Friday, 10 June 2016

EVS experience: Sonja Harken

Labas my dear readers, this week I will show you the story of Sonja. An amazing volunteer who finished her project last week. CIAO SONJA!!!

Hello, laba diena, guten Tag!
I’m Sonja from Germany.

WHY Lithuania??? This is probably the question that I have been asked most during the 8 months that I have spent in this country. The answer would be: coincidence. After I finished my Bachelor’s degree back in Germany, I had no idea what to study for my Master and I felt like it was time to spread my wings and go to another country for some time. I didn’t want to just travel but do some kind of work somewhere and I was hoping that this would maybe bring me an idea about what to do next concerning my studies. So I started looking for voluntary services all over the world. I wanted to get out as soon as possible, which wasn’t so easy because for many services you need to apply several months before. I had contact with 2 German organizations which send volunteers abroad. One offered me a place in India that would start after 6 months, the other one had a left-over placement in Lithuania that would start after 6 weeks. So I chose Lithuania. The only connection that I had to this country at that point was that one of my former classmates from school is originally from Kaunas. But that was it, I didn’t even know the name of the capital. “It will be interesting”, I thought, “eastern European country, post-soviet, a lot smaller than Germany.” Until then I had never made it east of the German border.
And hell yeah, it was interesting. Already at the airport I realized what post-soviet can mean. I asked a middle-aged woman at the bus stop which bus I need to go to the city center. Her answer: she walked away from me without saying a word. Somehow I managed by myself to get where I wanted and finally I arrived in my new home, a soviet apartment in the lovely district named Šilainiai. Everybody who knows Šilainiai knows that the use of the world lovely in connection with that district implies a high level of sarcasm. If you want to see super beautiful and new post-soviet buildings, go there! In winter I had a period where I really almost hated that district, iced streets and sidewalks (I still consider it a miracle that I didn’t fall and broke a leg during that time) and the houses and the sky had the same color (grey). But then there was one day where the sky was blue and the sun was shining; and guess what: Šilainiai seemed somehow beautiful. Not really beautiful but it had charm. From this day on I kind of liked my living district. And when summer came and the meadows in the area were covered with yellow flowers, I even loved it there.

Ok, so back to the beginning. Soon after my arrival my flat mates warned me that Lithuanians are cold and need a lot of time to warm up and that only the young people speak English. So I wasn’t surprised when people would ignore me when I asked if they speak English and I didn’t take it personal that it took some employees in my working place 3 months to actually smile back at me when I greet them. My work was in an orphanage. My task was to spend time with the kids and teenagers and to do activities together, help with homework and do some German lessons. It was not always easy, there were periods of boredom and the structure of this place is quite soviet. But it was super interesting to experience this institution that is completely different from any institution I know in Germany. I learned a lot in this place. I don’t want to write so much about my work because for me it was not the most important aspect of my EVS.

Actually, as I’m writing this I have already finished my EVS. Yesterday I left Lithuania. It was a sad and a happy leaving. Happy because of course I’m looking forward to going back to my country to see my friends and family. Sad because a f***ng awesome time has come to an end. I have met many really nice people, I got to live in a different culture, I could travel a lot and I had the honor to be part of an amazing community of volunteers from all over Europe. Also, I found a recipe to make Lithuanians smile: use the very few Lithuanian words you know. When they see that you are a foreigner but you can say ačiu, it can make them really happy (not all of them but it works well with many cashiers). I will miss this country, I will miss cepelinai (I just googled this word because I still have no idea how to spell it). But most of all I will miss the wonderful people I have met. So now it’s over, those 8 months were better than I could have ever expected, I learned a lot of new things and a lot about myself and I even know which Master I want to do.

One last thing: if you haven’t done EVS yet and you’re between 18 and 30 years old, DO IT!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Evs Experience: Luca Iannazzo

Hello people, this week is the turn of Luca, my Sicilian evs colleague.
When I received the email with attached this text I was surprisingly choked! Why? Read this: 

“What is EVS?”

