Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Orlaith on EVS in Poland - 2012

"Greetings from Wrocław! Here I am to fill you in on what I've been up to during my first three and a half months in Poland..

Three and a half down..Eep! Only four and a half to go..boo hoo hoo! The time is going way too fast.

I spent over a year looking for the right organisation (one that I wanted and one that wanted me). Luckily, after this time, I have ended up in one of the most amazing projects I could ever have dared to imagine, working in one of the most amazing organisations I've ever had the pleasure to be involved with.

Myself and five other volunteers are working in the regeneration of a very deprived area near to the city centre. Really we can choose to do whatever kinds of projects we want so long as they are valuable for the local area or its inhabitants.

I'm getting such wonderful experience here. I am learning so much, meeting so many people, and being enabled and encouraged to develop any projects or workshops that are viable. In my first week of being here, I completed my first funding application and spent the next six weeks preparing (amongst other things) an anti-racism exhibition in the district. This has now been taken by the University for display there.

That has been my main project so far. Now I'm beginning funding applications for my second big project. Other than that we've helped to renovate private and public buildings, organised an international football tournament, developed workshops for the local children, TRIED to learn Polish (had to give a ten minute presentation in Polish yesterday), participated in a 'week of tolerance' with Israeli and Norwegian youths, developed Poland's first outdoor 'vertical garden' and much much more.

I've also helped local children with English homework and am currently giving English lessons to seniors.

I love my flat, my flatmates, co-workers.....everything really.

All in all, things are going so well. Haven't been home-sick yet. Fingers crossed I won't be for the next four and a half months. None of this would have been possible without Chloe's help and support. Thanks Chloe."


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Concordia host the Alliance General Assembly

After lots of planning, discussions, and organising The Concordia team set off with excitement on 1st November 2011 to host the General Assemble (GA) and staff training at the YMCA Fairthorne Manor in Botley, Southampton.

Concordia is part of the Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organisations which organises a three day GA every year, held the first week of November. The purpose of this meeting is for all partner organisations to share ideas, vote on new policies and procedures and discuss the future developments of the Alliance.

With 76 people arriving from 24 different countries on the 1st to attend a staff training we were straight into the madness of collecting people from the train station and organising the week ahead of us.

The two day staff training allowed new and experience staff to update skills and develop ideas and strategies for engaging and motivating volunteers within their organisations. The GA officially started on Friday 4th November – though it didn’t start the way we expected - waking up to find that the main room where the assembly was being held looked more like an indoor swimming pool than a conference because of a huge storm. This meant that all hands were on deck hoovering, mopping and bucketing up all the water so that the anticipated GA could start :)

Once the madness of the morning was over – everyone was settled and had voting cards at the ready to agree and discuss new ideas and polices for 2012. We elected a new President, Additional member, Vice President of external relations and Treasurer to the Alliance External Committee and welcomed 5 new organisations to be part of the family that is the Alliance.

Of course no conference would be complete without a little fun and it was a great chance to make new friends from around the world and catch up with old ones, enjoy some local beer at a traditional English pub, celebrate 5th November with a big bonfire and toasted marshmellows and have a chance to taste some exotic and interesting food and drink from around the world.

This year was also a time to celebrate as 2011 is the European year of volunteering and the International year of the volunteer+10. The Alliance ran a very inspiring and successful campaign to raise awareness of volunteering with a flag travelling around the world visiting 22 Countries and 25 organisations. The story finished with Thomas from Germany cycling over 1000KM from Berlin to Southampton cycling with the flag for sustainable volunteering. The whole tour flag depicted the motivation, inspiration, and passion that the whole Alliance have towards volunteering, and although being many miles away from each other it was something that underlined the fact that having a common goal can mean you can achieve something great!

Being only my second GA and being part of hosting this week long event – nothing could have prepared me for this exhilarating, exhausting, fun and productive experience. I found the whole experience such an inspiring and fulfilling week and a great way to end the busy year of voluntary service.