European Solidarity Corps > Letters from abroad

Here you can find testimonies of past and present ESC volunteers sent by VAP

Here you can find testimonies of past and present ESC volunteers sent by VAP

Freya Holdsworth - Sweden

A letter about an EVS experience in Sweden

Sweden: What is a Kulturskola?

It is actually exactly what it sounds like: a school for culture! But how exactly did it come about in Sweden? And why is it so popular?

So according to the co-ordinator of our EVS programme (European Voluntary Service) and the head of the Kulturskola in Tranemo, this culture school phenomenon developed from music schools. Every municipality in Sweden, of which there are now 290, had a music school to complement its standard academic education. But at some point one of the schools started to expand and include some dance, some art and theatre. So they wondered what the school had become and decided it was a school of culture. Of course, the other municipalities felt a bit left out as they only had music, so this trend of having other creative activities on offer spread across the country and now every municipality has one.

What is great about the Kulturskola is that it is very cheap to learn there, at about 70 euros for 6 months, and they also work directly with the ordinary schools in order to give the local people a cultural education.

What am I doing here?

I am volunteering as part of the EVS at the Kulturskola in Tranemo and also generally within the community. Myself, along with the 3 other international volunteers, will be doing various creative and media-based projects over 8 months here as well as learning Swedish and culture!

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James Burns - Iceland

A letter about an EVS experience in Iceland

Having spent two weeks in a workcamp in Iceland, I thought to myself “I have to do this longer”. I have started researching EVS projects to understand what it was all about. So, I’ve decided to undertake my EVS project in Iceland with See Beyond Borders Iceland as a workcamp leader.

Off I went to the "Land of Fire and Ice" where the hidden people and trolls live. Two hours into the flight we were somewhere over Iceland when the captain informed us to look out of left hand side of the plane, to our amazement we were flying besides the Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that caused so much disruption in Europe. What an amazing site and thought to myself “I’m going to love this country” and I did.

My EVS took me to some of the most beautiful places in Iceland while volunteering which included an Icelandic farm where I planted over 10,000 new trees - which had the best toilet view in the world!, I helped clearing an invasive plant in the Skaftafell National Park (Europe’s biggest National Park), I cleared a natural hot pool full of volcanic ash, and handed out hot chocolate during the Christmas season.

One of the best camps I did there was refurbishing a lighthouse dwelling in the West Fjords where 14 volunteers took the boat to spend two weeks in the "Lighthouse at the end of the world". I found myself playing Mastermind with an Italian at 12am at the top of the lighthouse when it was still light or sitting on the cliff edge looking out to the sea while seagulls were swooping passed me, while all the time I was thinking “Is the sun rising or is the sun setting?”.

Icelandic people were amazing and so very kind hearted. They will do anything for you and are so laid back. One thing they do like is baking and cooking... every camp you came home to or wake up to a freshly baked cake. However, one thing I had to try before leaving Iceland - Hákarl which is rotten shark and the verdict is...weird!

Spending eight months in ten workcamps allowed me to meet a lot of interesting volunteers from around the world and tasted their national dishes - my favourite being Bulgogi from South Korea. I learnt to spell my name in 20 languages including Hebrew, Japanese, Italian, Finnish, and Jordanian Arabic. But one thing remained common throughout all those camps: everyone hugged. :)

Volunteering as an EVS allowed me to grow as a person and it gave me a lot of confidence. I felt so happy because I was using my skills for free. It made me feel alive and happy to be in this world.

I recommend any 18-30 year old to undertake EVS as it is definitely one of the best experiences you will have, and it will help you in the future.

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Karolin Tsarski - Spain

A letter about an EVS experience in the outskirts of Madrid

In the middle of my final exams for university I noticed an email in my inbox, “Volunteering project in Spain, are you interested?” As one looks for any excuse to get away from the reading I thought I might as well fill in the application. Four months later I’m sitting in a plane towards Madrid. I think to myself: “Why? Why am I doing this again? I’ve moved around enough, why do I have to put myself through yet another change when for once I seem to be quite comfortably settled?“ But these thoughts just stay with you for the short transit period. As soon as you are off that plane and welcomed by warm hugs from strangers, you jump into the adventure with a smile.

Everyone speaks Spanish. Arggh. I get a headache. You are constantly trying to focus to understand and can never actually talk since your limited vocabulary doesn’t let you express yourself.

I’m taken to my flat it’s ugly dark and cold. Oh so cold. But the lady seems nice and smiling, as do the other two men. And in the end that’s what matters. They are so patient with me trying to communicate in Spanish. Lovely. I like Peruvians. Come Christmas and you realize that your country is way too far and the plane tickets too expensive. It is then when the smiling lady you initially just communicated with smiles invites you to spend Christmas with her family and it becomes your family for that day.

Being a volunteer I suddenly was faced with unusual freedom. You do your work, which usually isn’t exactly head cracking and then you’re free…no obligations no worries. It took me a while to get used to it but then you immerse yourself…and life happens….some days you go without sleeping with everything going on at once new places new people new feelings new sensations…knowing that your time is limited in this new spot you want to take in all the experience that comes.. and then you can just calmly dose off for days. There is no such thing as daily routine.

The most beautiful thing about volunteering obviously is
the people you meet… the helpfulness the understanding…there’s always someone who puts a plate of food in front of you if you say you’re not hungry and not in the mood, or gives you a pep talk or simply a hug. And that’s special considering you’ve recently met these people. And that’s what makes you cry your eyes out when it’s all over and faced with the new change. But every end is a new beginning.

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member of:
Volunteer Action for Peace, member of the Co-ordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service Volunteer Action for Peace, member of the Volunteer International Network Exchange UK
with the support of:
Volunteer Action for Peace, member of the European «Youth in Action» Programme

Quote of the day

« The outside world did not interfere, because it seemed so distant, and so we spent our spare time getting to know each other and learning about each other countries', languages and cultures. Everyone was completely relaxed. This simply would not have been possible on any other type of holiday. VAP enabled me to have a truly memorable experience. »

Ivan W. from London

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