11 Dec 2018

Do I need a title?

Karola Polish volunteer: "It’s kind of amazing how a coincidence can influence one’s life. I’ve been thinking about European Voluntary Service for a long time. I knew that right after finishing my master’s studies I wanted to participate in an EVS project but I couldn’t find anything suitable for me. But.. Seven months ago, accidentally I found an open call for a hiking youth exchange in Scotland. It was my dream to explore this wild country. And the second thing.. guys… hiking in Scotland – one of the most beautiful places on the Earth – can there be something greater than this? So I applied and luckily got in. During the project I met a crazy Georgian team. I was fascinated by their love for the Mother Nature.. One night, when we were taking in our tent about our future plans and dreams I told about my evs idea as well, and suddenly Nana – my tentmate said “You could come to Georgia! We are having an open call for a long-term EVS project now”.  Imagine my astonishment. But it’s not all. She happened to be the EVS Coordinator! Imagine! The decision wasn’t easy because I’ve never considered Georgia as a hosting country. The second part was that I knew practically nothing about this country. But… after 3 months I’ve already been on the way. Now after almost two months I cannot stand not eating khachapuri or drinking Kindzmarauli for longer periodJ. (I hope after one year I won’t end up as a khachapuri/wine-addicted ex volunteer). People are amazing, the hospitality, willingness to help and kindness as theirs is less and less common in Western part of Europe as well as in Poland unfortunately. They will help you even though you don’t know Georgian and they don’t know English But it’s also a country with well-known crazy transport system. You can wait one minute for a marshrutka or 20. But it’s okay, because Georgians have time for everything. They don’t rush. It’s also common that the drive stops on the road just to talk to his friend. You can stop wherever you want as well. But watch out for cars! – drivers are.. let’s say… a slightly careless. But don’t be afraid if someone hoots his horn at you. He most likely wants to say hello. And hitchhiking is also veeery easy and popular here. If you’re nice you can get puri just for a smile or additional bunch of herbs on a bazari (which by the way are amazing, you can get there anything you need, especially fresh fruit, vegetables, spices and cheese inaccessible in other parts the world, plus it’s a great opportunity to learn Georgian and realise how much you still need to learn). And even though I’ve been here for not a very long time, I feel like home. Maybe it’s because of Georgian friends and other volunteers around or the feeling that I don’t have to hurry, because there is always time for things that must be done anyway. Maybe it’s the nature which is amazing here – mountains are incredible, wild and breathtaking but my condition still leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe because I work as a volunteer and it’s what I wanted. GYE turned out to be a great non-profit organization. There are so many activities for youngster which can participate in language, artistic, IT clubs or weekly events. But what’s the best for me is that this NGO gives teenagers a great possibility to spend free time in creative and developing atmosphere. Georgian youth can come here and meet friends, participate in clubs but also get to know different nationalities, their cultures and traditions and develop language skills. It’s a safe place for them to develop themselves, evolve interests and talents which is very precious and so needful. That’s why I’m proud to do my EVS project exactly in Rustavi. So I guess in my case, coincidences even so small can influenced my life. It’s just because of this, difficult to name, atmosphere of calmness and joy of life I’m happy to be here."

