Another week, another trip abroad for Volonteurope! Last week Piotr, Oonagh, Louise and I travelled to Bucharest for our Board Meeting, and two events. As you will have seen on our social media channels and the website, on Tuesday 4 July we held our Social Inclusion Seminar, and on the Wednesday following was the EU Aid Volunteers Info Day – both events held in collaboration with our Romanian members Imago Mundi and Chance for Life, with the EU Aid Volunteers Info Day organised in collaboration with our consortium partners Alianza por la Solidaridad, GVC Onlus and Hungarian Baptist Aid.
But first, it was our Board Meeting – the first with the new board members elected at our last annual conference in Nantes. It was great to meet with everyone and hear all of their ideas for Volonteurope, including project proposals, ideas for collaborations as well as discussions around our future thematic direction. Additionally, having all the board members in Bucharest meant that they were also able to attend the events over the following days.
On to the first event, held the day after on Tuesday 4 July. The Social Inclusion seminars addressed a number of themes currently pertinent to both the continuation of the European Union, and to its member states. Gathered at the European Commission Representation in Romania were organisations from all over Bucharest and wider Romania, and the day’s events covered three interlinked topics: challenging Euroscepticism and fostering informed debate; solidarity in times of crisis; combatting stigmatisation of “migrants” and building counter narratives to foster intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding and debate on the future of Europe. Our Romanian members Imago Mundi and Chance for Life gave the morning workshops, highlighting the work they do and how this work spoke to the wider themes of the day. These morning workshops were inclusive and lively – giving us all a chance to move around a bit and wake up – and meant that everyone got talking to each other about their personal feelings about Europe, about being and feeling European. We had a real mix of European nationalities, and it was fantastic to hear different opinions on the Union and what being European has meant to people, and to also learn about the work that Imago Mundi and Chance for Life do on a variety of issues.
The afternoon presentation was facilitated by Dana Gavril of AIDRom, and was a fantastically informative seminar on the work they have been doing to help refugees and asylum seekers in Romania. They have a number of projects providing aid and assistance to refugees who have recently arrived in Romania, as well as essential services such as social support, legal advice and help and projects that help refugees integrate. We closed the day’s sessions with a panel consisting of Maria Petkova, Director of Bulgaria’s Tulip Foundation, Yvonne Wilson, Director of British organisation Equi-Vision, and Codru Vrabie an activist, trainer and consultant in the fields of good governance, public administration and justice reforms, anti-corruption and public integrity. The panel wrapped up the day’s discussions, and brought their own experiences and opinions to bear on the issues raised throughout the day.
Wednesday brought the final event: the EU Aid Volunteers Info Day. Romania has become a Focal Point in the EU Aid Volunteers Technical Assistance project and so the Info Day was an opportunity to gather together organisations interested in becoming certified sending organisations as part of the programme. We were fortunate to be joined by Caterine Ebah-Moussa, from DG ECHO, who has been involved in the project since its conception. She was able to give a fantastic overview of the initiative, covering opportunities both for organisations and their volunteers, which illuminated the sometimes confusing processes involved. Furthermore, through the wonders of modern technology we were able to hear testimony from Lucas Rey – who is currently in Jordan as part of the EU Aid Volunteers programme – about his experiences applying and volunteering through EU Aid Volunteers. And, we also heard from George Apostu – a Romanian volunteer who was part of the pilot project, which took place two years ago. He went to Barbados as a 19 year old volunteer, and he told the assembled audience about the subsequent impact the experience had on his life. The testimonies from both volunteers were incredibly engaging, and prompted many questions from the audience. In fact, there was an abundance of questions on every front, and about every aspect of the programme – meaning it was even more valuable having Caterine with us.
To close, as part of the consortium team, Kasia Tusiewicz, Sara Alves and I went through the requirements for gaining certification as a sending organisation, including tips and the tools and resources available for interested organisations. We also heard from Constantin Dedu from Imago Mundi, on the experience of receiving technical assistance through the consortium. There was a massive amount of information transmitted over the day; but many of the resources we used are accessible on Volonteurope’s dedicated EU Aid Volunteers web page. We also unveiled the first copies of the extensive guidelines that have been produced as part of the Technical Assistance project in Romania. These will be available on the resources area of the EU Aid Volunteers page on the website very soon – and will be available in French, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian and Romanian. And if you’re a Malta-based organisation interested in learning more about the EU Aid Volunteers project, then attend the Malta Info Day – more info available here.
Rosalind Duignan-Pearson, Volonteurope Communications and Network Development Coordinator