Alphabet-style of felling in love with volunteering and/in Ireland

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What association comes to your mind in connection with Ireland? Try! At least three! Guinness? OK, I take it. Irish whiskey? OK, another point for you. But also try something else! Music band U2? You are wonderful! If you want to remember more from voluntary service placement or assistantship – try my association method: “Country-alphabet".

A for assistantship (at KOWC):
Doing EVS in Romania was crucial twisted point in my carrier and future plans. At the time my arrival back home to Slovakia from Romania (after finishing my EVS-stay in 2009) nobody was interested in the meaning of voluntarism, nobody in my country/state institutions wanted to use or share my experiences in front of youth audience. I felt frustrated and I almost gave up my activism, voluntarism and belief in Youth in action program. But fortunately I didn’t! Somehow I believed in brighter future and other possibilities.
Two years later I became a trainer for Youth in Action projects at Slovak youth institute. And I wanted to go abroad as a volunteer again. But because I was already over 30 and I already did my EVS-stay I had to find out another possibility. The EU financing ‘Lifelong Learning’ programme (LLP: Grundtvig sub-programme) was the proper way. How was my assistantship in Ireland?

B for Bono (from U2):
If you ask anyone in Ireland and also elsewhere in Europe: "what is the best concert/live band of all time?"; probably you will get the answer: U2. And that is OK. U2 is one of the few groups that survived decades in the original lineup (four members plus manager). There is extra sexy leader who is (in addition to music) also involved in charity and human rights issues. Let’s wait for the time when Bono will receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

C for cooperation (at all levels):
I was working (or better said: volunteering) in interesting Irish organization Kerry One World Centre (KOWC) as Media and Development education Assistant (for four months, in period: October, 2012 – January, 2013). It wasn’t based in Dublin, but in small town, called Tralee in Kerry county. I appreciated cooperation, professionalism and the quality of provided services (for schools and educators with focus on global issues and development education). I was also surprised how inspiring people are everywhere in Ireland – on local or regional level (my colleagues at KOWC in Tralee), but also on national level (National youth council of Ireland, Dóchas, Léargas, Comhlámh, ECO-Unesco in Dublin).

D for donations (everywhere):
If you look at the statistical chart of countries arranged by the generousity of population (their willing to donate money for charity) – Ireland is sitting in the second position of the chart (the first one is the USA, incomparably larger country, of course). When I came to Tralee (the city of my assistantship in Ireland), on the very first day of my stay I met so many fundraisers and NGO activists in the streets – collecting money for various good activities and purposes. It surprised me a lot. But much more important and interesting was the honest interest of citizens – asking questions, talking to fundraisers, giving them money without pretending something or trying to cheat somehow.

E for education:
There is no doubt that the education is of the most important value. Especially in developing countries, where me and my colleagues are running our development projects. In my current studies (at Palacky university) and work (at Trnava university) I am everyday focused on non-formal way of education – anti-biased and human rights based approach (to explore together with my students and colleagues global issues and grass-roots of development issues). Two years ago I discovered non-violent and intercultural communication (based on peer education and learning for well-being approach), which can avoid the discrimination of certain people or groups of citizens in our society. I am mastering my emotions, challenging my audience and facing the stereotypes everyday. I learnt in Ireland that only with the respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights we can work on an achievement of MDGs, global justice and equality.

F for focus on global, local, glocal level:
It is very important to look at the same issue or problem from local and global perspective. Everyone can build his or her own definition of Peace, but it should be something like the status when people are not raising arms and not fighting among themselves. It is not easy to find this external state in period of internal/individual fighting with prejudices and stereotypes (based on religion, sexual orientation, race etc.). In very strong religious country like Ireland or Slovakia the mind-setting is changing a bit slower but let’s hope for better future for everyone: every single guy, gay, gal etc. in every single village.

G for Guinness beer:
The most famous exported product is undoubtedly Guiness beer – a bit expensive, but very tasty beer (in comparison with Slovak beers). If you are around the main train station in Dublin you should definitely go for a Guiness factory’s tour and take a half-liter of Guinness for lunch or at least taste original Baileys cheesecake. But please, don’t get stucked in Guiness-loop for your whole internship in Ireland!

H for home-sick mood:
You will never get bored in Ireland. But you can have sometimes this “home-sick” mood. Good music or movie will be the best cure for it! You can listen to the Irish bands Corrs or Cranberries with interesting and world-wide known female vocals. If you are looking for traditional Irish folk you will probably find it in every single pub in Ireland. The rumour says: “All Irish people are great singers!”

I for Irish whisky:
To be honest, I have never tried Irish whisky – for me it is too strong alcohol. Though I know it is very popular (like Guiness beer on all continents). Irish people are smiling, greeting you and sharing their experiences about travelling around the world. Their identity is very strong and visible – here and now! It is very important that they are proud of their country. To visit Ireland doesn’t mean to sit in a bar all day long and taste Guiness-beer or Irish whisky, but talk to local people and absorb their pride.

J for James Joyce:
When I visited the bookstore in Dublin I was amazed how Irish people value their writers (how ther are presenting them; where they are placing their books in bookstore space). Ten different editions of Joyce's book "Dubliners" in one shelf shocked me –they all looked visually and typographically well designed – it must be a pleasure to read!

