EVS: European Voluntary Service 

Back in March 2018, we met EVS Volunteer Lisa Daniele who took part in the Get Creative Festival and the Createathon at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. 

Lisa told us all about being an EVS volunteer, working with local arts organisation The Crescent based in Belfast and how surprised she was that it was not widely known in her experience in Northern Ireland. 

Since then, we’ve caught up with Lisa to talk all things EVS, what it is and what you need to know.

“The trickiest challenge I meet every day when I introduce myself to somebody in Northern Ireland is not — as you may think — to pronounce my name both in an understandable way and trying to mask my Italian accent at the same time, but to explain what I mean when I say that I am an EVS volunteer.

It’s incredible how such few people know about EVS, given the amazing opportunity it provides for young people to embark on a travel of self-discovery, solidarity, open-mindedness, and — yes, well, fun.”

What is EVS?

EVS stands for European Voluntary Service. 

Who is EVS for? 

It’s a project allowing 18- to- 24 year olds to volunteer in another country of the European Union (and a few countries outside of the EU). 

It is open to people legally resident in or having the nationality of one of the European Union Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

What does EVS Volunteering entail?

EVS gives young people the chance to visit and live in another country for a time ranging from a couple of months to one year. They can get actively involved in society through full-time volunteering without having to worry about living expenses.

This allows volunteers to get in touch with local people, to travel a bit and see new places, to meet other volunteers (and compare favourite stereotypes!) to add a new experience on their CV and to become a more aware and tolerant citizen of the European Union.

The EU is aiming to foster the interaction both among volunteers coming from different countries, and between volunteers and vulnerable people or minorities, in order to build a more pluralistic and inclusive society.

What costs are involved with EVS?

The European Union covers every major expense: return travel to and from the project country, accommodation, bills and medical insurance. It also provides a small amount of spending money to cover day-to-day living expenses.

European Voluntary Service is a part of the EU Youth in Action programme (managed by the European Commission). The Youth in Action Programme is an instrument of support and funding for projects that promote non-formal education, intercultural learning, solidarity and international mobility of young people.

How do you apply to become an EVS volunteer?

To take part in an EVS project, there are a few different things you can do.  

The first thing is to check out the official information on EVS and have a look at the EVS Database of Opportunities (which constantly changes as new opportunities are added, so keep checking back).  

As well as this, you should register to the European Solidarity Corps website website. This way, you will become part of the database searched by organisations that are looking for new volunteers, and at the same time you would be able to proactively search for interesting vacancies.  There are also some unofficial Facebook pages which are pretty active and can be a good way of finding projects which are searching for volunteers.

Should you find a project that appeals you, usually you would have to send your CV and a Motivation Letter to the “hosting organisation” managing the volunteer placement. Were you chosen for the voluntary project, you would also be requested to provide some more papers, such as recommendation letters and a certificate of good conduct.

You will need to have a “sending organisation” in your home country and ideally one which is close to you (have a look at this database): they’ll do lots of background administration and help you through the application path to provide you with support and advice on how to make the most of your experience abroad.

What happens when you get to another country through the EVS programme?

Once you get to the new country,  the hosting organisation will organise an induction and training to explain you some cultural aspects of the new country and to help you bond with other volunteers, so that you can start creating a network of new friends straight from day one. 

The hosting organisation will also help you with any necessary paperwork or administration and they will give you all sorts of advice, from the best optician in town to the best chocolate shop. So tell your mom she doesn’t need to worry!

Can a volunteer leave the EVS programme anytime?

If your project is not working out or if your circumstances change, it is possible to stop your project and leave the programme, although volunteers should strive to be committed to the project from the beginning.

It’s not often that a volunteer decides to leave the project, however If you are struggling with homesickness, with the tasks you’ve been given to do, or something else, the hosting organisation will work with you to try to help you through it.  

Why should you get involved in EVS? 

- To meet new people from around the world and plunge into a different culture.

- To receive informal (and sometimes formal) training during your volunteering placement.

- To share your experience with the organisation that will be hosting you, and bring back some new knowledge to your own country.

- To encourage communication between different countries, helping overcome stereotypes and misconceptions.

- To help people and improve society.

- To become and feel like a better person: helping people can really make you feel great and teach you a lot, and not only about things that can go on a CV.

Get in touch with Lisa and other EVS Volunteers:

“We EVS people are really a great bunch of people (modestly speaking), so if you are still not ready to spend some time abroad but you would like to get in touch with somebody from another country to find out more, contact the volunteer-led facebook page YES to EVS to get some advice on flying abroad or look for the organisation that is closest to you on the EVS accredited organisations database for some professional advice.”