As of the 3rd of July, I have become an EVS volunteer working for a non-profit Polish NGO based in the city of Rzeszow – two hours from Krakow – called Stowarzyszenie Projektów Międzynarodowych “INPRO”.
For those of you who don’t know what EVS is, EVS stands for European Voluntary Service and it is an Erasmus+ programme for young people to become volunteers in organizations abroad all over Europe. The programme aims to educate and to give young people a feeling of what it means to work in a cultural organization or taking part in social care and environmental activities. The advantages of an experience like that – apart from the obvious professional ones – are that one meets many new people from all over the world, learns more about the country that one is in and has life-changing experiences.
Having just finished my university studies and still being unclear about what to do in the future, EVS was exactly the programme for me. What attracted me to come to Poland in Rzeszow was mostly the project I would be involved in – and of course my curiosity about Polish culture also played an important role in my decision. I’m currently a little over one month in in my 12 months long EVS experience and so far, the experience has lived up to my expectations. The environment in Rzeszow as well as in the organization has been friendly and welcoming, people are open and have received me and the other volunteers very well, helping us to integrate in their lives and in the community.
I believe the work INPRO does to be very effective for the community in which it is done. At INPRO, I and the other EVS volunteers are currently realizing the project “Youth Embracing change”. The project aims to develop interpersonal and intercultural competences among not only the young people taking part in the activities but also among us volunteers organizing them. The methods adopted by the organization are non-formal education ones and the events are tailored accordingly.
Every week on Wednesdays INPRO hosts the Open Café event. The event is mainly focused on English-led discussions on a wide range of topics: from human rights and controversial, politically impregnated topics to light-hearted ones such as time-travelling. The aim of the event is to create an international, friendly environment where people can exchange opinions, ideas and debate with each other while at the same time improving their English and making friends. It serves the purpose of internationalising the community in Rzeszow and contributing to the improvement of every person involved in the activities.
Every week on Thursday INPRO EVS volunteers go to the town of Lubaczow – at the border with Ukraine – to host Multicultural Cafe. For this event, INPRO organization collaborates with the youth council of the town hall of Lubaczow. Our event is open to everyone who wants to improve his/her English and meet people from different parts of the world, even though our audience is largely composed by high school students. The aim of the event is not only pedagogical insofar as it aims to educate young people but also social insofar as it contributes to the cultural life of the town and creates interest in young people that might not be so willing to learn in school and through formal education methods.
Every two weeks on Mondays INPRO hosts our Open Cinema event. The event consists in the screening of thought-provoking movies in English (sometimes with English or Polish subtitles) on controversial topics which spark debates among people and lead to discussion.
However, INPRO is not only an EVS volunteers hosting organization but also a sending organization for Polish young people who wants to experience the EVS adventure. Moreovere, INPRO is a partner with other NGOs all over Europe and is involved in different projects both as the organizer of these project and as a participant.
Thus, I believe that being involved with INPRO will be an ever-growing experience both professionally and personally, which will equip me with skills and practices that will be useful in my future professional and personal life. I hope that reading this piece will inspire people to go for their own EVS adventure or to get involved in INPRO to see with their own eyes how it is possible to change things for the better little by little.
Libero Barbato, 2017/2018 EVS Volunteer in INPRO