From 1 to 8 December 2019, a contact seminar was held in Zebrzydowice, Poland, under the title “From EVS to ESC: Experimental Learning in Volunteering” organized by Fundacja Europejski Instytut Outsourcingu.
The main aims of the project were: to train youth workers to gain knowledge and tools to effectively work with youth, including youth with fewer opportunities, to provide space for intercultural learning, getting to know local reality in host countries, to build a strategy to include and involve young people with fewer opportunities in ESC, as well as to foster quality improvements in youth work through international cooperation and volunteering. Additionally, taking into consideration that this was a contact seminar, it was an opportunity for the organizations to establish closer cooperation, and exchange experience and knowledge.
Apart from us as representatives of the Volunteer Center Skopje (Republic of Macedonia), there were also representatives from Poland, Turkey, Ukraine, Germany, Portugal, Armenia, Georgia, Belarus and Moldova.
The first day was free and was used for the participants to get to know each other. The working part started on the second day, during which the aims and expectations from the project were presented, as well as the schedule of activities for the upcoming days. In the course of several evenings, the participants presented their countries with short presentations, traditional music, products and food.
In the upcoming days, workshops were held, in which, through various methods we learned about different kinds of tools that the youth workers and organizations use for preparation, motivation, entrepreneurship, animating volunteers in order to facilitate their stay, and enable successful carrying out of their activities. These tools can include plays and organizing various culture and entertainment activities. Divided into small groups, we had the task to create a project, in which all phases are included, and to present it to the others. We were working on the tasks in small groups, but always composed of participants from different countries which enabled exchange of ideas, opinions and experiences.During the fourth day, a Polish evening was organized, in which we enjoyed Polish specialties and drinks, as well as traditional folk music.
Poster-presentations were also organized at the seminar, where the participants presented information about their organizations, so that everyone could find out more about the organizers. Thus, we had the opportunity to present the activities of Volunteer Centre Skopje, and find out more about the other organizations.
The day before the last was reserved for group journey, during which we visited the town of Cieszyn. For me, it was interesting that the town is spread on the territory of two countries: the right side in in Poland, while the left one belongs to the Czech Republic. On the Olza River, which divides the city, is a bridge which represents the border between the two countries, so that you can stand with one leg in Poland and with the other in the Czech Republic.
I used my free time to get to know the town with a name which was a challenge for me to pronounce – Zebrzydowice. It is a small town situated in nature with traditional Polish architecture and a beautiful small lake.
The program Erasmus+ and other programs and NGO websites, which hold training courses for youth workers, were presented to us. Then a farewell party was organized, during which we exchanged gifts according to the Secret Santa principle.
This was a nice experience in which there was a lot to learn, but there was also a lot of fun and socializing, and the organizers made sure that everything went well, they were always here for us, and contributed to the success of the project.