European Voluntary Service recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. For this reason we organized a mini festival around volunteering abroad in the city of Salgótarján, on the 17th June. Experienced travelers, experts, volunteers shared their stories about why it worth to cross the borders.
EVS is a voluntary program to involve youngsters in Europe, to show the problems, challenges and chances. It is a social project trying to improve youth’s participation in Europe.
The European Voluntary Service was founded in 1996 by the European Commission and is currently a part of the Erasmus+ program. The service usually lasts 2-12 months, depending on the project. One of the special features compared to other voluntary opportunities is that the volunteer theoretically doesn’t have to invest any money to take part. The project covers all expenses from travel cost to accommodation, food and pocket money.
I am currently taking part in this project in Budapest for the Maltai charity organization. To spread the word and get more publicity for the program in regions outside Budapest, we decided to create a one-day festival for drawing attention to the 20th anniversary of the EVS and the program in general. We applied for a rather unpopular region in Hungary when it comes to international youth programs and ended up holding the one-day festival in Salgotárján, a city in North-Hungary with 37.000 inhabitants.
Our main idea was to evolve the whole day around informal and formal information about volunteering and traveling, two things, which go hand in hand. The project was divided into two sections downstairs and upstairs.
Downstairs we developed a table to provide a living library with books who were former or current volunteers. We also had an exhibition which included texts and pictures sent in by volunteers.
Besides that, we tried to make the world famous giant bursting bubbles. And even though we used the secret formula, consisting of a lot of ingredients, we were stopped by the strong wind that day. We moved our bubble machinery to the inside and visitors could enjoy the beauty of the soap water combination in full action.
While the event started at 4 o’clock, the highlight of it was set to be in the evening and included two talks which dealt with the topics traveling. Also an informal conversation about volunteering opportunities and the European Voluntary Service took place during in the conference room during the afternoon. Because of a rather small amount of visitors, we decided to move the living library inside and include it in the informal conversation in the upstairs hall. Volunteers shared their stories of being a foreign volunteer in Hungary and others told the interested participants how it was for them to leave Hungary and spend a year abroad.
The informal talk was interesting for me because like the whole event it was completely in Hungarian and I was asked questions and answered the best way I possibly could with my level of Hungarian, a language which is considered to be one of the harder ones on earth. It wasn’t easy to express myself and when I didn’t know a word, I said it in English or German and the people in the audience, who spoke multiple languages, helped me out and told the Hungarian equivalent.
The Hungarian talks about traveling were mainly interesting for me due to the pictures and videos, because I wouldn’t have been able to follow the talk with only the Hungarian language. Afterwards, I spoke to one woman from Our track who held a lecture about their journey by bike from Hungary through Asia. She was really friendly and surprised how well I could speak. This is a fact I appreciate a lot about Hungarians. They are really glad if people try to speak and learn their language!
In general, the whole event was a success, even though not as many people showed up as we hoped, but due to our flexible decision making, we were able to improve and change the programs and make them more interesting for a smaller audience.
EVS volunteer at the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta