First things first. Where is Tenerife? That’s the first thing I googled when I found out I was coming here. Tenerife is one of the seven Canary Islands belonging to Spain, situated off the coast of Africa.
Now here’s the answer : I’m in Tenerife doing an EVS.
EVS stands for European Voluntary Service. It is a sub-action of the Erasmus+ program which is a European program in the fields of education, training, youth and sport from 2014 to 2020. Erasmus+ allows young people to participate in non-profit projects in different countries of the European Union (EU) to gather new ideas, new perspectives and new experiences. Erasmus+ aims for “the empowerment of young people and their ability to participate actively in society”. – Erasmus+ Guide.
EVS can be done in a variety of organizations such as sociocultural animation, heritage preservation, information for young people, helping the disabled and disadvantaged, sports, art, etc. The activities are based on non-formal education allowing people by direct experience to learn and improve skills by being active in their learning process (learning by doing). There are no academic prerequisites to do EVS, you just have to be super motivated and between the ages of 18 and 30 to participate.
I chose this program because I just wanted a professional experience abroad while feeling that I could make a difference for my community. When I finished school, the Erasmus exchange program was no longer an option for me so I looked for alternative solutions and found out about Erasmus+. In October 2016, I got the opportunity to participate in a training course for youth workers from outermost regions: OUTERMOST YOUTH.
The training course is another type of sub-action of the Erasmus+ program. During that week of training, a lot of things shifted for me. I met so many inspiring people who gave me a much-needed dose of hope. I was reminded that there are still people out there working towards building a better future for the youth in outermost regions. It opened my eyes to the possibilities available to islanders and showed me how I can become an actor to promote these opportunities. During this training course I met Junita from the Solomon Islands and Karim from Indonesia that were doing their EVS. That’s how I found out about EVS and that’s how another seed was planted. Some seeds take time to grow, but if you keep watering the seed, it grows! The idea stayed in my head, I kept doing reserach and 18 months later, here I am.
What have I been up to?
Don’t get it twisted, EVS is not about living some kind of touristic laid-back life. I volunteer here during the week from Monday to Friday from 9:15 am to 3:15 pm. The hosting organization where I’m doing my EVS is called FIFEDE (Fundación Insular para el Empleo, la Formación y el Desarrollo Empresarial). FIFEDE is a foundation established by the government of Tenerife since 1998 to work towards the development of the island. They specialize in orientation with the priorities of boosting employability, vocational trainings, entrepreneurship and international mobility. Of course, it’s not the ordinary 9 to 5 but it’s still work accompanied by objectives, deadlines and positive challenges.
I spend a lot of time in the office working from the computer trying to come up with ways to change the world . Ok that’s a bit exaggerated, but yes, I work with the hopes that my time and investment here can make a difference. One of the main objectives of my project is to work on a network of youth organisations in order to collaborate on more Erasmus+ projects and growth opportunities for our youth in outermost regions. My professional goals have always been centered around working with these regions because as an islander I understand first-hand the difficulties that the youth face at home or abroad. I want to inspire hope and I would like for my work to be an example to those that still have doubts in all the possibilties that the world has to offer.
I’m in Tenerife for 6 months with another volunteer from Martinique, her name is Sandy. Since we’ve been here, we’ve learned how to write an Erasmus+ project proposal. Within the first 15 days our EVS, we wrote out first project proposal. The project entails hosting another training course for youth 14 youth workers and youth leaders of European Outermost Regions and Overseas Territories (Spanish, Portuguese, French and Dutch islands) to work towards providing solutions for our youth. The project got approved and will taking place really soon . Look out for news on that !
On a daily basis, here is what keeps me busy at FIFEDE :
- Preparing informative documents for groups that we host.
- Translating documents and emails in French, English and Spanish.
- Writting project proposals : first one approved and waiting for the results for the second one.
- Brainstorming and preparing activities for the training course we are about to host.
- Reading and getting informed about the employement situation and the different needs of our partners.
- Working on our partner network : online research, contacting existing network, e-mails, project proposals, etc.
- Public presentations about the Erasmus+ program in academic institutions with my supervisor. We explain what the program consists of and the modalities to apply. We also talk about our experience to dissolve some of the fears students might have about going abroad.
- FIFEDE also hosted a delegation from French Guyana for an internship in April. Sandy and I were in charge of translating, presenting the different activities, helping them get around and making sure they felt comfortable.
- Sandy and I go once a week to an immigration detention center to do activities with the immigrants while they wait for their departure. We do hand crafts, play games, sports, talk and just try to help them forget where they are for a few hours.
- Writing articles. Deciding to start a blog is an outcome of this project.
- Learning to make videos. My first video was a summary of the first 3 months of my EVS experience.
- Helping candidates prepare their cover letter and CV to apply for Erasmus+ internships or EVS application.
- Helping with the selection of candidates for exchange program between Tenerife and Belgium.