Youth on the move – Discovering the European Voluntary Service

Being a young individual in Europe is quite a privilege when talking about education and travelling. Have you ever dreamt of travelling and putting in practice all you have been learning in school along the years? Here is the opportunity for you! The European Voluntary Service is part of the Mobility Project for Young People and Youth Workers within the Erasmus+ frame. The program is offering the chance to each and every young person between 17 and 30 years old to acquire competences and grow as individuals through informal and non-formal learning. You can carry out a period of full time voluntary service abroad from 2 to 12 months.

We already know that the applied method of learning by doing is the best approach to prepare you for life. Within the EVS frame, all the activities are carried out by learners on a voluntary basis, therefore they directly linked to young peoples` needs, interests and aspirations.

EVS is for all young people, including the ones with fewer opportunities.
If you do not feel able to complete a long term placement, you can take part in EVS for a short term project between 2 weeks and 2 months, and extra support will be available for you in this case.

Volunteers who complete a short term EVS project are eligible to apply again for a longer placement in certain conditions. But the total duration of both projects cannot exceed one year (12months).

Objectives of the EVS

  • Promote citizenship, social and needed personal commitment at local, national and European levels
  • Engage young people in democratic life
  • Encourage intercultural dialogue and initiatives
  • Encourage actions/initiatives that stand for peace, solidarity, cultural diversity, tolerance and assertiveness and against racism and xenophobia
  • Develop new skills and acquire new competences for future employment
  • Develop new tools and measures for youth activities
  • Encourage a healthy youth policy
  • Offer a wide platform for young people to interact and get productive on the social field

How does the EVS work? (the frame)

The EVS frame is quite simple. It has 3 major actors:

  • The Sending organization
  • The Volunteer
  • The Host organization

To become an EVS volunteer, you can choose from a list of accredited EVS projects that interest you, on the European Youth Portal. The accreditation (received by the organizations after specific accomplished conditions) serves to gain access to EVS and to assure that the principles and the quality standard of the volunteer are met. All the standards are to be found in the EVS Charter and the Accreditation Guidelines published on the website of the European Commission.

The roles of both organizations are very important by being directly involved in the process as to ensure the optimal structure for the volunteer's well being (according to the Maslow's pyramid):

  • Prepare you before the departure with a training on the general framework of your project, a few language classes, if necessary, tips on how to adapt to a new culture and how to respond as positive as possible. You may also discuss with ex-EVS volunteers about their experience.
  • Arrival training in your host country: adaptability, project framework, expectations, logistical issues, meeting and networking with other EVS (organized by the National Agency).
  • Mid-term training in your host country (when long-term EVS) when you can evaluate your project so far, what's good and what needs to be improved, meeting other EVS (organized by the National Agency).
  • All the logistical aspects and documents: work contract (activities, mission, tools, rights, obligations and duties, vacation days), decent accommodation, food, pocket money, insurance, public transport, certain EVS cards, specific needs, tutor, project coordinator.
  • Offer language support if needed in the host country
  • Create the proper environment for the volunteer: welcoming, friendly and integrative attitude, tolerance, dialogue, special intercultural evenings/events and openness for volunteer's initiatives (developing a personal project).
  • Permanent contact between the two organizations and the volunteer by e-mail, phone, skype in order to ensure the success of the project.
  • Assistance when completing the YouthPass.
  • Final evaluation of the project when back to your country of residence: accompanying the volunteer in the promotion of his/her own EVS experience and the development of future projects within the community (ensure follow-up).

Costs within the EVS frame

Participation is free for the volunteer (with the exception of a possible contribution of 10% for travel costs). The volunteer gets travel, accommodation, food, insurance and a monthly allowance for the duration of the project, all covered by the European grant.

Benefits from the EVS experience

On one hand, in terms of qualifications, there is no requirement for becoming an EVS volunteer. You may be asked about a basic language knowledge (will be helpful), but it is not mandatory.

On the other hand, the benefits are consistent and all your learning experience is formally recognized through a YouthPass. This document is part of the European Commission’s strategy to foster the recognition of non-formal education. It can be very useful for a young individual in either continue with preferable studies, complete the theoretical studies with the practical part or having better opportunities and being eligible on the job market (depending on the age).

YouthPass is completed by YOU (it represents a reflection on the personal non-formal learning process) accompanied by your tutor/coordinator and is completed all along the project period. It is not obligatory but it is useful to have it!

YouthPass is directly linked with the competences you acquire. There are 8 Key Competences that should be completed (they gather knowledge, skills and attitudes):

  1. Communication in mother tongue
  2. Communication in foreign language
  3. Mathematical competence and basic competence in science and technology
  4. Digital competences
  5. Learning to learn
  6. Social and civic competences
  7. Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship
  8. Cultural awareness and expression

The idea is that you decide for yourself which competences you want to think about, develop and work on during your EVS project. You are totally in charge of that and you determine the final result. So, you can choose to work on only one key competence, two or four or for all of them. It is entirely your choice!

As you can observe, according to the 8 key competences, there are a lot of skills to acquire, knowledge to improve and positive attitudes to gain in direct relation with the activities you are going to be involved in. Your complete guide is here.

In conclusion, the EVS is a unique opportunity for you to grow both personally and professionally, make friends all over the world and develop sustainable collective initiatives that can positively impact communities.

Further information on European youth policy here.

Edited by: Celeste Concari
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