, a dinner. And just try to say ‘no’! The city itself is quite conservative, most women walking with covered heads on the streets, but you can see uncovered, too. Gaziantep – 6th the biggest city of Turkey, and is really gorgeous. A lot of places to visit, beautiful parks, old city district, Zeugma Museum, the biggest mosaic museum in the world, containing 1700m2 of mosaics, the Castle (Gaziantep Defence and Heroism Panoramic Museum, and a documentary regarding the defense of the city against the invading French troops after the fall of the Ottoman Empire runs periodically), dazzling Botanical Gardens.
Every Monday we had planning meeting, where we altogether, with mentors were deciding the schedule of the week due to our preferences. Basically everyone had 2-3 activities per day in different Associations for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), Youth Centers and our GEGED itself. We worked 5 days a week, and had usual weekends. Trying not to waste weekend time, basically we visited a lot of places, including Cappadocia, Iskenderun, Mersin, Erdemli, Mardin, Midyat, Hasankeyf. And all these trips I will never forget, every of them has its own history, adventure and unbelievable memories. It were my first hitchhiking, first couchsurfing, first coconut eating, first mandarin and banana garden visit, first sleeping in tent in a cave with history from 7th century, first highway picnic, first football playing, first baklava, first kebab, first synthesizer playing, first drums playing and lots of other ;)
This EVS-project became an extraordinary life experience for me, I got rid of many stereotypes and I really enjoyed living in Turkey.
So if you still have doubts about doing your EVS, please, PLEASE do not hesitate, it will be your best time which you will never regret about, I promise!
Vita Bilovolenko: 20 years old, from Bilopillia, Sumy Region, Ukraine.