My EVS story

Thinking about a short description for my previous year in Germany, looking back at my journey that started due to APY and continued in LandKunstLeben e.V., I often come to this title – EVS ruined my life.  Most of the time, people get confused, was it that bad? The answer is in my short story.

My story is not about crazy travelling through Europe (visiting more than 15 cities, 6 countries), making amazing, lifelong friends, nor it is about foreign languages that I learnt from basics or improved or got the interest to start learning nor it is about new cultures, new skills, new experiences that I gained, participating in the coolest workshops, competitions, trainings, getting better in my hobbies ( cooking, baking, SMM and many more).  My gratitude to EVS project is not even for the opportunity to experience for the first time in my life things like ecological gardening, planting, working in an office, even biking, eating Bretzel, meeting Finnish people and breaking the stereotype, that they are not funny ( they can really be) and many other things.

My story and my gratitude is not about all this wonderful, life-changing experiences, it is all about getting lost in the stations, breaking my leg ( while learning to bike), facing hardships, it is about destroying ideas and beliefs that I never questioned, destroying dreams that were fake to be brave enough to realize the real ones, my gratitude is about finding myself,  learning to learn, it is about ruining the life that once was full of fears, stereotypes, complexes to fill it with self-understanding, love, respect, friendship, honesty, strength, ability to fail, empathy, support, solidarity and happiness…

Was it that good, you might ask…

No, of course not. ( Because of constant happiness and delicious food, there is a high possibility of gaining weight).

My EVS story

I am Ani from Yerevan, Armenia and I did EVS/ESC in the heart of Vienna, Austria. Yes, I was a lucky person.

I applied for the EVS because I wanted to change my life for better, making it more interesting and diverse, to become more independent, do career and make new friends from all over the world. Now, when my ten months of EVS are over, I can say that I have accomplished that mission.

It has only been ten months but I learned and accomplished a lot of things during that period: I learned a totally new language from basics, German, I met new awesome people from different countries and with different background and became good friends with them, I was exposed to the culture of the country that hosted me, and the more I learned about that country and its people, the more I loved them. I miss Austria sometimes, as it became my second homeland or a country that I am quite familiar with and if being dropped there one day again I will not be lost there, for sure.I worked on my language skills, developed my social skills and career.  And I definitely became more independent. I was a volunteer at Kindergruppe Butterbrot. I was working with 2-6 years old kids. My work at the kindergruppe was very beneficial for me as it gave me an opportunity to grow, I gave as much as I could and I learned new methods of working with kids from my co-workers and I hope I can apply that knowledge one day here, in my country. And what is most important- I once again realized that I love kids and will be working with them in the future. And I really miss my kids there.

I had to work there for five days per week, for six hours a day. My tasks would include taking care of kids, reading books to them, playing different games with them, preparing food, putting the plates in the dishwashing machine, sometimes telling kids interesting things, doing crafts with them. My kindergruppe would also organize some excursions to museums, theaters, celebrations of some kind of festivals together so I would join the kids during the excursions as well and enjoy the theatre performances with them.

While being abroad, traveling becomes easier and one of my tips for the next volunteers is to travel as much as possible. I managed to visit two new countries while volunteering, but I know that I could allocate more time for traveling. It broadens one’s mind, and I had a feeling that I was a small piece of a whole; it gave me a feeling of integrity.

Volunteering is a responsibility, but at the same time it is fun. Now, already back to my country, I feel that I have left a piece from my heart in Austria which was just another European country for me before I did my EVS there. I wish it was possible to do another EVS/ESC again:) Of course, I don’t want to say that everything was smooth, without any problems. I have encountered some challenges but I was able to overcome them because I never felt lonely there, I was always surrounded with kind people, people from my hosting, receiving, sending organizations and NA, who were always next to me, ready to support. I would like to express my special gratitude to all these organizations and people involved in them who made my life so beautiful during these ten long months.

Although being in a pre-designed project which is supposed to go smoothly, it is a part of real life, where you have certain roles and you have to make decisions for yourself, perhaps for the first time in your life. And that is challenging and at the same time so wonderful.

I want other volunteers to put their doubts aside and apply for EVS without fears, being open to changes. You can do that! Don’t be afraid to do EVS, EVS is for everybody, EVS is for you!


