EUROPEAN VOLUNTARY SERVICE
Would you like to volunteer in a fully-funded volunteer programme in Europe
for up to 12 months?
The European Voluntary Service Programme (EVS) is a EU funded programme for 17-30 year olds. The programme funds travel, accommodation, food and pocket money as well as preparation, on-arrival training and personal support during the project. Volunteering opportunities are available from 2 to 12 months (shorter periods and extra financial support are available for those with extra support needs e.g. those who have a disability and unemployed people). The programme works by helping volunteers to make contact with accredited hosting organisations. Organisations select the volunteers that they would like to host on the basis of the interest that the volunteer brings to the project. You are not expected to have qualifications in any particular area and you cannot be excluded because you don’t have such a qualification. In the end, however, the organisation will select the volunteer(s) it will work with so it is important to select project that you are genuinely interested in. You should also take care to make it clear to potential hosts that you are very interested in their work and would like to contribute to the organisation. The EU publishes a database with information on all the organisations that are accredited for EVS. Each organisation is presented through a short description, its motivation and EVS experience, the themes of work and contact details. It also informs if the organisation offers possibilities for young people with fewer oppportunities. Important: Please be aware that the database is very large and often projects registered on it may not be currently seeking volunteers. Eolas Soileir is an accredited hosting and sending organisation under the EVS scheme. There are deadlines for funding applications and the process usually takes several months as it requires the volunteer, the hosting and the sending organisation to jointly submit an application for funding.
Terms and Conditions
- A percentage of travel costs, food and accommodation, pocket money, insurance provided by the EU.
- From Ireland you must be aged between 18 & 30 years of age.
What next? Please read all the information about EVS on the EVS info page with links to the EU database. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Sometimes we have vacancies for EVS with our partners.
In May 2012 I spend nine months in the town of Ylivieska in Finland, working in the town’s youth services, with both children and young people.
I made the decision to go on an European Voluntary Service programme after completing five years of higher education. I really wanted to do and experience something different. I had never thought about traveling to Finland, until I saw my EVS advertised. Then, I thought: Why not Finland! As I love seeing new places and meeting people from different backgrounds. I also really like a challenge and quickly learnt that working with youths is challenging. I was also attracted to the high level of support that comes with the programme, this involved meetings with my sending organisation and orientation and meeting EVSers from other European countries. For example, I spent Christmas with a Belgian EVSer, being invited to a midnight church service and two tasty traditional Christmas Dinners. I also had a really helpful mentor who helped me to grasp the work routine quickly, was always there to help with problems and taught me important things about surviving the Finnish Winter, like the importance of long thermal underwear. The other youth workers in the team where very inspiring and helped me to adapt to the work and reassured me that the Finnish children, survived riding to school on bikes , in temperatures as low as minus twenty.
My work involved helping with the day to day running off the youth centre and running film clubs and cultural evenings with the local university. I lived in a bedsit with a balcony and most importantly had an hour in the sauna every week. I had access to a bike and was able to cycle easily around the town, on the excellent cycle paths. Even snow wasn’t a problem as my bike was fitted out with snow tyres.
I found Finland a really interesting country to live in, it has a very unique culture combining ,a strong sense of social equality and a well organised society. At the same time most Finns enjoyed the wilderness and took pride in it.
Some of the highlights of my stay,
- Baking and decorating Christmas Cookies with the children.
- The twenty four hours of sunlight in summer.
- Spending midsummer in a cottage by a lake with a wood fired sauna, playing backgammon with lots of new friends. Getting to meet the dreaded mosquitos
- having snow on the ground all day, in winter and walking all the way to work without slipping on the ice.
- Failing to learn how to ski and going ice swimming in winter, with my friend from Ireland. We went to the sauna first and then went swimming in the ice hole in frozen lake.
- Beautiful Sunset, walking in the woods admire the birch leaves turning yellow.
- A trip to Lapland, where I saw wild reindeer as well as going on a reindeer sledge ride.
- A trip to Helsinki, where I got to stay with my friends host family.
I really joined the whole EVS experience and would recommend it to any one. I found Finland to be an interesting country, well worth getting to know.
In September 2012, I went to Almada, Lisbon, Portugal, for a 12 month long EVS. There, I worked with beautiful 2 and 3 year old children, teaching them English, doing arts and playing games with them, integrating the Irish culture into their Portuguese lifestyles.
