Since 1996, ICYE has been directly involved, both at international and national level, in launching and implementing the Youth in Action and as of 2014 the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, particularly the European Voluntary Service (EVS), a programme set up and funded by the European Commission (EC) to promote youth mobility and international voluntary service.
The main objectives of this programme are: to encourage youth mobility among young Europeans, to promote young people’s active citizenship, to offer learning experiences that are no longer available in the traditional centers of learning, as well as to promote co-operation in the youth field between the European Union and non-EU countries.
EVS has opened new possibilities and increased the number of long-term volunteer placements that ICYE can offer to young people. The EVS programme has also enabled ICYE to reach out and increase the participation of young people who are usually not in the position to afford and/or access voluntary service exchange programmes at a cost.
ICDE-India has been hosted volunteers on the EVS program programme since September 2007 from Austria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands and United Kingdom.
It is 8.30 in the morning. After a quick coffee i am on my way through the village to school. I wish my neighbours, who are busy cleaning their breakfast dishes in front of their houses, a good morning, walk by the green ground, where everybody leaves their waste, cross the small shop at which we always buy milk and eggs, make a circle around the goats, who block the way every morning and arrive at my project three minutes after leaving my house. My project, a small school, somewhere in the middle of this huge, crazy country India.
It has been some months since I arrived here, totally overwhelmed and confused by all the impressions.
First the clothing. What was going on with the bright colours of the Saris, striped tops combined with dotted scarves and glittering details all over the dresses? Was no woman here annoyed by the bangles, always jingling around their wrists? And how could these wide trousers, combined with those long shirts become fashion?
Then there was the traffic. Crossing a street by foot became an impossible mission for me. I put one foot on the street, suddenly there is was a motorbike racing in my direction from the right side, on it an entire family, including father, mother and two children. In the same moment an autorikschah was approaching me from the left side, constantly beeping to get me out of the way. I jumped back, started a second attempt and failed again, being scared off by a bus driven by a man who speeded up even more when he saw me.
Plus, there were those loud noises and sounds around me everywhere.
So that was me in the first weeks in India, constantly not knowing what was going on.
And now, a couple of months later, I am sitting in our house with two other volunteers. The one to my left is dressed in a Sari, the one to my right is wearing purple, glittery bangles and anklets – two, of course. I would never exchange the comfortable indian trousers I am wearing at the moment for a pair of jeans. And I am thinking that it is not very loud today, since there are only some constructions going on in front of our apartment.
However, there are not only these superficial points about India I start to like, but after some time in another country, I also started to understand the different handling of suituations when it comes to more serious themes, like for example marriage.
Before I came here, I would never have thought, that I could comprehend, why arranged marriages are still a common way to find your life partner in India. But after talking to some young girls or parents, I came to realize, that beeing married is essential in this country, especially for women. And at the point, India is right now, letting the parents arrange a wedding is a way to guarantee an easier life. It is not that I think, this ist he best solution, but I can at least understand, why marriages here are handled like this.
But it is not only us volunteers learning from our host country. There obviously some matters in which we can still teach our host surrounding a little bit. For example when it comes to the way, our village handles the waste problem. Like I mentioned in the beginning, the people here leave their garbage on the grassy ground and sometimes burn it here – Not the evironmentally friendliest method. So we try to at least make the children in our school a little more aware of the importance of waste watching and their environment in general.
In the end, the point of cultural exchange is neither only adapting to a different lifestyle or us coming to another country, trying to solute all the problems there in our western ways. In my opinion, the importance of bringing people from different cultures together lies in realizing, that the ways of dealing with problems and situations can vary from country to country. But there is never only one right way, there are many different approaches which are just as good or maybe even better than the own one.
Sarah yolanda koss- EVS volunteer from Austria
I definitely made the best choice in my life by applying for an EVS-Volunteer service in India! From the first second I felt myself at home in this amusing chaos. These months were one of the best ones in my life, and changed it forever. It was such a breathtaking experience to immerse myself into the beautifully diverse culture by being an integrated and useful part of the local community, attending traditional and religious celebrations, enjoying the amazing tastes and smells, observing little Paradises by travelling, continuously learning and improving; and last but not least reflecting on the European cultural point of view. I can not believe that my stay is finally over, but one thing is sure: I will come back as soon as possible! Thank you ICDE for the opportunity, for your help and all of your support! See you soon!
Dorottya Villanyi – Austria