In May 2017, Comhlamh’s CSV Charlotte went to Slovenia on exchange trip where she visited Zavod Voluntarait (ZV) as part of the VolinHA project.
This CSV exchange trip was organised as part of the Volunteering in Humanitarian Aid project in the EU Aid Volunteers Initiative (EUAVI).
In short, this visit was nothing short of amazing. It gave me many opportunities, offering rich insights into ZV’s work both in a national and international capacity, whilst giving an opportunity to meet the dedicated and hardworking staff and volunteers of Zavod. It really gave me a taster of all the various projects Voluntariat are involved in.
Often I ask myself after returning from a work trip like this, “Now Charlotte can you pick out one experience/moment above the others?” On reflection though, I have found it pleasantly challenging to pick one experience/moment over another and call it my favourite, as there were just so many highlights to choose from.
Saying that, I have to say our little outing to one of Zavod’s SCI work camps in a rural farm just outside Ljubljana gave me the full experience, marrying both the excellent volunteer management of Zavod, whilst also sampling the beautiful nature and community of rural Ljubljana (surprisingly just minutes away from thriving city centre).
Even the name of the farm was welcoming – Fairytale Paradise. On arrival, we warmly greeted by a big smiling face of one of the SCI volunteers, along with the sound of the farm’s pet Turkey Ingrid (who had embodied all the mannerisms of the pet dogs on the farm). As first impressions go, I could immediately see how engaged the volunteers were in the project, getting their hands dirty, clearing bristles away from a side passage in preparation for a small summer concert they would host on the farm later on in the summer. This was followed by an invite from the host family to join them and the volunteers for their daily delicious vegan lunch.
Approximately 10 international volunteers were volunteering at FairyTale Paradise, supporting and building projects, for example; contributing to the first Slovenian plastic garden and contributing to the daily tasks involved in the running of the farm.
After lunch, one of ZV’s EVS volunteers did a brief evaluation of the work camp with the volunteers, assessing and covering all aspects of their well-being. Also checking in with the host family, assessing how they were managing their first group of SCI volunteers.
This session emphasised the importance of the EVS role in ZV and how they are encouraged to engage with every aspect of Zavod’s work, whilst seeing first-hand how dedicated ZV are in managing their SCI volunteer’s wellbeing.
The next day was Slovenia’s Happy Volunteering Day. As part of the day, many stands were dotted around Ljubljana square, displaying different volunteer organisations projects and activity at local, national and international level.
The day was brightened even more with the wonderful sunny weather, shaping the perfect setting to engage in rich conversations with the Slovenian public about the EUAVI. These conversations came at the perfect time as we could also share ZV’s recent success of receiving certification under the EUAVI, which means they have the possibility in the future to start sending/deploying EUAVI volunteers. Furthermore, this day, gave me the opportunity to meet other Slovenian NGO’s who are engaged in local community volunteer led projects. Overall, this mini dissemination event gave me an interesting insight into the culture and landscape of volunteering in the Slovenian context.
Undoubtedly, this exchange trip has broadened my understanding of effective volunteer management, whilst also awarding me some fantastic opportunities to see how other small NGOs in Slovenia work and of course meeting some wonderful people involved in the sector in Slovenia. I would like to thank everyone who made this trip so memorable. A special thanks to the EU Aid Volunteers Initiative for making this link between Comhlámh and Zavod Voluntariat. Watch this space to see how Maja’s exchange trip to Comhlámh went!