I was asked to write something about my personal experience of my project EVS. Now, I would like to write my emotions that I have felt and I'm continuing to feel, but the problem is that I am unable to explain or convey emotions, especially writing. So I will try to write my story as a simple little story to tell to someone, from the beginning until now, I am hoping that the reader can understand as much as possible on me, about my emotions and my way to think.

I want to start with two simple but important premises: the first one is the fact that I am that classic guy who has chosen EVS, not so much for volunteering in itself, but mainly to make a change to  own live and change own routine. I know that phrase is a little bad to say against volunteering, (because it is like if you use volunteering for other purposes) but each of us knows it is the truth, or better to say a good portion of people, and I personally I dare say the most but not all, they have chosen the European volunteering for my same reason, and the proof I found talking with all the other volunteers I met here in Lithuania.
The second premise far as my ability in speaking the English language: before to leave for this adventure, I was not able to say “I have a particular level of English” because, even though I had studied/revise English grammar, in my life it never happened to talk in English with someone, even at school. That fact determined my first fear to leave by myself to another country, and especially for a long time with little knowledge of the language.
Everything began during my flight from Italy to Lithuania where my mind changed drastically: from the usual routine where my brain was almost off, to the beginning of my new and exciting adventure where I started to make myself a lot of questions about how to survive, because my ears  began to hear only the English language. It was the exact moment which someone touched my switch to turn on my brain and say "maybe I have to do something". Questions like, "how can I ask to these two people that I have to pass because I need to go to the toilet and my seat on the plane is that one near the window?". It really happened and I employed about ten seconds to think and translate the sentence in my mind and three seconds to ask it. I wanted to do this example to make understand that for me the first days and the first weeks were like that: some seconds pass before to say and transmit something in English. Not to mention what I could understand from the sentences that other people were saying to me. It was very embarrassing to ask several times “can you repeat, please?” and especially do strange faces to make others understand that if they continued to repeat the same sentence with the same words, I would have continued to not understand anything. These were my first difficulty that I found in my EVS. But my start was not only full of difficulties, but also aid. As soon as I arrived at the airport in Vilnius, I took a bus and a train to Kaunas, and there I met an Italian person with a good knowledge of English, and she also helped me to ask information. That was the first of a series of “events and fortuitous encounters”; they did not make me weigh as much my incapacity in the English language.

A few days after my arrival, it began my course of Lithuanian language; but how do you understand  who explains all the rules of the Lithuanian language if he/she speaks English? Naturally to remedy this problem I started again to study English, day by day, with perseverance and determination, also because it was not just the course, but I found my difficulties every day, at home or at work, since I had to talk to the children. That situation lasted for about two months, because when this period of time passed, I became fairly adept to speaking and understanding to explain that, I would like to make an example putting in comparison my on-arrival and mid-term training. They were both very nice, funny and full of emotions, but the way I addressed them was totally different, or maybe opposite. At the on-arrival I had to ask several times to Italian people to translate for me and it was very embarrassing to try to speak to a group of about twenty people, knowing for sure to be wrong more than once. But my mid-term training, with a difference of just three months, it was different because I could understand the discourses, although I was not totally focused. And in that precise instant I realized all my improvements and I was surprised, almost not believe it.
Therefore, if by that time I was able to socialize, what else could I start doing? Naturally travel.