Tamara about her EVS time in Latvia

There is a light somewhere..
Sveiki (Hello), My name is Tamar and I’m from Georgia, the country of legends. I was doing my EVS in the kindergarten of Ligatne Municipality, Latvia. My work was based on supporting teachers with kids and teaching the English language as well. So, I have had to organize different kinds of activities. Though, it was not easy to take dissimilar lessons every day, but children were very favourable about me, I was feeling lots of love from them, support from other teachers and this was increasing my motivation to do everything for them.
When I applied for the project, I had only little information about Ligatne, but now I know that it is a place with an amazing nature and incredibly kind or warm-hearted people. Finding out that Georgia is like another home-country for lots of Latvians, was astonishing for me. Moreover, some of them even know little Georgian and sing our folk songs.
The main reasons why I have decided to join this project and arrive in Latvia, were: to share my experience; getting new knowledge from new people, new working environment; exploring new cultures, not only Latvian, but travelling in another countries as well, comparing every culture/people to each other and finding similarities or differences between them. Besides, I think that everybody should come out from their “shell” even once in their life-time. At first, in order to discover yourself, your inner universe and then the outer world. You aware that it’s a break-through of your “comfort zone”, and sometimes you are scared, but yes:
We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we're afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins… the real trap is getting attached to anything. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.” – Elizabeth Gilbert; Eat, Pray, Love
And participating in such a great project is the best chance to transform in a better way. I always wanted to live alone for some time, because I think it has lots of advantages. And due to this project I really experienced to live all alone, had “a room of my  own” or a private space, and maybe I was not writing fiction but in that loneliness I became more awared about myself, grew personally and spiritually (“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” – Virginia Woolf; A Room of One’s Own). How is my life, I saw more about it there in Latvia, than in Georgia. And step-by-step, I started to create a sketch in my brain; a sketch about what I wanted / did not want and what I really need.. As for other challenges, of course it was the climate and weather, but at last, I got used to it and now I know that I can stand even such coldness as -25 degrees, and the strongest wind which I have ever seen.
I’ve got lots of experiences. Interrelation with local people became more and more interesting, even from the first day of my arrival. As it seemed, most of Latvians are well-awared about our problems connected with Russia, but I was also giving some information to others who had no idea about that and then I was feeling their support to Georgia. Relationships with other volunteers helped me to learn how to be more opened to others, more awared of my own culture. “On-Arrival” and “Mid-Term” trainings were very productive and helpful to understand what skills I should have improved by myself, and inspired me new ideas, new initiatives. I learnt how to work with people of different nationalities and this was an indispensable experience for me. Also, it should be noted that I joined the local choir, was singing Latvian songs and was very lucky I had chance to participate in the greatest Latvian Song and Dance Festival, then was our tour to Poland, and I really got oodles emotions and unforgettable memories due to them.
As for travelling.. To go on trip with others is a good idea, but then you become assured, that if you want to see more, and gain more impressions, you should travel alone. So, I decided to be more adventurous and yeah, I was travelling all alone as in Latvia as out of it, as much as I could. My dreams were coming true like one after another and I still can’t believe in that reality. Everything was like dreams within a dream. Wandering alone was not easy, but I became more self-confident, my lots of fears are already overcame, and I feel stronger than before. I had to interrelate with people of different cultures, backgrounds and it helped me to widen my world-view, break some stereotypes etc. The roads teach you  a lot about yourself, and sometimes you can see the whole world even in the pond made by rain..
I’m really lucky I had a chance to be a part of such a great experience that is called EVS, and to have such an amazing people around me. Yes, I’ve had bad days there as well, but Latvian sky is incredibly amazing..  While it’s dark or night, there is an amazing, strange, colourful light somewhere, in the brink of the sky. It can cure all your sadness, even in the coldest winter or the loneliest days. Thus, it means I really do love Latvia, it became my another home-country. This everything was like an adventure, more in myself, then in the outer world. Living in Latvia was a very light spot on my life and I’m very grateful for it.
Liels paldies par visu, Latvija!

Since 2013 NGO “Sigulda Alternative education” invites volunteers for the EVS to enrich our daily life in the organisations and city. Tamar Tkhelidze was participating in Erasmus+ Youth mobility strategic project “EVS 4 sustainable life” (2017-2-LV02-KA135-0001675) in Ligatne municipality kindergarten. The project aim was to involve youngsters from the countries with a high level of unemployment or social exclusion in mean-full volunteering service for one year. In that way Tamar gained work and life experience, get introduction in Latvian pre-school educational system. Her daily EVS was assisting to teachers in the kindergarten – helping to organise daily activities and teach English for children and teachers. Tamar left us methodical material of teaching English for teachers and other volunteers. We can see now that children in age of 5-6 years can understand foreign language.
By the way.. the idea that foreigner should teach English in the kindergarten comes from Georgia where Ligatne’s director Gunita Liepiņa saw a person in Georgian kindergarten talking with children only in English. J

10 Dec 2018

Matthieu French volunteer: "Actually, I still can remember the first time I arrived in Georgia. Nana (EVS coordinator ) was waiting for me and  it was 4 a.m.  From the airport, we took a taxi to go to Rustavi where I gonna spend whole year. The day after, I met my 2 polish flatmates, they are nice persons and I have to live with them and get used to live with them. It was nice at the beginning when I met my coordinator, my flatmates, Aleks and plenty of youngsters in GYE office. I have done many things, for example participate in meetings, preparing the office for some events, teach French and Italian language, write some articles like I’m doing right now. I have been on-arrival training, where I met a lot of volunteers in kobuleti, where we have shared a lot of good moments. Then I became reporter and I do my best to do video editing as good as possible."

