ESC volunteers make changes, support local populations and promote responsible & active citizenship, thanks to European projects. Often,they find a new family.
What is the best way to celebrate Europe Day by giving space and voices to European volunteers? As you may know, Europe gives youth the opportunity to take part in several programs in order to promote diversity while fostering European identity. Youth Exchange, mobility exchange, internships abroad, European Solidarity Corps… All these programs are an opportunity to discover a new culture, and new people with whom to build a new family.
What is European Solidarity Corps program?
European Solidarity Corps is a volunteering program led by the Erasmus + program in the field of education, training, youth and sport in Europe. Most opportunities of the ESC are in the fields of intercultural dialogue and social inclusion, in order to foster European identity. These projects involve youth from different countries and backgrounds, from 18 to 30 years old. The flexibility of this program gives the opportunity to be involved in short- or long-term projects, from 2 weeks to 1 year.
These projects are an excellent opportunity to set up activities that are actively benefiting the local community where the project takes place. Through their involvement, volunteers can make changes, support the local population, and promote responsible and active citizenship. This involvement is also very beneficial for themselves since they have the possibility to discover a new environment and to learn a new language at the same time.
What are the benefits of this program?
A volunteering experience definitely opens to new perspectives in all the possible aspects, both on a personal and professional level. It is indeed a great experience to become an actor of our life, to better understand what is our role, rights and duties as European citizens. Volunteering is ultimately about helping others and making a positive impact on people’s well-being. This involvement is a great opportunity to connect with others by building a “living together”.
« Having a living abroad experience is an enriching experience in all terms. Living in a country different from your homeland always has an impact on individuals, and in my personal experience coming from Montenegro, and living in Italy had an important impact on my personal development. It does not only involve learning a new language which is scientifically proven to have a positive impact on our brain and creativity, but it also means being a part of a new culture and new family, who takes care of you, as the AICEM association does when it comes to their volunteers. Personally, I think that apart from our biological family through life we create important bonds with other people that can have an important influence on our personal and professional development and be also a part of our big family.
Participating in the ESC program through the AICEM organization for me had this kind of impact. Being an ESC volunteer is an opportunity to meet individuals from different countries, have experiences that affect our thoughts about the world that we live in. I strongly believe that being a part of this European Union project is an opportunity to strengthen a European Identity by sharing and living the European Union values, and meet different opinions, reduce prejudices, expand knowledge, learn practical skills that will be important for our working place, get to know new people and exchange ideas with them.
Spending an ESC voluntary services in one of the EU founding countries is a great honor and privilege for me as a young person, as without this project I could not have an opportunity maybe to live in the EU country, and have this experience that has broaden my horizons, enabled me to build a strong social network, and to learn more about the European rich culture, and tradition. »
«I’m grateful to be a European citizen because I have the possibility to benefit European programs, and to travel easily. I have indeed been able to work in different countries to improve my English, and now it has also given me the possibility to participate in the ESC project and taught me the real meaning of being united in diversity. I have participated in two different ESC volunteering projects, the first one in Poland and this one in Italy. The most important outcomes from these experiences are the people I have met and all that I have learnt from each of them.
All these people are my new family, a big and diverse family made of people from different countries, backgrounds, but with the same values and interests to be the change we want to see in the world. For me, the concept of « family » means union, support, love, the feeling of being comfortable to talk about everything. That’s why, for me, there are two types of families: the one you were born with, and the one you choose. With the ESC project, I choose to create more than one family and I would like to encourage every young person to try these beautiful opportunities that the EU gives us, because when you create a new family by choice, it’s magic. »
Volunteering is without any doubt a way to grow up and build a new family, a family that we choose. This feeling is also shared by Jana who is involved in the same project as Sandra in Brattirò di Drapia, and by Inga who is volunteering in a social cooperative in the city of Mentana.
« We (Jana from Slovakia and Sandra from Spain) are volunteering for AICEM from a small village in Calabria, called Brattirò di Drapia (VV). This opportunity is teaching me a lot so far. Apart from all the new skills we’re acquiring at work, such as social media management, events organizing or project writing, I feel especially enriched by the people we’ve met.
I come from the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava which, with its half million inhabitants, we can call “the melting pot of Slovakia”. Living and performing my ESC service in Brattirò, which has 700 inhabitants, is a brand new experience for me. We’re experiencing the closeness of the people we didn’t even know 2 months ago. We feel like a part of the “local family”. All the local people are incredibly friendly, asking us how we are doing on every possible occasion. Our project coordinators and friends are spending a lot of time with us. And we can rely on them in every situation, confide them every trouble we’re possibly having and we can be sure they’ll do everything in order to help and support us. If this is not family, what is :)?
Even though we’re far from our original homes and families, it’s difficult to feel lonely or insecure. ESC has offered us a new home and new family in another part of Europe. And I think that’s beautiful :). »
« Family is the feeling, knowing that the people around you will support you, that you can trust them. We all need a supportive, understanding family, no matter where we might be. Enrolling in the ESC volunteering program and traveling to another country, your environment and the people around you change. Fortunately, starting a volunteer program involves you into your organization’s community, and you don’t even notice how they are becoming your new family.
Participation in the ESC volunteering program provides an opportunity not only to live in another country, but also to experience a different culture and to establish relationships with different people. These people allow you to grow, to improve, to discover new realities, and, at the same time, to rediscover yourself. »