[:en]For our EU Aid Volunteers update for this month, we get to hear from Volonteurope President, Oonagh Aitken on her visit to Bucharest, and from Rosalind Duignan-Pearson about her visit to Hungary.


First, Oonagh Aitken talks about visiting Chance for Life and Imago Mundi in Bucharest:


“I was lucky enough to accompany Piotr Sadowski (Head of European Affairs at Volunteering Matters and Secretary General of Volonteurope) and Kasia Tusiewicz from Alianza por la Solidaridad, to Bucharest for 3 days of technical assistance on our EU Aid Volunteers Programme.  As President of Volonteurope and Chief Executive of Volunteering Matters, I have decided to take a personal interest in the programme because I believe that as an organisation, we have a lot to offer but we also can learn from other organisations in terms of sending volunteers outside of the EU.


Piotr Sadowski and Oonagh Aitken of Volonteurope with Costin Dedu of Imago Mundi and Iulia Paraschivescu of Chance For Life

Piotr and Kasia had already been working with our Romanian partner and network member Chance for Life for 2 days before I arrived and they were very well organised and ready to discuss how they might support volunteers and meet the challenges of being a sending organisation.  My first day was spent with both Chance for Life and Imago Mundi, a second Romanian NGO and Volonteurope member. Both organisations are used to working with volunteers but are quite small organisations and need to develop capacity in terms of volunteer management and preparation.


It was also fabulous to be able to make a short visit to one of Chance for Life’s projects in Bucharest; they are supporting adults with learning disabilities and giving them a place to meet and engage in art and craft activities.  The staff do a great job under quite difficult circumstances.  They have very limited resources and accommodation for their project.


The last two days of the week were spent working with Imago Mundi and working through some of the documentation with them and discussing at length the kinds of standards of volunteering recruitment, assessment, training and support that the EU Aid Volunteers programme requires.  We talked through at length how Imago Mundi would respond as well as looking at the programme more generally and how volunteer opportunities are posted and what might be required of volunteers on placement.


Piotr and myself are making a visit to Colombia and Costa Rica at the end of May.  We will be visiting our Volunteering Matters partners in both countries.  We have a long history of receiving full time volunteers from these countries and we want to cement and expand our contact.  However, we will also be talking about the EU Aid Volunteers programme with these partners and other NGOs in the region to introduce them to the programme.  Our partner in EU Aid Volunteers, Alianza por la Solidaridad, will be joining us on that visit.”


And finally, Rosalind Duignan-Pearson on her visit to Területfejlesztők a Vidékért Egyesület in Pécs:


“Between 18 and 20 April, myself, Kasia Tusiewicz and Zsuzsanna Backzó visited the Hungarian town of Pécs to give a Technical Assistance workshop to Volonteurope member, Területfejlesztők a Vidékért Egyesület. Both Kasia and I arrived in Budapest the night before leaving for Pécs, and dressed for a couple of lovely sunny days in what we were told was a Mediterranean climate. Unfortunately, we woke on Wednesday to a fairly intense snowstorm that accompanied us for the entire 230km drive from Budapest to Pécs. While the inclement weather prevented us from being able to properly admire Pécs’ lovely architecture, it didn’t stop us from getting through our Technical Assistance agenda!


We arrived in Pécs at Wednesday lunchtime, and sat down with Viktória Tóth and Kitti Gerner from Területfejlesztők a Vidékért Egyesület to get started on the Technical Assistance. From our first discussions with Viktória and Kitti, It became very clear that Területfejlesztők a Vidékért Egyesület have a wealth of experience with volunteering – they have coordinated volunteering placements in Pécs since 2000, and have sent volunteers to Tanzania and New Caledonia. They had some really fantastic stories to tell about their work and varied volunteering experiences, and for me especially, it was great to get to know more about their organisation. The Thursday we fully devoted to Technical Assistance, starting early and working methodically through the organisation self-assessment.


Luckily for us, Viktória and Kitti had prepared very well for the visit, and already had print outs of many of the documents that we needed to examine during the course of the Technical Assistance. It was also great to see that some in the areas in which they evaluated themselves as lacking appropriate documentation, Kitti had already taken steps to a research and prepare the policy that they would need in order to achieve accreditation. In all, Viktória and Kitti gave a very accurate evaluation of their organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, and through the process of the Technical Assistance visit, they were able to make a clear plan for fulfilling the accreditation requirements. Echoing some of our previous visits, in the case of some of the requirements, they already have the material – it just needs rearranging and collecting together.


We finished the session by discussing how best Területfejlesztők a Vidékért Egyesület can move forward with the project – in terms of their development plan and addressing the different aspects of the certification process. We received great feedback throughout from Viktória and Kitti, and in doing the preparation for the visit they already achieved some small-scale capacity building, which is very encouraging and fulfils one of the goals of the Technical Assistance project as a whole. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Zsuzsanna, Viktória and Kitti, Kasia and I still failed to master the pronunciation of Területfejlesztők a Vidékért Egyesület, but we’re both very determined to achieve this in the future!”


In the upcoming days, continue to visit the website because we will have more updates from other visits in April and May – including to Croatian Baptist Aid and SOS Malta!