K for KOWC activities:
One of the highlights of my assistantship in Tralee (at the office of Kerry one world centre) was 6-weeks long training, called “Exploring global issues”. I was included there as a teacher (development education trainer), but also as a student. Training consisted of theoretical background (in various topics: fair trade and international market, equality and gender issues, ethnicity and multiculturalism, official development assistance, climate change), but big contribution to my personal development was based on practical activities during workshops in smaller groups. We were sharing our experiences after each activity, we were giving and receiving fact-wise feedback immediately (from all participants of training: local citizens, foreigners, immigrants, asylum seekers, other Grundtvig or Leonardo assistants = very interesting group of interesting people).

L for lifelong program:
It is always very useful to read and analyse all the materials, official documents of European Commission – if you know: where to find them. In Ireland it is very easy – you will receive as many reminders and newsletter as you need about every single activity. In some countries (like Slovakia) people don’t know anything about The Lifelong Learning Programme of European Commission: Leonardo, Grundtvig or Comenius. Ok, some active students already discovered the advantage of studying abroad through Erasmus program, but it is still not enough. I don’t want to blame anyone. But: How and where to call for improvement of current situation? Publicity and promotion (connection between EU agenda, active citizenship and media) is needed.

M for MEP’s visit:
I already mentioned few times that my hosting organization Kerry One World Centre in Tralee is taking the action on local, but also on national level towards better world – in poetic words. In real words: at the end of October 2012 we prepared the official visit of Irish MEP: Phil Prendergast to KOWC and we discussed with her very openly the implementation of EU declaration on development education and active global citizenship (signed up by 398 MEPs last summer). All these politicians are real people – it is just important to find the way – how to talk to them. And because first half of year 2013 was the period of Irish EU presidency – a lot of events, actions, happenings took places in all regions of Ireland.

N for never-ending rain:
I liked everything in Ireland during my stay there. Even it seems like un-realistic I would never complain about the weather! Firstly, it is useless (it does not affect much) and people are very flexible – they will get used to everything (also to non-stop raining). The “problem” could be solved easily: with stylish raincoat and much more stylish wellington-boots. The best timing for photo-shooting in Dublin is after every huge rain –you can see many broken colorful umbrellas on every corner then…

O for One World Week event:
One World Week is a week of youth-led awareness raising, education and action that takes place throughout Ireland in November every year. I was lucky that I could attend OWW-preparation’s meetings, trainings and also the main event at local and also national level. During local event my group of young adults created the poster, based on photographs (taken from the KOWC photo-packs), illustrated life in Ireland (both in positive and negative way). The question we addressed on poster was clear: “What world do WE want to BE?”

P for Post-2015 MDGs agenda:
During OWW-events I was talking a lot about the MDGs and reasons why people don’t know anything about them. Btw, you know something about Millenium development goals? Don’t feel embarrassed! More than half of European citizens are not familiar with the concept of MDGs. According to the Eurobarometer (2009): Only one fourth of the EU population have heard about MDGs. So I am raising the question again: How and where to call for improvement of current situation? Especially when the deadline for the achievement of all 8 MDGs is coming closer and closer. OWW-event was great place to talk about the concept of ‘Beyond 2015’ agenda. So at least in Tralee and Dublin people are aware of that topic.

R for resilience:
We were trying to combine the topic of MDGs’ with the theme: “resilience” and the strategies for bouncing back – or how to deal with global issues on local level; how to deal with problems of youth; how to challenge ourselves (not only during One World Week, but also during other workshops). Irish youngsters are nowadays more busy about socio-economic problems in their families, un-employment or migration in their country. I am trying to show them inter-connections and inter-dependences between developed and developing countries and encourage them – to work on their peer solidarity.

S for Slovaks in Ireland:
There are so many working, studying or just living Slovak people in Ireland. I saw a few original Slovak bars in Dublin, where you can drink Slovak beer and watch Slovak hockey and football. But will you be able to speak English or Irish, will you be familiar with culture and traditions of your new home-country, when you are everyday only with you friends from the same nationality? I don’t want answer this aloud. Ask yourself: how you usually behave – when you enter new country…

T for travellers’ movement:
I am living my neo-nomadic way of life almost whole my life and I am very OK with that. But I never thought that there are organized Travellers’ groups of people in Ireland with their own language, identity (they could be official minority). In Ireland this is the real case right now, and specially travelling women meet often with incomprehension and discrimination. I would like to investigate more that topic. Try to do it (in your country), too.

U for unique potential:
In last five years I attended many personal development trainings or intercultural workshops. Open feedback and positive reactions from my co-workers, participants and Slovak young adults are the best inspiration and motivation – to continue in it. Everybody can attend similar events and check his or her unique potential. Universe applauds action, not thoughts! So: let’s check the offer of youth exchanges and training courses on webpage of Youth in action program.

V for volunteering:
Let me finish this Ireland-alphabet at an important letter V (for homework we can think about the rest: Y, Z, X!). In 2011 I built brand new NGO in Slovakia: DocUnion, which is focused on projects of media-presentation and audio-visual production – to face the society-problems (social exclusion, discrimination, gender stereotypes etc.) – through non-formal education. So me and my friends are providing the multi-media projects and we are also shooting documentary movies about NGOs, activists, subcultures, minorities. We are trying our best.
The assistantship in Ireland showed me the way how we can work on the implementation of development education into national curriculum at all three levels of education system in Slovakia. It also showed me how interesting impact could have volunteers from different countries, cultures, backgrounds. So I started to think about trying to be on the other side of EVS- procedure – to be the tutor from Slovak hosting NGO in Slovakia for new-comers/EVS-volunteers. This could be very interesting next step for me.

Fifth Edition

5While closing the 4th edition of Scriptamanent, after the final meeting in Izmir, we are already preparing the new call for the next edition of the project. Stay tuned!

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