Changing life experience: one month EVS in Gdynia

In 2018 our organization sent group of young people for one month volunteering project in Poland. Girls and one boy (n0 gender equality unfortunately) worked in Association “Vitava” with kids and teens. How it was? What they were doing? And much more in impressions from our participants below.

Iryna Doroshenko:

«EVS is always a great idea Especially if it is in Poland and is focused on work with kids Last July I participated in a short-term EVS project in Gdynia, Poland. Our team of 12 volunteers worked in 3 day-care centers where we got an opportunity to obtain and develop skills in non-formal education. Personally for me it was a great chance to try my hand at working with kids, broaden my outlook, grasp the knowledge the educators shared with us and learn basic Polish. As I’ve always wanted to work with kids, I’ve taken most of this opportunity and this project helped me to grow professionally.I adooored working with these small cuties and to be honest it was really hard to say goodbye. Furthermore, it’s also quite a big challenge to set off for this one-month trip to ‘adult life’ where you’re responsible for your nutrition, time- and money-management etc but still it’s absolutely worth it. I believe that EVS project is a life-changing experience which will alter your mindset and (sometimes) personality upside-down so if you want to make your life full of exciting events and emotions – apply :-)»

Yaroslava Larionova:

«Participation in the EVS project and related to this trip to Poland were my first departure abroad. It began long before Day X, because at the beginning there were filling in an application form, several introductory meetings, a bunch of chats, excitement and gathering things a few hours before the first train … Why to the first? Because they were three. I had to get to the city of Gdynia, which is located on the coast of the Baltic Sea, and this took about 29 hours, and this is all sitting. It was cold and hot, creepy and boring to wait for six hours at one of the train stations, but now it seems to me that all this was worth it.

My project was short-term and group-oriented. So, 12 Ukrainians had to work in an organization that was created and works for schoolchildren during 26 days. It is called the Vltava Association. Usually, during the school year, children come there after school and do a homework, and then have some fun: either with each other, or with educators, or alone. Because we were in Poland in the summer, we didn’t need to help anyone with a homework, but we have to invent games, quests and other entertainment. Also our task was to help educators, to support discipline in the group, to settle the quarrels, to accompany them during excursions and other campaigns, and something like that…

In our group of volunteers there were both professional teachers and those who in everyday life almost do not encounter children and teens, as I for example. That is why this kind of work has become a great opportunity to practice in an unusual field of activity, gain special skills and help me to know much more about myself. For these little more than three weeks we have learned to listen to and hear younger people, peers, and listen to the remarks of the educators. Faced with reality, we all had to adapt to different conditions and unexpected situations, cooperate with each other in small teams and in the whole group and with educators. We spent a lot of time in reflections and discussions: we analyzed and tried to correct our mistakes. Now, I’m not afraid to take the initiative, speak out for any reason, make mistakes when communicating with a foreign language, and also know how it is to live with five more girls in the hostel room, where life is constantly raging, many children and teenagers are living.

In addition, we, and especially I, have acquired some new information technology skills, especially when traveling to the nearest cities, because Gdynia is a city where it all contributes. It is located in the north of Poland and is part of the urban agglomeration, along with Sopot and Gdansk, entitled Tricity. At the same time Gdansk is like the historical, cultural and educational center of this union, Sopot is similar to the summer resort for tourists with a variety of preferences, and Gdynia is a city for a peaceful life, and not without reason, its inhabitants are recognized as the happiest people all over Poland.

The Vltava Association consists of three lounges located in different parts of the city. So, that’s why our group of 12 volunteers was divided into 3 teams, each of which worked one week in each of the lounges. Every day we had some definite task: every Monday, volunteers, that is, we, on our own, had to organize the time and space of children completely. For me, it was important that these activities were interesting and exciting, so that the smallest possible visitors could enter entertainment, nobody was bothered, and everyone felt free and in good mood. So we had to take this into account when preparing, and always have alternative and even alternate options. Tuesday was a day of hiking, if I can say so. We conducted it by visiting entertaining establishments (cinema, bowling, etc.), or beach, etc. And on Wednesday, children from all three lounges met in the largest and spent the day together. We had to organize leisure activities for the broader community and ensure the children are cooperating in a friendly atmosphere. The last one has become a real challenge, and we understand this in the very first Wednesday, because the children from different centers are not very friendly to each other and our task was to minimize hostility and resolve a kind of conflict. Every Thursday we also had to spend visiting some interesting institution and, as a rule, all together. And on Fridays there was a day off, when meetings took place in the coordinating organization called Center for Youth Cooperation and Mobility. It was a good opportunity to share your impressions of work during the week, to settle differences and solve household issues in order to make less mistakes the next week.

In general, everyone was very careful about us. In the hosting organization, the employees tried to create the necessary conditions for work, to facilitate the establishment of contacts with children and to provide discipline. But the coordinating organization was more concerned with how comfortable our lodging was, how well we were eating and how comfortable and confident we were in the city. That’s why our group had 4 (!) mentors who were always ready to support, to have fun and productive leisure, to cope with the difficulties of everyday life: where is the store, how to buy a ticket, what to do when the stores are closed on Sunday, what beach is better, where to spend the weekend, what event or institution to visit and so on.

I can talk for a long time, but the conclusion is the only one: the short-term EVS project is without a doubt what it’s worth for everyone to try. Such a separation from everyday life helped me to organize my thoughts, gave me unforgettable experience, acquaintances and impressions, I greatly deepened my knowledge of the world and people, and also learned a new one about myself: working with children is a great pleasure! I’ve never felt so inspired, as after these charming 26 days. I finally know what to do with my life, because the trip exceeded all expectations, my plans were fulfilled and even over fulfilled, and I am grateful for this chance.»

Last, but not the least. Short video about work in Vitava:

Photos: Sophia Turpitko, Inesa Melnyk

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