When we first arrived in Latvia, five month ago, we were not sure of what was waiting for us. Would our missions be challenging and exciting? How would we adapt ourselves to the life in a country of which we didn’t knew the language or the culture? We are both coming from Mediterranean countries where the way of life is different from the Latvian one.
But thanks to the support of the staff of Talsu Novada Fonds and of the local people we met over the months we have managed to adapt ourselves successfully both professionally, socially and culturally to life in Latvia.
Our main project was to establish a Youth Bank in Talsi, a field in which none of us had any prior experience in. But we saw this project as an opportunity to develop our skills. Thanks to the support of our coordinator and of an existing youth bank in the city of Valmiera we quickly put a plan in motion to create our own structure. A Youth Bank is a finance programme which is run by young people, aged between 17 and 25 years old and gives them the opportunity to involve themselves in community activity. At the beginning our main concern was where to find local volunteers to join our Youth Bank. Because we were foreigners with not a lot of contacts in the local community we thought it would have been challenging. But the truth is that we were surprised by the enthusiasm and the involvement of some of the local youngsters who contact us to be part of the project. Less than one month after opening our youth bank we had twelve volunteers and we managed to organize our first fund raising event.
Opening a Youth Bank in Talsi has allowed us to develop our creative, managing and organizational skills. But our main pride is that we developed our ability to interact and to establish a trustful and friendly relationship with youngsters of a different nationality.
If our main project was to establish a Youth Bank in Talsi, beside this mission we also carried a lot of diversified and challenging activities which allowed us to show what we were capable of and at the same time to develop our skills in various fields. For example we open free French and Turkish language class for local people. During our EVS we were also associate to a partnership between Talsu Novada Fonds and Ingenious Knowledge, a German company, to create non formal education methods and mobile application to interest in youngsters in charity field. We also put our skills in practice, such as photography and digital competences, to cover various social project like the “seed project” or a stop-motion project organized for youngsters living in crisis centre and orphanage.
During our time spend in Latvia we promoted both Talsu Novada Fonds and EVS through presentation in high school to share with local youngsters the values of charity work and European project. Every event we organised was an opportunity to meet new people and to establish links and partnership with the local society. For example we organized two French-cinema nights that a local alternative art gallery offered us to host for free. Without the support of the local society organizing those events would have been way more challenging. The municipality also helped us every time they could.
To synthetise, our EVS has been the key to many opportunities for us both professional, social and cultural. We took great pride in being associated to incredible work that Talsu Novada Fonds is doing to improve the life of Talsi’s local community and we were able to directly see concretes results of our efforts. It gave us a better understanding of the importance and the values of charity work.
We have also discovered a country and it’s culture which were totally unknown to us before we started our EVS. Our efforts to start learning Latvian language made our integration to local community easier. We can say that our EVS made us understand better the European Union’s motto “United in Diversity” and showed us of the most positive aspect of the European Project.
Mathieu Chazel and Tahsin Özer
European Voluntary Service