A volunteer experience (1st entry)

I’m from France and decided to do an EVS in June 2011. European Voluntary Service is a program for young people (between 18 and 30 years old) opened to all European citizens. So, after a few weeks of research, I obtained a “yes” from an association located in Porto: the Espaço T. It corresponded to all of my willing, as it was a sociocultural structure, opened to all people (people with disabilities, former drug-addicts ones, children, unemployed people,…).

I arrived on Tuesday, the 3rd of January, for an 11 months EVS. And so was starting the adventure.

The first challenge with this program is to arrive in a new country, in which you do not speak the language, and in which one you do not know anybody. As if you were beginning with a new life, erasing all you knew… Or well, maybe “erase” is not the right term. Because what you know, what you already had experimented until now will certainly help. So maybe it would be more exact to say that the EVS aim is to get stronger from all your previous experiences to through you away in a new life.

The Espaço T is an association situated in the center of Porto, just in front of the Crystal Palace Gardens (Jardins do Palacio de Cristal). It offers different kind of activities for all the people who want/need to express themselves in an artistic or corporal way. Indeed, the structure gives possibilities of expression to people who are usually not listened to in the daily life. So, they propose classes of: painting, theater, photography, corporal expression, tai-chi, journalism, music therapy,…

Each one of these classes is given by an Animator, at least once a week. And this fact gives an idea, for the Espaço T, of the importance of the regular links with its students. Indeed, creating this link is a way for the student to get familiarized with the institution, and so, to get more and more confident with it. Then, it will lead to a better implication, and to a possible evolution of the state of mind. Because, of what I saw and thought to understand, the Espaço T wants to have some repercussions on self-esteem, on self-confidence,…

The first workshop I had the possibility to assist is called “Writing and Feelings”, and is animated by the psychologist of the association. In this activity, the animator asks his student to write about one subject, and then they share together what they wrote, what they think/feel about it, about the original text,…

So, it is a way for the people to say what they really think and feel about a subject, or a text, without being judged. And with the fulfilling of hearing what the other students have to say. It is not a debate, which is by nature more conflicting because of its way of exchanging ideas. Indeed, during debates, there are people fighting for, or against, an idea, and so: people who are right, people who are wrong (in their way to think). But in this workshop, everybody was right, everybody was listened, because everybody was talking about what they felt.

In this sense, and from what I saw of the Espaço T, this workshop represents well the state of mind of the association, because of the importance it gave to what its students had to express.

Delphine Korwin