I started to travel a lot, more than once per month both in Lithuania and in other country. In most of the time, I was not traveling alone, but with the company of other volunteers. Now, talking about other volunteers I have met, I can say that it is the most difficult part to express in my story. It is very complicated because I met different people with different characteristics, and certainly I can not talk about them one by one; so to generalize, I decided to combine all of them in a group, in which even I put colleagues and the children I work with them, and call it "family". With this family I shared many different experiences: by long and complicated at short and intense; by monotonous, repetitive but enjoyable at different and even strange; by bad moments of solitude at fun moments of parties; by moments of "sweet doing nothing" at moments of being super active you can do everything in a short time; by moments of "I already know" at moments of total novelty, discovery and admiration. But above all these experiences were always accompanied with new emotions that my body and my mind can not remember when it was the last time they have felt something similar.
Now let me explain, always with something really happened, why I decided to call this group "family". To little more than half of my project, I came back to Italy, in my real family for a week, greeting relatives and old friends and returning to do what I did before beginning my volunteering. It took a few days to totally change my mood and it was a moment I felt a strange feeling, as to be in the wrong place. And honestly, that moment when I returned to Lithuania, coming to the house and finding my housemates along with other volunteers and friends that I have known and that they have received me with a warm greeting, in that precise instant I felt at home. I would like to spend other thousands of words for this strange family created by itself and without realizing it, and also for other special events happened in my volunteering time, but I don't certainly want to write a poem, so I will try to get to the final point as quickly as possible. Since my arrival in Lithuania until now I am writing, they have passed seven months full of strange and different experiences: sometimes I felt like a mature man, able to overcome own difficulties and able to grow as a person; and other times I felt completely enjoyed as a child inside his total happiness during his best moment, without thinking to something else about his life, but only to his magnificent instant.
But above all, it is coming the end for me too, and I already begin to see the first pieces that they are crumbling, namely the first friends who are returning to own homes in their country, after this beautiful adventure lived together. Because I lack only the last month of this exciting and unique adventure, and of course like everyone else, I would have a little more time available to prolong my project and hope that it will happen something new and exciting as it already happened. But certainly I can not change the time and the facts because they will not be the same if the pieces of the puzzle change, namely if the people missing or change with who I have been in contact all this time and I think, the things that will remain inside me from this experience will be many as “desire to change” that it is nothing impossible; "little moments" special and unique that I perhaps will find again to tell to some new or old friends; but especially "memories" when I will try to close my eyes and imagine myself to go back to that place, in that house, in that room to remind myself how happy I was.

That was my way to tell my story, and I'm sorry if you found some grammatical mistake, but my English is still not perfect. I hope it was equally clear to you.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Evs experience: Ana-Maria Șușurincă

Labas visiems, this week is the turn of the lovely Șușu... Amazing woman!

Last 8 months of my life should be described in simple words: new lifestyle, a lot of emotions, sharing and caring, empathy and a new passion that is growing!

I recently read a personal note for myself, sent last year for the „new me”. And I was surprised about how life is changing in very short time and in a big way. Or maybe I like to think that it was in a big way. Most of all, what surprised me is that I achieved all my plans... or let’s say dreams, to read more, to travel more, to go to a music festival, to visit Scotland (I’m a passionate scottish dancer, full of joy and energy), to do new things and to take more care of me. I accomplished all of them. And something more. Something I never thought it can happen to me, to change completely my daily life and to move to another country.

During the on-arrival training

I’m always saying that I had a wonderful life in Romania, a very good job in a travel agency, organizing events for the biggest companies in Romania. A lot of freedom, all the time new people around, travel a lot inside and outside the country. Perfect life, you can think. But after almost 5 years I realized that I want to change something. And I chose to change everything.

Why Lithuania? Because I wanted to see again my lithuanian friends. First of all, they were one of the main reasons why I chose Kaunas. And of course, the project. „Caring is sharing” is a project initiated to increase understanding of social inclusion and its mutual benefit to the ones involved. 
“Miegantys Drambliai” (Sleeping Elephants) is a NGO that is promoting active and healthy life-style, mainly known for climbing sports in Lithuania. Here, I discovered rock climbing and what pure happiness means... working daily with kids and share hugs.

I came here without many expectations. But you know that EVS is always about something new and get out of that famous comfort zone? Go out of your comfort zone, be an EVS.

Free hugs to everybody (during the International volunteer day)

In the gym I found out that rock climbing is an excellent activity for children with physical or mental disabilities for a number of reasons. It has been shown that climbing increase special perception, hand-eye coordination and balance. For children that need to overcome motor difficulties, climbing is the best way to give them the opportunity to be part of a team, build friendships and develop their leadership skills. And climbing is a sport that everyone can do. 

