A few days after the International Volunteer Day we are posting the EVS story of Vicky, who recently was our volunteer and project coordinator. She is currently EVS volunteer in SCI International Secretariat in Antwerp, Belgium. We re-publish her story for her first month there, which can only keep us warm and inspire for more happy volunteer stories and experiences. We are looking forward to her next ‘beer’ stories in her blog https://beersforpeace.wordpress.com/, where you can read the original article.

“December is a universe …”, a friend once wrote. Today, the first of December it exactly one month since I jumped into my EVS experience and  my life in Antwerp, Belgium, started. Cup of hot coffee, Beirut from neighboring computer and enough pent inspiration are a good opportunity to write a story. Or just to describe  what happened to me last month.

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It all started exactly a year ago when I decided that either I will study my dream master’s degree in Germany or I will find an inspiring EVS project to digest the coming year. I quickly gave up from my master (thanks to a number of reasons and circumstances), and the perfect EVS project came to me by chance in April. It was the second one for which I applied and was rather an exception, as I was involved in the activities of the organization along CVS-Bulgaria.

While volunteering with CVS and coordinating several projects last year, I had the opportunity to become part of the Bulgarian family of SCI and to fall inlove with the every single thing I did with the girls there. This is only a small part of the reason to be an EVS volunteer nowhere else, but in the International Secretariat of SCI. A great chance to improve myself in a different meanings. To learn and to create.

For those who don’t know SCI (SCI International) is an international network of organizations whose primary mission is to promote a culture of peace by organizing international voluntary initiatives and projects. CVS-Bulgaria is the Bulgarian branch and practically my project is like continuation of my work in CVS. The challenge here is that the projects are of international level, with a lot more work, communication and coordination. The Secretariat is that core that moves larger projects, supports partner organizations, dealing with finances, promotion of the network itself online and offline, attend meetings and support each working group within the SCI. What my job is, is one of the most common questions that encounter with regard to my project. The two main things that I do are communication and support of the Create a Climate for Peace Campaign, along which will participate in various meetings and seminars related to the campaign. The challenge for me as not-very-eco-oriented person who did it is curious to learn more and more and to make more conscious and informative choices in my life. At least when it comes to protecting the environment and our nature, yes. The second thing I do is again (surprise) communication and coordination of projects within the working group SAVA, which in turn is regionally oriented and deals with the involvement of young people from the Balkans. In general, all good things… and people (especially people). Besides all communication and coordination, and I have my own projects, I am enthusiastic and motivated to accomplish with the support of SCI. I will tell you more about them later.

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I already mentioned that I live in Antverpen – the last place that I thought I would live. A country which I had not even smelled. Few things that I knew were related mainly to Brussels – beer and chocolate, which I do not disregard, but believe me – Belgium is much more than its beers (for which I will write a separate post, fact!)

Antwerp is like a fairy tale decor. I’ve read and seen many things about the city before I arrived, but nothing is what your eyes see it live. Central Station is the most enchanting station I’ve ever seen. I can spend a lot of time just staring at her details. We live in the center in a romantic old house with creaky stairs and shacking floor under the streetcar. Our house is belonging to Oxfam Fondation. Entering the entrance you will meet shelf with old books and a few boxes of the same. The entrance passes the Oxfam bookshop, where so nice that no one is surprised when realize that there are working only volunteers (mainly elderly). Who would not want to spend their free time between books? Three floors up and 55 stairs are the exact distance to my attic room. Now I understand why Carlson lives on the roof. For a company of the opposite building protect us Spiderman mural. I feel absolutely at the right place. Going to work with bikes where you often “wake up” with the smell of chocolate as we have the privilege to work to the chocolate factory. Right, Charlie and the chocolate factory are a few steps away, and one of the first things you learn is where to go and ask for your boxes with free chocolate. Just saying “Hello, we are from the SCI office and looking for a chocolate” and suddenly the magic happens. I decided that every Monday will begin with chocolate of “laboratory”. In spite of all that hate-Mondays-attitude, mine Mondays will be always sweet and happy. Another reason to be a happy volunteer. And for you to be my guests. ;)

My bike – I have already mentioned it. I might not have a pet or dog or a cat, but the bike is definitely my most faithful friend (after Marta, my roommate). I got used to it quicker than I imagined and now I can’t live without my bike. There are trams, but never used them since I ride a bike. Those who know me, know how much I love trams…once I even wanted to make a documentary in the tram with all the specific and colorfull peope…
So, imagine my bike love. Fearless I drive slowly and very quickly. Sometimes I fall, but not fatal. Love at first sight.

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Precisely on bike and with short distances I start to get to know more and more the beauties of Antwerp. I already had its first moment that I wanted to get in a jar, to take it home, and to open it when I’m bored or just need something inspiring for my soul. It was the last week on Thursday, when we were in Ecokot – eco-oriented organization that deals with different things. They have nice colorful garden and from time to time organize some events. Every thursday at 19:00 they cook from the garden in order to raise funds for the organization. They have their own homemade organic beer, which is not bad at all, there is a bike doctor – that’s right! He can fix your bike for free. Ecokot is also a friendly bar with a lot of books, carpets on the ground, zen atmosphere, it is like you are in someone’s huge cozy living room with a small “stage” where musician could play whatever they want. The same evening a musician had played guitar, then others join him, they played djembe drums, trumpet and even (!!!) tambourine. One lady sang Nora Jones, Manu Chao… like is the only thing that you would listen before going to sleep.

Everything was so informal and unpretentious, and I was filled with emotion and farytail-ness. I think that was the moment when I felt the spirit of Antwerp. They said it’s “the country’s capital of cool” and they are not wrong. There are enough cafes and bars that you can go to a different one every day (as Ela said once before I arrive). The rover, MAS museum where you can see all the city lights from the top of it, street musicians, many galleries, fries and waffles on every corner, cycle paths, turkish area, chinese area, maroccan area, jewish area where you feel like in a movie. All the things that one newcomer needs to get used quickly with the life here. Antwerp is definitly a living city.

I have many ideas that I hope to realize during the coming months. Challenge myself with little things that so far I haven’t experienced or seen. Small challenges as spices. And, yes, I am lucky to live with Marta from Catalonia, with who we get along so well as we always knew each other before. She is one of the most sincere people here. We share food, beer, gossip, sometimes room when we have guests. She cooks tortillas, and I cook tarator. She makes risotto and I mishmash. Food connects, but to have someone with whom to share it is even better.

A month, and it is like much more. I will not stop repeating that to be an EVS volunteer is one of the best things that can happen to you. This blog is just to show (you) and tell all the stories all around. And maybe to inspire you.

 Posted by Victoria at 15:14 EVS news, Volunteer activities

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