Johannes, 20 years old, did not feel like going to university directly after finishing high school. Instead, he decided to do an European Voluntary Service (EVS) for nine months and went to Agadir, Morocco to work as a volunteer for Surfrider Foundation Maroc. This NGO campaigns for the preservation and protection of the Moroccan coastlines. Their work is mainly based on educational programs in schools, where children are taught by members of the NGO about coastal eco-systems, their importance for the environment and public health as well as measures to ensuretheir protection.
The EVS is a program funded by the EU that supports young people to go abroad and work as a volunteer for a NGO for 2 to 12 months. Participating NGOs can be found all over Europe and in other neighboring partner countries.
We have asked Johannes for more information on the EVS program and about his experiences in Morocco.
S: What have you learnt from it?
J: I was able to develop my language skills mainly in French, which I had learned before at high school. At school, we were mainly taught to communicate informally. However, working permanently in an environment in which French was spoken and written, I had the opportunity to largely improve my abilities to communicate in formal and professional ways. I also took an Arabic language class and by speaking Arabic in my everyday life and with my Moroccan friends, I was able to reach a basic level.
Of course, I also learned much about the Moroccan culture, its society, politics and religion. It was a good experience to live and work in a country that is so different from all the European countries I had known before. As I worked for a NGO that campaigned for environment protection, I had a good insight into local environmental, economic and social issues. Since I lived very close to the sea, I also learned surfing which I enjoyed very much.
S: Can you get paid?
J: If you take part in the EVS program, you do not get paid. However, all your expenses are covered, e.g. your flight, housing, food, public transportation and health insurance. In addition, you also receive a small pocket money.
S: How did you find the NGO you worked with?
J: In the beginning, you need to find a sending organization that is willing to send you abroad. These sending organizations exist in every European country. With their help you get in touch with hosting organizations that appeal to you. The European Commission has a big data base online, in which all organizations that possibly receive EVS volunteers are listed.
S: How does the application process works?
J: First, you need to convince your sending organization to send you abroad. This part is usually the easier one. Then, you apply for positions in projects at different hosting organizations. This works a bit like applying for a normal job: you send your CV as well as a letter of intention and after a few skype calls, they might choose you.
S: Does it take a lot of paperwork?
J: No, not really, fortunately the sending organization takes care of most of it. But it takes time and I had to wait for a long time until I knew that my funding was secured so I could go.
S: What do you need to do before going abroad?
J: You usually attend so called pre-arrival trainings organized by your sending organization. These are useful because the trainers give you advice on conflict resolution and how to quickly integrate into your host country’s society. They also explain complex issues like visa and insurance for example.
S: Can everybody take part in the EVS program?
J: Yes, it is the European Comission’s agenda to allow all its young citizens to participate in an EVS project, regardless where you come from, what your qualifications are and how wealthy you are. You only must be between 17 and 30 years old.
S: Do you think this experience will help you in your professional life?
J: Although I do not think that HR managers will believe that my experiences in Morocco have led to important professional qualifications, I guess that having lived and worked abroad in whatever country always shows your willingness to adapt to new environments and that you own an open mind.
S: Do you know any exciting projects that interested readers could apply for now?
J: If you are interested in taking part in an EVS project, I can only suggest visiting the database I mentioned before and check out which projects that appeal to you are looking for new volunteers. There are many hosting organizations all over Europe, in other Mediterranean countries and the Caucasus looking for motivated young volunteers.
A special thanks to Johannes for taking the time to answer our questions.
Here below are the links for more information on the NGO Johannes worked with, Surfrider Foundation Maroc.
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