My evs colleague (Alberto and Sarah)



Because already half of my project passed, I get more and more often the question „what are you going to do after EVS?”... I have this question in my mind all the time, but without stress. I know what I like and I want to make something with my big passion, DOGS. Canine therapy can be immensely healing. Children and teens respond particularly well to canine therapy, developing trust and strong bonds with the animals. And what can be more beautiful than to see people smiling and happy dogs all around? 
If somebody will ask what I achieved in these 8 months, my answer will be another way of living and working. I became vegetarian in Lithuania. My main motivation was that I don’t want animals to suffer, and  the easiest action a person can take to reduce animal suffering is to simply stop eating them.
Thanks to this experience I discovered myself better and I pushed my own limits, I met new people from all different part of world, I travelled and I learn to shine bright and spread the light. 
But the end is not here, I have 3 ½  more months of great experiences. I’m ready for them, ready to enjoy the ride!!!

EVS experience: Luca Giannone

Hello people,
As you know, every week I am responsible for this blog and I ask to somebody to give his/her impression about his/her experience. Naturally, there is an order and this week surprisingly it is my turn.

When I talk about my experience, in general I am inclined to explain better my impression when I write. Like now. I have time to think more.
During these 6 months, I have improved a little bit my English, and now I am noticing with gladness that I writing without thinking in Italian, my mother tongue. Obviously, I am sorry if it is not the best English that you have ever read, but I am learning every day and my god is called
Probably most of you that are reading now, know about me. So, since I am lazy boy I will not continue.

Have a good day.

Joking aside, I am one of the people that choose the Evs because the perspective of the life was not so clear.
I am a photographer, and when I came here, I was just finishing the 3 years course of photography in Florence.
My sister in law talked to me a lot in the lasts years, but I started to think seriously only one month before the start of my project.
As I mentioned, I already passed 6 months here and time is flow. In this moment, I am sitting in my workplace and I thinking about my moments…

Well, when I was in the on arrival, my trainer explained me there are moments of ecstasy and other of depression and actually, the last month I was in a kind of depression and I thought I wanted to quit. However, now I recognize how much stupid was that thought.
Fortunately, the sun is shining and days are getting very longer. It’s nice to see last lights at eleven of night. This is helping so much. Nevertheless, it is not the only thing. Relationship with people is better, I mean, more communication, less stress.  Moreover, something is happening…

In my working place, Patria, I consider my self lucky, because I'm surrounding by people with humanity, that threat you with respect.
I consider my self lucky because my project foresees another evs volunteer with who work. I could have one with who I could have normal working relationship, or one that I could simply hate. Instead, I have Anastasiya, a Ukrainian girl with who there is harmony in and out of the work.
Since I am here, I have changed the layout of my week. Until I was a student, I have not considered making a plan of the week. Therefore, what I am learning is to be productive and respect my timetable, my tasks and then people.

Actually I volunteer in 2 places. One is savanorių centre, where I do various tasks, from taking photos to participate in evs presentation or make some videos, or take care about newsletters and this blog.

Ieva, one of the youngsters helped me last friday (foto courtesy: Vaida)
The other one is the youth center Vartai, where I spend 2 days a week. It's a cozy place where youngster can meet each other and spend time in relax or varios activity that vartai team organize. Every week we try to do the best to support them.
Sometimes I can see my-self in their behaviors and It's a good opportunity re-discover myself.
They are going to freak out when I decide to cook pizza.

I feel this text is getting longer more than necessary so I will conclude soon.
The Evs is simply an amazing opportunity to live in another country, discover it and discover yourself.
Do you want ask me if I would remake this? YES, I would. I think this is a unique opportunity and I highly recommend it to everybody.
It is simply fantastic the fact you can know people from every part of Europe (not only) and you can use the same language (English) to understand each other. Moreover, it is so awesome learn the local language, in my case Lithuanian, and understand that what you say people can understand it. A language is not only a way to communicate. It is a way to discover deeper the mentality of that society.

I have another 6 months in front of me and in somehow I found again the motivation to improve my Lithuanian even that I know that in the future it will not be so useful. However, it is so cool use my little sentence here. Recently I was Copenhagen, and unconsciously I used word like Labas, or Ačiū. Obviously, people looked me strange, but of course.
I felt a little disappointed when I realized that I did not know neither a word about that country. Neither the simple one. Hello.

Therefore, now it is the time for some photos... I wrote more than necessary. AH AH AH.

Sometimes happen that we take a beer. Love Lithuanian Beers. Guess who is the photographer.