Managing Diversity towards More Inclusive Societies

Have you ever had that feeling when you are in a crowd of like-mined people who have similar lifestyle and background? It‘s cool to be understood from half a word and easily fit in, isn‘t it? Many of young people have never felt that way.
Our education system, our family, the media and politics have developed certain patterns of our behaviour: fear of uncertainty, being judgemental, rejecting unknown and excluding differences. These are patterns that are often strongly connected to our societal habits and, therefore, can be changed. That‘s why the project “Managing Diversity” was born.
“Managing Diversity” project was born out of a concern that many young people in Europe have lack of opportunities and spaces to get involved and to express themselves. Being different from mainstream societies, many are being excluded and marginalized.
This is why 13 non-profit organizations have developed “Managing Diversity” – a long term project working with youth workers, youth trainers and educators, trying to develop their diversity management skills and support them in learning how to implement a culture of diversity in their working environments.
The project targeted specifically those youth workers and educators who are eager to professionally work against structural discrimination and under-representation of marginalized groups. 26 youth workers from 13 countries joined this multi-layer project in August 2017. The group has undergone a series of trainings and capacity building workshops in the Netherlands which were followed by implementation of small local projects back in home countries of the participants.
For about 2 month between August and October, participants have developed and executed 19 local projects reaching about 500 young people in 13 countries ranging from East to West of Europe. The local projects have worked and empowered young refugees, LGBTQI people, Roma youth, youth with disabilities and many other vulnerable and marginalized youth.
Through different types of projects our participants have worked on very sensitive topics. The activities ranged from an improvisational theatre involving Roma youth in Romania and Human Library in Macedonia to career orientation courses for youth with disabilities in Armenia; from a surfing workshop for people with disabilities and a multicultural football tournament in Portugal to a Forum Theatre with refugees in Germany. Many of the projects have targeted the most vulnerable youth, such as a movie projects promoting LGBTQI rights in Moldova or speaking up about domestic violence against women in Armenia.
All the projects were exceptional having in mind that they were implemented with 0 funding, purely organized through the resources of participants, networks of partner organizations and in kind contribution and support provided by local stakeholders in each respective country. The projects took place in home countries of the participants: Armenia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Romania. All the projects were implemented through diversity glasses and tackled issues of minority groups living in participating countries.
Following the successful implementation of small projects, the project results were evaluated and presented to public in Yerevan, Armenia in October, 2017. The public event was attended by young people, representatives of NGO’s and international organizations, media and partners.

According to the Project Coordinator Ms. Nelly Paytyan, “Managing Diversity” was a good tool against widespread stereotypes in our societies. She thinks that “promoting diversity matters and will matter until young people in our societies face discrimination, ignorance and life burdens based on their nationality, ethnic, cultural and religious background, social status, as well as their gender identity and sexual orientation”.

“Managing Diversity” was organized by Armenian Progressive Youth NGO (Armenia) and Jongeren voor Uitwisseling en Begrip (The Netherlands). The project was granted by the Dutch National Agency under the Erasmus Programme of the European Union.

Managing Diversity: 500 young people reached through 19 local projects

After several months of hard work, series of trainings and local ground work, we have concluded our “Managing Diversity” project – a long term training course working with youth workers, youth trainers and educators. “Managing Diversity” involved 26 youth workers and educators from 13 different countries to develop their diversity management skills and support in learning how to implement a culture of diversity in their working environments.
Following the Introductory Training in the Netherlands this August, participants have implemented 19 community projects back to their countries during September and, finally, traveled to Armenia in the end of October to present the impact of their projects and their learning achievements.
Following the successful implementation of small projects, the project results were evaluated and presented to public during a Closing Event. The public event was attended by young people, representatives of NGO’s and international organizations, media and partners.
Nelly Paytyan, the Project Coordinator from Armenian Progressive Youth NGO believes that “Managing Diversity” is a good tool to counter widespread stereotypes in our societies: “Promoting diversity matters and will matter until young people in our societies face discrimination, ignorance and life burdens based on their nationality, ethnic, cultural and religious background, social status, as well as their gender identity and sexual orientation. I believe, everyone who joined this project agrees that embracing diversity, inclusiveness, sensitivity, equity and solidarity in our daily lives and work with young people matter nowadays more than ever”.
Karine Grigoryan, a trainee from Armenia, took part in all three activities of the project. Following the training in the Netherlands, she organized professional orientation activity for young people with disabilities. Karine says: “My desire of implementing this activity was based on my belief, that no matter the type of the disability, people can discover the satisfaction that often comes from realizing and using their strongest abilities and skills”.
Through her project Karine targeted young people with physical disabilities and learning difficulties. As she mentions, “the activity helped the participants to understand what kind of personality and qualifications they have, what they are good at, what they enjoy and what are the possible occupations they may have in the future”. Karines project helped the participants to improve their job searching and employability skills. In particular they learned how to write CV, learned about some job searching websites which they can occasionally browse and look for a job that fits their skills and abilities”.
Martijn Bergsma, the Project Coordinator from the Netherlands shared some information about how the partners and participants were chosen: “In the beginning we made an open call looking for partners who would be interested to join this project. After selecting the partners and approval of the project, we have also announced an open call for participants to make sure the project is inclusive and open for everyone involving those people who really need it”.

