OUR VOLUNTEER – Onur Obekcan

Čau visiem,

I am Onur from Turcija. I am a 21-year-old English language teaching graduate. You can also call me a tech enthusiast and a language nerd. Throughout my senior year in university, I’ve searched for opportunities around Europe, especially regarding Solidarity Corps projects to experience living abroad and to look for new adventures. And here I am in Latvia.

My first ever month abroad… It was truly an adventure. In a country which I had little knowledge and basically no idea about what kind of a place it was until I got accepted. So, it was the right decision, in a way, to fully experience a different world.

My first perceptions about Latvia and Riga, where I work and live, started to form in the very first days and developed ever since. For me, Riga was small but sometimes felt big at the same time. As for the people, majority of them seemed unhappy or quite neutral emotionally and I could feel the distance between people. As the time passed by, I saw that not everyone is like that and thankfully, I was surrounded with that kind of people. I can say that it is very different from my culture but I started to adapt how relationships, human connections and daily life work in general.

I had a very packed first month which helped me go through this period with maximum interaction in local and international level. It was very hard to take in all the experience and learning sometimes. But, after a month, I look back and see how many things I have done and how many people I have met. It always takes some time for me to adapt to a new environment but adapting to a new country… That’s a whole different process for me. Let’s go through this month together:

I spent my first few days with getting to know people in my organization and my work partner Viola. I also had the opportunity to get to know Riga with the help and friendship of the members of my organization. They welcomed Viola and me with a homecoming party in our new apartment where we will spend 11 more months. We had dinner, played board games and had a lot of fun. We spent the rest of the days exploring different parts of Riga with different people until our first working day. We walked around the Old Town, went to Ala, took a boat trip, and went to see a movie.

In our first week, besides discovering Riga and getting to know people, we cleaned our house and learned some fun facts about our house, such as our kitchen being actually white and not beige. It was a messy experience. But at the same time, this cooperation also helped us built a nice friendship. Then, came the “volunteering” time.

I remember our first day at work and first task like it was yesterday. We were given the task to design the concept of a tent we would have in a festival in Ikskile. We also had the responsibility to take pictures of the festival and film two contests which were about singing and dancing as well as editing the footage to promote the festival on social media. I was quite nervous as it was going to be my first filming experience.

At the same time, we also prepared some workshops for the upcoming youth exchange we organized, called “Health is the New Wealth”. It was about gaining a healthy lifestyle and investigating why we need to have a healthy lifestyle, how we can accomplish this, what are the reasons effecting our health and many more through non-formal learning methods. The exchange was held in Krimulda with 40 people coming from Romania, Italy, Poland, Hungary and of course Latvia. As volunteers of Klubs Maja, we were also a part of the Latvian team and participated and conducted activities. The exchange itself was good but I had problems connecting with the people and the cold weather there made me even grumpier. Also, the fact that I was in a youth exchange without my national team for the first time affected my mood greatly.

Before the final day of the exchange, we went to the Ikskile Festival. There, I had to do my best because I only had one shot at this. I was constantly changing angles to get the best shots, trying my best to stabilize them. I tried to be all around the stage, totally experimenting with my task. I filmed the dancing contest and Viola filmed the singing contest. At the end of the day, I hoped that my shots were good enough.

After the exchange, we had our first editing task which was quite hard to accomplish as my experience in this field was not more than having an Instagram account. We also had another challenge. We exchanged our footage from the contests and edited each other’s videos. I took the challenge and worked on my project 2-3 days, structuring what I can I do and how I can do it better with feedbacks from other people such as my coordinator and people who ran the festival. Most of the time, it was quite frustrating since I had no idea how to put a video together. Also, currently, I am using a 10-year-old computer which makes everything 10 times harder. But I managed to do it in the end.

After successfully delivering my project, it was time for us to join the on-arrival training for volunteers. The training is organized for every volunteer approximately at the beginning of their voluntary service by the National Agency. For us, it was our third week in Latvia. It took place in Riga for 5 days with 17 people from 8 different countries which were Turkey, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Romania and Russia. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any other people from Turkey, but there they were. Two other Turkish people than me volunteering in Latvia… It was a relief knowing that I wasn’t alone and I enjoyed the fact that I was sharing the same background with those people. With all the other volunteers, we became a huge family during those five days. We learned about European Solidarity Corps, Youthpass, how to cope with problems, what are our rights, ways of reflecting on our learning, how to develop a sense of initiative, commonalities of our cultures and much more.

On the final day of our on-arrival training, we went to the summer camp which was held in Adazi by our organization. I went there with Viola before the last day of the camp to present our culture to the participants of the camp. This was the first cultural night we organized in Latvia. Together, we created a playlist which was a mixture of Turkish and German songs. For the rest of our presentation, we used videos and Kahoots presenting our countries and culture in a fun way. We also had traditional food and sweets to present our cuisine and help the participants explore the culture deeper with flavours they have never tasted before.

Next day, the camp was over as well as my first month in Latvia. It was full of people, experiences, feeling of differences, fresh starts and new adventures ahead. Hope to experience more here. Until next time, have a great month!

EVS: “Europe In a Lens”

Are you ready to start the adventure of a lifetime?

Latvia is a small country but a big world and this project will bring YOU and another amazing person aged between 18 and 30 to Latvia. You will be a team of two working side by side to make an online social media platform for sharing good practices through small but exciting videos. You will be a part of a national organization and will have the opportunity to travel all around Latvia in search of the best sceneries, providing youngsters all around the country with information about your country, Europe and eventually about photography and video making.

SO – WHAT IS THE GOAL?