Unforgettable moments. My fist contact with the baltic sea. Water was so cold, but it's was amazing. (photo credit: Anastasiya Te)

It's not so often for me to go inside a deep forest. Every Time is breathtaking. Love Lithuania. (Luca Giannone)

My first personal photographic exhibition ever. In Kaunas. In the youth center where I volunteer. Thanks a lot to my organization. (photo credit: Anastasiya Te)

Inside the youth center. This photo was taken during one of the weekly snack moment. Lovely atmosphere. (Luca Giannone)
Guess who is her.

Celebrating the Christmas in my workplace. Very nice moment. (Photocredit: Anastasiya Te)

Parties are one of the essence of the evs experience. Guess who is the photographer.

Mid term training, such a nice experience. Lietuvos Etnokosmologijos Muzeum. 

Šilainiai in my heart. (Luca Giannone)

Cozy freezing morning in December. Around -15 °C - (Luca Giannone)

One of my tasks is going to school to present our organization and our opportunities. During them usually I introduce myself in Lithuanian and I answer questions. (Luca Giannone)
Passione zappare. Quanto è bello zappare. (photo credit: Anastasiya Te)

Thursday, 12 May 2016

EVS experience: Anna Gnatiuc

A weekly LABAS from Luca... :)
I highly recommend to read this.

From Series "Volunteers". Foto credit: Luca Giannone

(Still) Lost, in a better place.

You would not believe, but I’m a very conservative person. I like my coffee the way I like it and not the espresso, even if I have deep respect for espresso. I need to know all busses that go from my house to work or to the train station or... it doesn’t really matter. The information, the control, the obsession – the mantra of my existence. Yeah, like you’ve already understood, my life has to go after a plan.
But curious thing, I don’t have one. Maybe you would like to know what is so amazing about this information and if this gives you control. And, accidentally or not, I know a person that has the same curiosity. Let’s begin.
Here comes a one in a lifetime possibility: EVS. How to decide to change your life, suddenly and entirely? I can tell you how it worked for me. Considering my three-dimensional mantra: information, control and obsession.
What do you think? The information that tomorrow it will rain... No, really? It will rain...? This is Lithuania, right. Again, we have the information that tomorrow, after-tomorrow, after-after-tomorrow and like this until the end of time, it will snow. That’s pretty scary, even worse because this information doesn’t give you the power to change something, I mean, something else than your wardrobe. A wise person that is lucky to not be born in a frozen-sunless country, probably will not come here. Because if control is important, then you know...
It seems easy, clear even for a five-year old. But you forget about something and now it comes to our attention: the obsession. To be obsessive is really cool, no kidding. You can change everything, you can do unbelievable things. You need an idea, the motivation and a coffee. Put those in a box, add some obsession and Voila! You’re in Lithuania, it’s winter, it’s cold and everything is covered with ice, of course you’re terribly afraid of ice, but the idea, the motivation, the coffee, the obsession, you can do it. I want to say, I can do it, but I mean, also you can do it.
About the information, everything is clear, it’s useful to have it, it gives you the perspective, but it doesn’t give you control because we don’t want it. Let’s have an experiment, people love the experiments, some of them want to experiment, some of them want to be experimented ...ahhh, love that song.
Imagine that you accepted this challenge. And now, after eight months, you survived the winter, you have one more language in which you can say at least one hundred words with a terrible accent, you have some amazing experiences, pictures to prove it. And with some luck several people to call friends.
Initially it seemed impossible, but when you have an idea, motivation, coffee and obsession, suddenly you feel free because „in the end it doesn't even matter".
I tried and you can believe me or try by yourself, it will be wiser to believe, still, funnier to try.


Tuesday, 3 May 2016

EVS experience: Alberto Villalengua Rupérez

Hello everybody, hope your week is going well. This week Alberto will show us his story.
Let's read it.

Hey I am Alberto and I am a Spanish Volunteer in Miegantys Drambliai. In this time I learn to be patience and improve my English, and I learn a little Lithuanian. My function in the gym is to help trainers and do individual classes for paraclimbing with my student with specials needs. The names are Kasparas, Mantas, Domantas & Ernesta.
I learn a lot about them and I think they learn about me.

photo credit: Luca Giannone

The other activity is the paraclimbing group, it's interesting to see the different side of disabilities but it's so great to see improving our relationship day by day.

