Anouk Bayle, EVS
My name is Anouk, I am a 25-year-old from France and I am doing a European Voluntary Service with both VAP and the Othona Community. I arrived in the beginning of May and will stay until the end of April, so I’ll be a volunteer in England for a year.
Being part of the EVS programme is very different from being a short-term volunteer. First of all, you can choose to do an EVS between one and 12 months. You have an official status with the European Union. The European Commission will give a grant for your travels to your welcoming country and back to your home country. You also have 2 days-off a week and 2 days of holidays per month, i.e. I will spend 12 months in England so I have 24 days of holidays, which will allow me to visit the UK. You also receive an allowance every month, which is basically pocket money, but you don’t pay for the rent nor the food.
I am not the only volunteer here. We are 3 in total, which is nice because where we live can feel lonely so it is always good to have other people to talk to. Also, some community members will also volunteer for different events, which is always nice!
I decided to do a voluntary service for several reasons, but the main one was to acquire work experience. Indeed as a young graduate, it is hard to find a job without work experience. The other reason was that I wanted to have a job that holds meaning for me, where I could feel useful and work for a good cause. That's why I landed here at Othona and I do not regret my decision to come here at all!
The Othona Community is located in Essex, at Bradwell-on-Sea and it is very remote. There is nothing around us except for the sea and fields. This location is great because you can really reflect and have a peaceful time but it can also be difficult to handle because you need to be able to cope with the feeling of being away from everything. But when it becomes too much, I go to London to see the city life again!
As I said, I am a volunteer both for VAP and the Othona Community. My main job at the Othona Community is the administrative work, which means using the booking and accounting softwares, paying the bills, answering the phone and the emails… I also help in the kitchen and with the cleaning-up of the place. There is also an idea of stock management in my work because you have to make sure that we have enough food and cleaning products.
My work with VAP is to be a workcamp coordinator. I already coordinated 4 workcamps, one at High Wycombe and 3 at Othona. The role of a coordinator is to make sure that everything runs smoothly and efficiently, that all the volunteers get along and that there is no clan between them. The first day of the workcamp, we all played games to know each other better. One of the games I like the most is when volunteers formed a circle, they closed their eyes and have to imitate the noise of an animal and they have to find their partner. It is very funny because the animals don’t make the same sound in English, French, Spanish, etc.
As a coordinator, you are the first to be awake and the last to go to bed! At High Wycombe, we mainly worked outside for gardening, clearing paths, cutting hollies, painting a wall... As a coordinator, I obviously had to work with the other volunteers but I also had to make sure that everybody worked, that we always had 2 persons to prepare all our meals and 3 persons to do the washing up. I also had to prepare a budget for the grocery shopping. I was there when one of the volunteers had a problem. For example, one volunteer got a splinter in her eye, so I had to organize her transport to the nearest doctor. I also had to make sure that everyone was feeling like a part of the group, that nobody was feeling excluded or isolated or alone during these two weeks. To do that, I mixed everyone. For every different task, there would be a different team so they would learn to know each other better.
During those 2 weeks at High Wycombe, I also had to be the link between the volunteers and the manager of the music camp because there was some tension between them. However, it was just a matter of communication and after we talked together everything was resolved.
All in all I loved being a coordinator and can’t wait to do it again! I also enjoy my work at Othona very much, first because I love doing administrative work and second because staying at Othona is an opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people and have long talks with them about everything and anything.
Article originally uploaded by: Sandra Hodgson-Brown