Fabio Di Benedetto, our participant from Italy have decided to work with young emigrants back to his hometown in Sicily. Fabio organized an Intercultural day that involved 8 local youngsters and 8 unaccompanied foreign minors. There are about 15.000 unaccompanied foreign minors in Italy, one third of them living in Sicily. They come mostly from African countries and due to very weak integration policies of the Italian government, they don’t have interactions with the local youngsters.
Fabio describes his experience with an excitement: “For the first time youngsters had a chance to talk to each other and get to know each other. They had various backgrounds but during the event they have found out that they are not so different”.

Another participant from Romania, Maria Carbunaru implemented an improvisational theatre in Romania involving Roma children. Maria says: “The Theater included Roma kids from poor families and orphanages. They spent a day by doing improvisational theater. In the end of the day they were happy and it made me feel good”.
Neel Klappe, one of the trainers from the Netherlands, thinks that it’s great that the project had concluded in Armenia. “It really makes project more powerful and impactful. I realized how you can do great things when you have a motivation. Through local projects we have realized what we can change and how many people we can reach. This makes me proud”, she says.
Rodrigo from Portugal says that the whole experience gained during the project can simply be put in one word – “memorable”. Rodrigo organized a small surfing event with children with disabilities. Currently, he is trying to design a bigger project. The idea is to have a training course on personal development and social inclusion of children with disabilities.
National minorities were not left out of attention as well. Carlos, from Portugal, has worked with representatives of different nationalities living in Portugal, organizing a joint football tournament. “I think I offer a space for the ethnic minorities to gain confidence and break some communication barriers helping them in their professional lives”, he says.
A journalist from Moldova, Tudor Arnaut joined Valentina Botnaru from Moldova to work on a documentary movie promoting the rights of LGBTQI people. The documentary focused on the lives of LGBTQI people in Moldova and has been screened for the first time during the Closing Event in Armenia.
Tudor says that during the preparation of the movie he got more information about LGBTQI people in Moldova and became more open-minded. “I had good feedback and now we want to continue with my partner, Valentina Botnaru, doing more beautiful documentaries. “Managing Diversity” was an eye-opening experience and now we are more self-confident to move forward with our ideas”, he says.

“Managing Diversity” was organized by Armenian Progressive Youth NGO (Armenia) and Jongeren voor Uitwisseling en Begrip (The Netherlands). The project was granted by the Dutch National Agency under the Erasmus Programme of the European Union.


By Nelli Petrosyan

International Human Library Event in Yerevan

Have you ever read 13 books within two hours? If you think that this is something impossible, then the evidence of that fact was nearly 150 readers, who participated in International Human Library Event in Yerevan, at Double Tree by Hilton Hotel.

On April 14, the Armenian Progressive Youth NGO and PINK Armenia organized The Human Library event. The event was aimed at challenging and breaking lots of existing stereotypes and prejudices through real “book-reader” conversations and to create a positive environment in Armenian society.

The concept of the event was that the participants of the event chose their favorite book number from the card catalog and were able to start the reading process with the relevant book in the allotted 30 minutes through a real face-to-face conversation. The most interesting thing was the fact that the books were people of different nationalities, religions, and creeds, and the readers were the 150 participants of the event.

The heroes of 13 interesting stories, as known as the human library books, were willing to answer all the questions asked by the event’s readers about their own life story.  “What is the most interesting principle in Buddhism? Why did the Turkish student decide to visit Armenia and how did people welcome him in our society? Would the young Indian like to live in Armenia? Are people aware of the real principles ​​of Islam and why is Islam considered to be one of the interesting religions? Have people become more tolerant towards homosexuality in our society or not?” these were some of those numerous and sometimes bizarre questions that were of interest to readers.

In the end of the event, many of the book-heroes stated that this was a unique opportunity to interact with new people, without selecting them, but being selected by them, and to share their experiences about their own lives.
“If I could, I would erase all the borders of the world, and only in that case the most important thing would become the real human values regardless of nationality, religion or other features; I am here to prove it,” said Ahmet Yavuzele, one of the human library books.

As response to the positive feedback and the enthusiasm, which followed the event, the organizers promised to have another similar event in the near future.