My European Voluntary Service in Gaziantep. How it all started.

Gaziantep

Writing now, not even ten days have passed since my return from my short-term EVS experience in Gaziantep, Turkey.

And I’m still amazed at what can happen when you allow yourself to be taken on a journey.

But let’s start from the beginning.

At the end of March I discovered the project on the European Youth Portal, which offers volunteering, employment and learning opportunities to young people in Europe. I had frantically been going from one website to another, looking for a summer project with refugees and immigrants,until I found it.

I don’t know exactly how to explain it but, as soon as I read the project description, I felt a spark of excitement ignite within me. I simply had to go there. And, to be honest, I really didn’t have an idea of how I ended up on that web page and, most important, I didn’t even know what an EVS is. However, I found this out very soon and in that moment I experienced a second spark of excitement.

Gaziantep

EVS stays for European Voluntary Service and an EVS project can be described as a partnership between two or more promoting organizations. Volunteers, who should be between 17 and 30 years old, participate through a sending organization in the country where they live and the receiving organization will receive and host them during their period of service.

Projects last from 2 weeks to 12 months and can be divided into short-term and long-term projects. Short-term projects continue from 2 weeks to 2 months of service, while long-term projects last between 2 and 12 months.

As a volunteer you can work in a wide range of fields together with young people from different countries and backgrounds. Moreover, your travel expenses are covered and you receive free accommodation, insurance, food and pocket money.

The project description, even if quite brief, immediately captured me.

Volunteers were going to work with disadvantaged people in Gaziantep, only 90 kms from Aleppo, focusing especially on the education and support of Syrian refugees.

I immediately started to do some research about the organization, the city and how refugees were living and being treated there. I wrote a couple of e-mails and I had a phone call with the Italian organization (Scambieuropei) but, inside me, I had already decided that I was going there.

I started revising my CV and writing my motivation letter. And unexpectedly for me, it took really a long time to get a clear answer from both organizations. Compared to my previous experience of working with very small NGOs, communication was very slow and disjointed. It was like a chain, which was not really working smoothly all the time.

I first had to send my application to the Italian sending organization, and I then had a telephone interview with them as they wanted to make sure that I was aware of the kind of project and the political instability in Turkey. Once they considered me suitable for the project, I then had to finalize the whole application process directly with the Turkish organization (GEGED).

In the end, after many date changes and problems (not to mention the endless fights with my parents), I could buy my flights at the beginning of June. My journey would take me from MilanIstanbul – Gaziantep, from 1st of August to mid-September, for a total of 6 weeks.

And that was one of the best things I could ever do.

Leaving for Gaziantep with an open mind and an open heart exposed me to opportunities that I am eternally grateful for. There are so many moments and stories that I would love to share with you. And I will.

For now, I’m still amazed at how signifcant and unforgettable 45 days can be when you allow yourself to be taken on a journey.

To be continued …

Credits

Image Title Author License
Gaziantep Gaziantep Sara Marzorati CC BY-SA 4.0