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Gina Kyriazopoulou & Charoula Matthaiou

Gina Kyriazopoulou and Charoula Matthaiou are the new EVS volunteers at Volunteer Now.

My name is Gina and I come from Athens, Greece. I am a recent Communication and Mass Media graduate. I decided to volunteer abroad after I finished my university studies because I wanted to further develop my skills and gain new experiences.  I had already volunteered in the past in my home country and that experience gave me the motivation to keep doing this. I believe that the feeling of giving without expecting anything in return is really satisfactory. And then, when you realise the social impact of what you have done, it becomes invaluable as well.

I am Charoula and I come from Limassol, Cyprus. I am a psychology graduate and before arriving in Belfast, I worked as a researcher.  Volunteering has been  a big part of my daily life. It helped me to gain new experiences and enhance knowledge and skills in various fields including human rights, youth rights, non-formal education, public speaking and team-working, but most importantly I feel that the time I spend in volunteering, really makes a difference. Therefore, volunteering abroad seemed to be a great opportunity for a new exciting round of experience-seeking and self-development.

So, what makes the EVS experience in Northern Ireland attractive enough to leave the warm Mediterranean weather for one year and why choose Belfast and Volunteer Now?

Belfast is a very interesting place to live in terms of the culture and the recent history of the city. In almost any street you can feel the remnants of the recent past. The artistic character of Belfast is obvious in the numerous graffiti, the modern galleries and art centres, as well as in the different events taking place  around the city. Adding to this, suddenly you find yourself being part of the EVS family and interacting and learning together with young people from all over Europe.  EVS is probably one of the best tools available to cultivate respect and understanding among people and nations in Europe.

As for the placement at Volunteer Now, they both say “It is great to see people of all ages getting involved and knowing that the time they offer really matters.  We are grateful we are part of an organisation that invests time and resources to encourage as many people as possible to volunteer and helps volunteers to feel valued and realise the impact of what they do. Through the organisation’s work with volunteers and also support provided to volunteer organisations, Volunteer Now makes an important contribution to the volunteer movement in Northern Ireland”. 

Charoula’s and Gina’s, what are your expectations from the whole EVS experience?

Charoula

“By the end of my placement in Volunteer Now, I expect that I will make good use of my current skills but at the same time, I will have fruitful opportunities to learn from others and develop new knowledge and skills (both at personal and professional level). I hope that my experience encourages more young people to get into the EVS world or volunteer at local level and become active agents of change, either abroad or in their community.”

Gina

 ‘’In one year from now, I hope that this experience will be proved as the first step of a whole series of new experiences. I expect that I will have gained loads of satisfaction and fun through my voluntary post, I will have further developed my skills and abilities and -  most important for me- I will be able to convince more people of my age to try volunteering as well. I believe that sometimes knowledge gained from experience is more important than knowledge gained from books.’’

Would you like to know more about European Voluntary Service (EVS)?

European Voluntary Service (EVS) is one of the Erasmus+schemes and allows young people aged 17-30 to take part in unpaid, full-time voluntary service (lasting from 2 weeks for up to 12 months) in another country within or outside the European Union. The scheme is fully funded in order to make the projects as accessible as possible. The project covers travel and accommodation costs, health insurance and also provides to the volunteer a small monthly grant for the duration of the project (pocket money). 

What are the possible benefits for volunteers?

 Increase awareness and understanding of different social contexts, systems, organizations.

 Acquire new skills and knowledge or improve skills (e.g. language skills) and participate in different training courses for free.

 Meet new people and make new friends.

 Discover one ’s self, strengths and boundaries.

 Learn how to manage and overcome different challenges.

 Learn to be a team player.

 Opportunity to get creative and share talents/skills.

 And of course fun, fun, fun!

What are the benefits of EVS for organisations?

 Create more opportunities for cooperation at European and international levels.

 Enhance their experience in managing European-wide projects and engaging young volunteers in their work.

 Introduce new perspectives in the daily work of the staff and their work with young people.

 Give opportunities to young people in their local community to gain international experience, intercultural perspectives and develop their skills and build positive attitudes.

2016 is the 20th anniversary of the European Voluntary Service. Visit the European Youth Portal: http://europa.eu/youth/evs20to find out more! #‎EVS20