I chose to go on EVS, and on EVS in Portugal, because my mother, who has worked with Youth In Action programmes before, discovered a “Hook Up” seminar taking place in my town to let people interested in EVS meet. There, I met a wonderful woman who was willing to be my Sending Organisation, and I also met a wonderful man from Portugal, who went on to be my Host Organisation. Three weeks before I left Cork to go to Almada, I got an email from another girl living in Cork, who was also going to spend 12 months in Lisbon on EVS through my sending organisation. We got the same flight together into this new adventure in our lives.
Upon arriving in Almada, I was introduced to my fellow volunteers and housemates, and then we were taken on a tour of the organisation. I had an awkward moment of embarrassment, when I was introduced to a member of staff of the organisation and she recognised me from the flight from Cork to Lisbon as I was sitting in the same row as her and I had spent the entire flight crying!! We all had a good laugh over this.
The year had many ups and downs for me. I found the first six months to be most difficult – There were things going on back home in Ireland that I was not there for, and sometimes I found that I wanted to give up and return. When I felt like this, I spoke to my Host and to a friend I had made through the organisation, and they helped me to see that I could not have made any difference at home had I returned and it was best for me to accept what was happening and carry on making the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I had been given an experience I would never forget. I returned home three times during the year, at Christmas, in February to surprise my family, and in May for my goddaughter’s communion. Knowing I was going to see my family and some of my closest friends at these times helped me to settle easier, as I knew I was not apart from them indefinitely. I also had many visitors – My immediate family, three of my best friends, and some other long-time friends! One of my favourite aspects was living so close to the beach!!
I really felt that the year provided me with many opportunities to grow as a person, to gain maturity and experience, to make new friends from all around Europe, and even some from around other parts of the world, and to try new and different things. It was an experience that I would recommend to everyone, as no matter how easy or difficult I found it over there, I look back on it in a very fond way.
My EVS took place in Valladolid, Spain with Fundación INTRAS. I travelled over in October 2013 and am just coming to the end of my nine months here now.
Fundación INTRAS works to support people of all ages with mental health problems. After I graduated from art college I was looking for a way in which I could contribute positively to the lives of others and develop some life skills that are not easily acquired in a formal learning environment. My experience in Valladolid has enabled me to grow and develop in ways that I could not have forseen.
The approach that INTRAS takes with their work, places emphasis on creativity and adaptability. Volunteers are expected to contribute to and avail of the situations this approach creates. As a result, I have been involved in activities as varied as photography, cooking, Zumba, researching and writing articles, designing newsletters and developing website content.
The work I have been doing here has changed as I have changed. Initially I worked more in the organisation’s day care centre. Three highlights of working in the centre were Movember, the International Day of Happiness and Jueveschef or Thursday Chef in english. Jueveschef was a weekly event where the attendees of the day care centre ran a restaurant for the employees of INTRAS. Here, cultural differences were a plus. Irish stew and colcannon went down a treat! I also sampled various spanish dishes and I have developed a real love for tortilla. Movember and the International Day of Happiness were days which we used to highlight the importance of being aware of our physical and psychological health.
I now work mostly in a communications support role in the Projects Department of the organisation where projects are developed and publicised. I have been able to develop and create written and visual content for websites and newsletters. Before my EVS I would not have anticipated that this is an area where I would like to work, but my time here has provided me with clarity in terms of future career path options.
My collegues in INTRAS have extended every kindness to me, professionally and personally and there has been an emphasis on learning, enjoyment and communication from the outset. Outside of work, I have been brought to music concerts, art galleries, museums, and all types of sporting events from squash to football. I have been guided around tapas bars and introduced to many kinds of wonderful food.
There have of course been challenges to living and working in a foreign country, but the good aspects of my time here far outweigh any hard times I’ve had. Despite my hopes before moving to Spain, learning Spanish has not come naturally. That has brought its own difficulties and at the beginning felt quite isolating. However, I have become proficient in spanglish and communicating with gestures. Thankfully people here take little offence and frequently find it funny when one mangles their language. As a result, any feelings of isolation passed quickly.
I have been living with two other volunteers, one from Portugal and the other from Italy. Our apartment is very close to where we work and not far from the city centre. We are lucky to be within walking distance of everything and have been able to take advantage of the many markets, festivals and tapas that Valladolid provides. I was able to avail of a lift to Portugal with the Portuguese volunteer Ricardo to see his native Porto. We were able to drive to Portugal! Something of a novelty coming from an island country. I was also able to travel around the Castille y León region of Spain, where I saw old cities, castles, aquaducts and landscapes which are so utterly different to what we have at home.
My EVS experience has not been without some of the challenges that come with living in a different country and culture, but I have had the opportunity to contribute, learn, travel, make new friends and really enjoy myself. EVS is a very worthwhile experience and one that I would recommend to anyone.