  1. Creating a platform (Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube) for sharing best practices about leading an ecological lifestyle, about civic activities and just about the human decency that we forget in everyday life;
  2. Making original video materials about NGOs in Latvia and how they make society better every day, translating English materials to Latvian (with support from language mentor) for sharing global experiences with the local society;
  3. Informing young people about their opportunities in the European Union, giving them intercultural experiences and making their mundane life a little more colorful.

WHAT WILL YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE BE LIKE?

  • Mornings are usually free, you will have Latvian courses twice weekly;
  • Evenings are usually also free, but you will have to organize intercultural events and participate in such events max. two times per week;
  • 5 days a week you will have various activities, such as going to Latvian schools and leading workshops about photography, European Solidarity Corps and Europe in general. You will have to make creative photo and video materials during the days, you will have filming times as well. 
  • You will meet your mentor once every two weeks, more if necessary;
  • There will be Club “The House” events you will need to attend (such as meetings, etc.);
  • Your role will also be to participate in various exciting national meetings with other organizations, representing our organization (no worries, that will await you after you have gotten used to the rhythm of things);
  • And finally, your everyday life will be full of young enthusiasts, friends, and amazing colleagues.

YOUR BENEFIT:

  1. Lots of contacts from Latvia and a whole bag of new ideas and motivation for the continuation of your career;
  2. Youthpass certificate, noting all of your gained experiences and officially proving your participation in the project;
  3. European Solidarity Corps participant certificate;
  4. Europass Curriculum Vitae;
  5. Europass Certificate Supplement;
  6. The president of Club “The House” will write you a personal letter of recommendation for the next steps in your career;
  7. If you are planning to pursue arts or digital marketing, this year will be the boost you need – you will have the chance to add to your portfolio and take partial credit to all of the created materials.

LIVING CONDITIONS AND OTHER LOGISTICS:

  • You will have to purchase the transportation tickets for arrival on July 1, 2019 and the travel costs will be reimbursed upon arrival;
  • Pocket money of 120 EUR per month (for personal expenses, food covered from organizational support);
  • Your apartment will be in Riga and you will be living with your colleague (the other EVS volunteer);
  • Health insurance will be provided for the whole year;
  • You will have a support person – mentor, who will be available for personal development support;
  • There will be a logistical support person available 24/7, they will handle all expenses and help you with documentation;
  • Other specifics will be discussed in the video interview and after acceptance. In case of questions, contact us.

WHAT WE EXPECT FROM A VOLUNTEER:

  1. You should be aged between 18 and 30;
  2. You should be a European citizen, preferably from Poland or Germany;
  3. For ensuring project quality, we expect that you are an open person, ready to learn and grow along with the organization and project;
  4. You need to have basic communicative English at least;
  5. We expect the volunteer to participate for the entire year from July 1, 2019, until June 30, 2020;
  6. The candidate should have a basic understanding of photography and video-making, but this is not compulsory.

FINALLY, ABOUT CLUB “THE HOUSE” – YOUTH FOR A UNITED EUROPE

We are young people working for the benefit of society as a whole. Mostly, we make all kinds of cool projects and create amazing memories together, but we also work side by side with the national government and coordinate European School clubs in Latvia. A lot of our time goes into making ties between different young people from Latvia and other countries. 

What is most important – none of us are above the age of 30, the average age of our board of members is 21! But although we seem young, the generations of our organization (which is already 24 y.o.) have passed down all of their experience and we are the spearheads of some very cool and exciting stuff – JEF Latvia, European School clubs, Eurodesk Latvia, National youth projects, Erasmus+ youth exchanges and local arts festivals. 

Our small office is in the Social Sciences faculty of Latvian University. That is where all of our old markers and fresh brochures are located. We won’t lie – it’s a small space, but the warm smiles make it cozy and nice, plus there is always tea, coffee, and cookies (or fruits, because veganism is quite popular right now). On the project you should be ready to spend some time in our office, learning Latvian and teaching others your language, because sharing is caring!

YOUR TIMELINE:

  1. Fill this application;
  2. Get invited to a video interview;
  3. You will have to purchase a ticket to Latvia until June 30, 2019 (to ensure your participation);
  4. Arrival in Latvia after July 1, 2019 but before July 27, 2019;
  5. Project activities…
  6. Departure home after 12 months, depending on when you arrive.

 

Let’s talk about Europe: What happens when we stop voting?

Parunāsim par Eiropu: Kas notiek, kad pārstājam balsot?

Vai tā ir problēma, ka arvien mazāk cilvēki balso?

Kas notiek kad gandrīz neviens nebalso, vai rezultāti joprojām ir nozīmīgi?

Vai balsošanai jābūt obligātai?

Šos un citus jautājumus risināsim 25. martā Kaņepes kultūras centrā. Pasākums ir daļa no neformālu diskusiju cikla, kurā tiek apspriesti Eiropas Savienībai nozīmīgi notikumi. Lai padarītu pasākumu pieejamāku, piedāvājam apmeklētājiem ierasties uz vietas vai skatīties pasākuma tiešraidi video konferencē.

Pasākumu vadīs Klubs “Māja” valdes sirdsapziņa – Kristiāna Plāte.

 

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Is it an issue that less and less people vote?
What happens when almost no-one votes, do the results still matter?
Should voting be mandatory?

We will be tackling these and other questions in our event on the 25th of March in Kanepes Kulturas Centrs.

“Let’s talk about Europe” are monthly informal discussion events where we discuss one major event in Europe. To make the discussions more lively and personal, we invite guests to join us in person or remotely via a videoconference.

Event hosts – Linda I. Kronberga and Kristiāna Plāte
Event location – Kaņepes Kultūras Centrs

Time and date – Monday, 25th of March, 19:00
Admission: Free