The time passes extremely fast

Mariusz Polish Volunteer : "December has come, which means that my EVS adventure in Rustavi is coming to an end. Since October my life became more organized, as the new clubs started, I had to stick to specific timetable and be more organized. Moreover, the new volunteers have come, which gave new energy and ideas to our work and life. I was responsible for Russian club (as well as private classes with my flatmates, because they had a will to gain some basic Russian knowledge), Polish club, documentary movies’ club (my favorite one) and on-going work in GYE. We prepared few interesting events – Halloween, book exchange, clothes swap, Polish evening. 

Besides the GYE work my life mostly focused on Rustavi and Tbilisi, as the weather wasn’t good enough for me to travel anywhere. Time passed on meetings with friends in Tbilisi, spending time in Rustavi together with flatmates and enjoying the last moments of freedom in Georgia. Also, I participated in midterm meeting in Kobuleti, which was amazing possibility to meet old and new friends as well as reflect a bit about my volunteering experience and think a bit more about future plans. 

The time passes extremely fast, those 9 months were amazing, sometimes demanding, but full of new experiences, new travels, new friends and gave me great view on myself, my thoughts and my future plans. Thank you Georgia, thank you GYE and definitely it’s not the good bye forever!"

[The untitled article about my EVS life]

Oil field in near Baku, Azerbaijan
Aga Polish Volunteer: "I went to Georgia for full year. I choose  my project  via EVS database and was considering 3 different programs in three different countries including Georgia. And I have to admit – I’m happy that was accepted for this project in the fastest. 
Choosing that opportunity to live in Caucasus region was not accidental, Georgia was one of my top destinations so an offer to even live there for that long was a nice perspective.
I already knew that my life would change a bit for that pretty long period of time. And in fact, I wasn’t mistaken… What’s more, I’ve started being surprised in a different ways almost every day.
I remember a day of my arrival like it was a month ago – cold, snowy night – I said to myself ‘oh, damn, NO!’ because leaving Poland I was so happy to live in a place with at least a bit milder climate than it is in Poland, but I failed – in fact, I flown here in January! Ok, a weather was discouraging, but at the airport I was welcomed so warmly , that my perspective has changed very fast. Later it was even better. I didn’t even have time to miss my family and hometown at the beginning, adaptation process has passed very quickly – thanks to my flatmates and people around me. Also Rustavi, specially that older part of the city I found comfortable to live in. 
And that’s a way I would describe my further months here in Georgia. Roughly.

During those passed 11 months I experienced really a lot – together with flatmates I’ve traveled by hitchhiking all around mostly Georgia, even in a wintertime and even 7 people in a regular car (checked – doable!). Almost each holiday weekend  we spent above 1500 m.a.s.l. somewhere in a mountains camping somewhere wildly and cooking high-value dinners on a bonfire. Those hiking trips perfectly kept balance between working time at GYE and discovering Caucasus region. 
Working at organisation ‘Georgian Youth for Europe’ itself  was fun for me also because before I haven’t done any activities for children and youngsters neither teaching my mother tongue – that was challenging for me. But a friendly atmosphere in our office helped me a lot to go through that. Later on, I come up with an idea for my own workshops in which I felt a need to show importance of ecology and environmental protection and eco-friendly lifestyle . While travelling around Georgia I noticed that’s really important to make aware people of that issue because any change starts in a local community, so in us, can start at GYE association as well.
Currently my thoughts are more at home in Poland because I’m leaving soonish. But on the other hand gloomy autumn evenings make me feel nostalgic about this year spent here with people I met here, things I did here and surprises that happened to me here". 

Uplistsikhe - on the old walls

Killing hiking in Racha

Sunny afternoon in Yerevan (in February!)

A trip to Dashbashi waterfall