By Iveta Malinova
All photos personal archive

Volunteering abroad with the European Voluntary Service 

It was a dark and gloomy evening in one of the suburbs of the capital of Bulgaria. People were rushing to go home after a tedious day at work. But not me. I had some really intriguing plans for the evening with people I was about to meet for the first time. You would ask – what's the exciting part in this? Well, these guys are doing their European Voluntary Service (EVS) in Bulgaria or are Bulgarians who left the country not to flee from the economic situation and earn money but to volunteer somewhere abroad. The European Voluntary Service (EVS) is an exciting opportunity for young people who want to volunteer in other countries and to explore new cultures and at the same time to indulge in creative and altruistic work. You only need inspiration, desire and to be between the ages of 17 and 30 to volunteer. This is the website of the European Commission - it gives full information about what EVS is. I don't want to stick to the boring facts. I want you to get behind it, to hear the stories of the volunteers, to get to know how they think and to inspire you to travel and discover.

This year, the European Voluntary Service (EVS) celebrates its 20th birthday and everywhere around the continent, thousands of young people are getting together in order to prepare memorable events.  And if you want to be part of one of them, you are most welcome on 2d of November in Bar Dak -2 (11 Petko R. Slaveykov square, Sofia) from 18.30 to 20.30 to hear adventure stories, ask questions, meet the volunteers and look for your place. So mark this date with a red circle on the calendar and make the first step to a new level of self-knowledge.

I find it encouraging to tell the stories of people who made a better life as EVS volunteers in Bulgaria so hear what they have to say.


The opportunity


For Edvards the opportunity for an EVS came as a total accident which started with grilling meat and a talk with a friend who had an NGO in Latvia's countryside. He sent the documents and his application was approved. Bulgaria was just a chance.

Ilze made her EVS in the Netherlands and she ended up in Bulgaria because of her desire to lead an organization and to be an EVS coordinator.


Living with others


For Danilo everything is possible even the comfort living of 7 people in one flat. Well, conflicts are inevitable but sitting down and discussing some rules seems to be the most appropriate solution. Everyone should observe them at any time.


The gift of EVS


What gave EVS to Matteo? Well, self-consciousness on first place. He learnt new things and how to fit them with what he was and what he is now. For Freddy EVS taught him how to put in practice the things he learnt in his professional formation in touristic and cultural animation. And of course he is very proud of his progress.


The memories


Zarko shares that he will always remember how he got lost on his first day in Sofia but he learnt a lot by overcoming this difficulty. For Matteo participating in a new age sect ceremony here in Bulgaria was a completely new experience. He could see from the inside how this sect works and how some people could use other people’s weaknesses to control them.

Ilze will not recommend the EVS experience to most people just because it is too amazing and there are people who can't handle it. Making new friends is time consuming as you need to contact them on a regular basis. And you might also fell in love with traveling. So basically if you love to feel depressed EVS is not for you.

For Bea EVS means getting out of the comfort zone, meeting new people from different backgrounds, learning the characteristics of different countries and yep, getting to know so many new things.


How much does it cost?


The tricky theme about the coping with expenses is explained by Edvards who gives a bit of pretty useful practical advice to those who work but want to get rid of the mundane living and take a leave from the daily life through EVS. His friend quitted his job but during his EVS time in Bulgaria he received unemployment benefits from Latvia. Yeah, there are different and creative ways to handle your pocket and have fun at the same time. Danilo suggests that the volunteers should be thriftier by skipping restaurants and fast food places and stick to megastores so that they can have more money for traveling and exploring. Bea adds that you should bear in mind that the program covers most of the utility expenses and the rent, gives some pocket money so all you need is a good sense of money management.


Practical or theoretical?


Edvards learnt both practical and theoretical things at one and the same time. The Bulgarian children he taught how to repair bicycles taught him Bulgarian language. And one more thing – how to speak and behave with children.


Bulgarian language


Ewelina from Poland assumed that she would easily be able to communicate and understand Bulgarian language because it is a Slavic language too. Well, it was not as she expected it to be as she can understand the words but feels a little bit lost in translation with the speech. Nevertheless she is not afraid of getting lost in the city because she can read the signs and labels. Natalia is also from Poland and she shares that she is able to read in Bulgarian as it is a Slavic language, may be not as properly as any Bulgarian but she tries to learn some basic things like “thank you”. It is always a nice experience to explore a new language.


The first thought after the email


Not a single thought passed through Matteo’s mind when he understood he was the choice for the volunteer’s position here, in Bulgaria. He was staring at the screen and trying to realize what was happening to him. Then he just said to himself – “What the f*ck?! I’m leaving!”

Freddy knew what he wanted to do and it was an EVS. That is why all his family jumped with joy when he received his e-mail with approval.

For Natalia it was a one-week decision. She found this opportunity as a great way to live somewhere else, away from her home, to experience something completely new and unpredictable. She felt totally opened for this adventure.

Ewlina’s first thought was that she would have another 2 months of great weather. Well, not all expectations for your EVS gonna be fulfilled.

Like those of Zagko, fortunately. He did not expected Bulgarian people to be so nice and friendly and to have such a wonderful time in Bulgaria.

Prior to coming to Bulgaria, Bea did not know a lot about the country but that was why it sounded to her so exotic. She finds many similarities between Spain and Bulgaria as both countries are Mediterranean. She likes the food and open-hearted people here who always try to help even when they don’t understand the language.

Edvards nailed it with the question “Do you like Bulgaria?” as he actually returned to Bulgaria after his EVS project had finished and found a job here. To make this decision he just needed a free seat in a friends’ car, traveling from Latvia to Bulgaria.

Matteo is fascinated by the Bulgarian wild nature as his home place in Italy lacks it. He also likes the randomness of the country –you can see a sheep on the middle of the street with pants on its head and you just don’t know why.