Welcome to our final newsletter of 2021. First of all, I sincerely hope that you are all keeping safe and healthy, and the same goes for your friends and families. It has been a long year for all of us and I am sure we all deserve proper rest and relaxation over the upcoming festive season.
In the Secretariat, Furkan and I, with the support of the Board and our members, have been working throughout 2021 on so many different areas of strengthening the advocacy and influence of Volonteurope, as well as being ambitious and applying for funding, to ensure the financial stability of the network. The hard work has paid off: just a few days ago, we found out that we secured two Erasmus+ youth projects: Greener Future, led by our Spanish member Alianza por la Solidaridad, in which we also have our Italian members WeWorld GVC, as well as ActionAid Denmark; and EDCyber, led by an Italian partner organisation who is new to our work, but it also includes our Romanian member, Imago Mundi Association. I would like to express my huge gratitude to our colleagues at Alianza por la Solidaridad, especially Sandra Victoria, Silvia, Juana, Isabel, and to our Board Director and a very close friend, Constantin, for their respective efforts in working with Furkan and I to secure this funding. It really means a lot, as both projects will generate just over €100,000 over 24 months, and we still have another seven proposals waiting to be assessed by the European Commission for other pieces of work. We can look forward to 2022 with much more financial stability and plan even more ambitiously to advocate for social justice through volunteering, social action and active citizenship, which in turn can contribute to building a more Social Europe.
We have continued being strong in the networks where we are members, particularly in Lifelong Learning Platform, where Oonagh is on the Steering Committee, and, of course, in Social Platform, where I was re-elected as President in May this year, a week after the incredibly important Social Summit in Porto. As an example of the benefit of belonging to and being active in these networks I must mention a meeting which took place in October, with the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, in which Oonagh took part on behalf of Volonteurope, which was made possible by Social Platform. The meeting gave Oonagh the opportunity to represent us directly at the highest levels of EU policy-making, and the reason why it is so important is because Commissioner Schmit is a true champion of Social Europe in the European Commission. This certainly put Volonteurope even higher on the map of Brussels advocacy.
Our most recent work has taken us, despite the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, to Lisbon, Nicosia, and many times to Brussels, and you can read all about it in this newsletter. We have been very active, together with our member New Europeans, in the Europe Future Fringe initiative. Hats off as well to Furkan for working together with his counterparts at the European Volunteer Centre, CEV, on the Cluster “Our European Life”, in the context of the Civil Society Convention on the Future of Europe, where I am elected as a member of the Steering Committee. I am not going to save his blushes: Furkan, you can be absolutely proud of what you have done for Volonteurope this year and I am so glad that our paths crossed last year. I can honestly say, with hand on my heart, that you made all the difference to the network and our capacity, picking up where I could not step in. You have become a role model of a true Volonteurope personality, and, together with the Board and the members, we all thank you for that. My thanks also go to Veysel Bozcali, who was our Summer Erasmus+ Intern in Brussels, and worked on ensuring that our online presence, particularly the website, is fully up-to-date from the design and technical point of view. He also spent time supporting Social Platform in Brussels, and made many new friends over there. Thanks go to our Board Director Serkan for putting us in touch with Veysel and working closely with Furkan and I to ensure that he could make it to Brussels. Fingers crossed, Veysel will be coming back to Belgium on an “Erasmus for Entrepreneurs” scholarship in the summer of 2022, so we all look forward to welcoming him back. And most recently, our Secretariat has gained another supporter, Hilmi Tekoglu, who has joined us as a Volunteer Adviser on Social Justice. Hilmi is currently based in northern Cyprus, working for the Refugee Rights Association, which is affiliated with the UNHCR Cyprus. He came with us recently to Lisbon for the VoSoTros project and immediately delved into our work with passion and enthusiasm. Welcome, Hilmi!
Last but not least, do any of you still remember the European Year of Volunteering 2011? I seriously cannot believe that 10 years have already flown since we celebrated the official launch of the Policy Agenda for Volunteering in Europe (PAVE), in Warsaw, in December 2011. Has the volunteering infrastructure been improved across Europe? Since 2012, volunteering has appeared only occasionally in official EU documents, but the launch of the European Solidarity Corps, together with a highly visible and crucial volunteer response to needs in the COVID19 pandemic, has generated renewed interest in, and attention to, the role and value of volunteering and solidarity in the European Union. However, celebration of volunteering must continue beyond the time when we finally get out of the pandemic and, even more importantly, there must be a robust recognition and investment into volunteering infrastructure beyond European Solidarity Corps, both at European and member state levels, if we are to live in Europe where we can all share from the Union’s prosperity.
As part of #EYVplus10 activities in 2021, the Centre for European Volunteering (CEV), published the new “Blueprint for European Volunteering 2023 (BEV 2030)” that was also endorsed by Volonteurope and other key stakeholders. Also in 2021, the EESC adopted a new Opinion on Volunteering “Volunteers – Citizens Building the future of Europe” and a new study on volunteering in Europe commissioned by the EESC has also been published. I am delighted that we are working so closely with CEV again. On 7th December 2021, we will be holding two EYV+10 and BEV 2030 events, in Brussels.
The morning session, a Technical Seminar on BEV 2030, 10:00-12:00, held at Mundo Madou (Avenue des Arts 7/8, 1000 Brussels), will be dedicated to finding out exactly what has improved in terms of creating a more enabling environment for volunteering in Europe 10 years on from EYV 2011; and the evening session, 18:00-21:00, at Atelier 29 (Rue Jacques de Lalaing 29, 1000 Brussels), will be an EYV+10 Networking Roundtable, and I am delighted that the Portuguese Minister for Solidarity, Labour and Social Security, Ana Mendes Godinho – a close friend and ally of Volonteurope – will be attending and closing the event with a reflection-focused address. If any of you want to attend, please contact me directly on email@example.com for details.
Thus, we still have a packed agenda over the next couple of weeks, but then, we will pause and relax, and rest. And so, on behalf of Furkan, Hilmi and our Board, we wish you all absolutely the same: good rest, peace and time to celebrate the festive season with your loved ones.
Take care, keep well, safe and healthy, and happy holidays,
Piotr Sadowski, Secretary General of Volonteurope