Other thing that we work are in the camp. Work in this is hard but it's so funny.

Other types of activities are some exposition about sports, healthy style life, etc...

I feel so comfortable in the gym, because I open my mind to the others cultures and I feel in family.

We have a training with Egle for improve our climbing style.

This EVS for me it's ones of the most important thing that we can do in my live, because it's one way to grow up and improve your social activities.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

EVS experience: Ani Yengibaryan

Labas Visiems, this week I will show you a story of a great Armenian woman. Ani. :)

My name is Ani. I am from Armenia, a very sunny and hospitable country in Caucasus. I would like to say that this country is completely different from European countries as its features, culture and etc…
And I want to mention that Armenia is the first country in the world which has accepted the Christianity as a state religion and I am Christianity as well. It is very important for me because I met here many people who don`t know about Armenia and about the religion of my country.
Ok, now I will tell a little bit about my EVS experience. Since October I am volunteering in Kaunas Region Centre of Social Services.

Strength in diversity - Multicultural meet-up - Vilnius - march 2016- photo credit: Luca Giannone

''Why did you decide to become volunteer? People who have good job usually don’t go for volunteering''. 
Everyone is asking the same question. Before coming here who heard about my decision surprised, too. Yes, how I can leave everything and come a place where is new and have to start from the beginning. I will be more honest. When you are in a same place for a long time it is made you uninteresting and your enthusiasm lost. If you hear about ''professional burning' or "burn out" you can understand this. I understood that my energy and my resource was not working as it should be. I was thinking about a new thing, about an active and creative thing. Then I have been informed about this project. It was difficult to make a decision. Because in this case I had to leave my jobs and went to a place unknown for you. However, I had real ideas that I was ready to make. So, this have been a good opportunity to make my ideas come true in a new place and with new people.
So, I decided to applied EVS project in Lithuania, which has its common characteristic with my profession and my personal factors. I am now working in Domeikava social centre with 7-16 years old children and youth groups.

My day starts at 10:00 a.m. I am going to work. I am spending different days in my workplace, in the evening I am spending with my flat mates whom I really like. They are very nice and calm people. My days are different. It is up to the day, up to the plans. Sometimes I have meeting with Lithuanian or other friends after work. Even I am spending my time with my family and Armenian friends speaking with them on Skype.
Even I am going outside alone, sitting, reading a book, or exploring my city where I am living.

At the beginning, it was hard for me to express what I want to do with children, because I had problem to speak and understand Lithuanian language. It made me very uncomfortable and pressing inside. Step by step I started to use my alternative methods to communicate with children.
I am very happy volunteer that I have very good tutor who is helping me every minute connecting with everything. I like my work place and the workers. With them I am a very good friend and I don`t feel that I am from other country. They are very open and good people with whom I am spending the most time of the day.

 I am working with grandmothers of that children. I am teaching them Armenian language, we are cooking Armenian traditional cookies, I am going to teach them Armenian traditional dances.
I have youth group with whom I am feeling very comfortable because we are communicating not only in English but also I am organizing meetings with them which are including in it some psychological exercises and methods.

I like Lithuania and hope this country like me. It is very calm and nice country. Here I am feeling very comfortable and safe. There is not anything that surprise me but I can mention many things that make me feel awesome. The meals, the nature, the restaurants, coffees and so on. These all are creating a fantastic atmosphere around me that changes my inner world feelings.

During my EVS I travelled a lot It was the perfect part of my EVS. I have been in Norway, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Latvia.

I am very glad that I have new friend her. They are very different but very warm people. My EVS friends are amazing who are creating every time new and fresh ideas around which are organizing

EVS is a good opportunity of self-understanding and self-discovery. EVS is giving you a chance to be open with you and to create a new level of ideas. This project is a nice chance to explore a Europe and have many trips in any countries you prefer. EVS is a good way for organizing your life in another way, to change and to be useful. It is also perfect to change and get new and interesting friends around the world.
I will take with me good feelings and bright memories from my EVS.