My European Voluntary Service for Zemgales NVO Centrs in Jelgava, Latvia
My name is Franzi, I’m from Germany but I’ve lived in Switzerland for the last couple years. I graduated High School this summer and put a lot of thought in what I wanted to do after. Since my passion is to travel and to explore as much as possible, I was really excited when I found out about the European Voluntary Service. Other than travelling I love any sport including some kind of board! Snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing… But I enjoy swimming, reading and playing the piano as well.
My first month in Latvia
To be honest, I should have started writing this Blog a lot earlier. But it took some time to adapt and to really settle down here in Jelgava, which is why I’m starting to write this Blog now, about 6 weeks after I have arrived.
So… where do I begin: I’m sharing an apartment with Valentin, the other volunteer for Zemgales NVO Centrs. It’s a comfy flat, right in the city centre and right across the street from our office. This is where we usually start the week. On Mondays we meet there with Uldis and Pauls, who actually run the NGO. We discuss the topics and events of the current week and set up a plan. It’s all pretty low-key and flexible, which is great (mostly) because we don’t have usual office hours which allows us to create our
days and weeks differently!
There are some scheduled events we do every week, for example, every Tuesday Valentin and I teach English at the Youth Centre in Àne. It’s always a little adventure because we never really know how many kids will be there, nor their ages or levels. So we have to improvise pretty much every lesson…!
Other than that we also attended a couple of so-called EuroDesk Events in October. We went to schools and youth centres and provided the youngsters with information about the Erasmus Plus Program and the EVS in general. We also talked about our own experience within the program and motivated (successfully, I hope…) them to consider doing an EVS theirselves after school.
Like I said before, we don’t have a normal office job, but sometimes we still have to do some administrative work like scanning papers or write the EuroDesk Newsletter.
Okay, enough work-related topics! After my first week, I attended the on-arrival training. It was in a really nice guesthouse in the middle of Latvia. We did a lot of non-formal learning activities, got to know our mentors better and, most importantly, met other volunteers that are currently doing an EVS in Latvia. They are from all over Europe and we all got close really quick! We have our own group chat in which we plan our free time and/or work stuff together. Since a lot of them work in a youth centre, they often invite us to join like an intercultural cooking evening or other activities they organize. But mostly we go on fun trips together, party in Rīga or just visit each other!
Since Latvia is cheap to get around (at least when you’ve lived in *ridiculously* expensive Switzerland) I’ve been already able to see some cool places. On the last couple weekends I visited Jūrmala, Liepāja, Valmiera and even Estonia!
Because there was an event one of the volunteers I had met on the on-arrival training organized in her town, Rūjiena, I stayed at her place and the next day a whole group of us went to Pärnu, Estonia, by hitchhiking (which btw works incredibly well in Latvia, not so much in Estonia tho…) It really was a miracle that we made it there. Anyways, once we arrived in Pärnu we got ourselves a nice hostel and went out partying! The next day we visited the beach and tried to hitchhike back to Latvia, but eventually ended up taking the bus…
Maybe we’ll have better luck next time!