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Monthly ArchiveFebruary 2020

Feedback from our EVS-volunteer in Latvia

My name is Arthur, and I am a volunteer. Today, June 29, 2019, the sixth  week of my life in the small town of Silakrogs, which is in the Ropazi region of magnificent Latvia, begins. In 5 weeks that I spent here, I was lucky:

• to see see “ZZ-Championat” – an event that gathers students from all over Latvia in one place every year. During the school year, teams (based on the class) perform certain tasks in order to be able to go to the finals. And here, within 3 days (every one – for a certain age group), Latvian pupils get to the event where they take part in competitions (like karting, rock climbing, obstacles course and many others). My role in all this was to master the Big Jenga (or “Yenga”, as it is called here) game under the flag of Ropažu novads – Ropaži region. The team I had to work with – are wonderful, friendly Latvians, who in the first days had taught me two or three useful expressions and also greeted with my 24th birthday. One of the things I really liked was the support and teamwork among the students I saw while the were playing Jenga. At the end of every of three days some of the Latvian musiciancs performed (Inever thought that there were rapers in Latvia, but witnessed it myself). In general, the event is very cool, with an atmosphere of activity, sports and a great holiday; 

• to attend a sports day at the Ropazi school – a kind of “mini ZZ”. The event and the atmosphere are very similar, but on a smaller scale;

• to take part in a “EU-Ropazi” (a local youth organization) meeting. At the meeting, the events were planned for the summer, as well as the main event – EU-Ropazi fest. And right now I won’t say anything else – let’s keep the intrigue. Oh, and at the second meeting – we had kind of party with games, food aaand movie;

• to go to Riga two times, where I had an opportunity to see St. Peter’s Cathedral, green parks, become a victim of a local bird, go to the Military Museum of Latvia, sit next to the Presidential Palace – and, of course, to meet Ukrainian tourists with their caring for the fellow Ukrainian. In general, Riga, as for me, is a very cozy and beautiful city whose map is quickly absorbed into memory;

• to hang out with my mentor Jānis, where “communication” included: archery, go-karts, a small boat trip, hiking in Sigulda city’s parks;

• to see how the day (formerly multifunctional) centers works – places where children and young people can come to talk, play something (or defeat some Ukrainian volunteer) and generally have fun.  Oh, and Ialso participated in organasing game day (for youngsters) and Ukrainian day (for seniors) in such center in Silakrogs;

• to celebrate Ligo – traditional Latvian celebration of summer soltice. National outfits, songs, delicious cheese and beer and the biggest fire I’ve seen in my whole life. It was worth spending the whole night sleepless, I’m telling you! 

As for now, the impression is positive. Silakrogs – a quiet, peaceful place, the Ropazu novads – a beautiful land with friendly people. Will see what comes next.

July of 2019 in Latvia was not that filled with action and activities…but still had enough of interesting things!

So, first of all, a few of the GOOD WORK FOR THE FUTURE meetings were held. Some nice ideas were born that day – and then went on to be improved and got the shape. The not so good thing was that less people then I expected got really involved – but first we will form the core quality group, then spread in numbers ^_^ 

Second thing which was really, re-e-eally awesome – on-arrival training for volunteers. In my case it took place in Ramava mansion – an old house/museum/hotel where during 4 days people 10 people from Ukraine, Armenia, Greece, Lithuania, Spain, Tunisia, France and Egypt had been thrown together and filled with a great amount of new information. And not only did we get to know more about the values of EU, received some useful tools and implemented a project (making Latvia cleaner in our team’s case) – we gained a really wonderful emotional connection. Oh, and networking, also, so Ropazi will see some cool guys coming. After coming back I really felt motivated and full of ideas. Really hope to implement most of them.Also, we had the young (1.5 year old) volunteer ^_^

And, of course, how can’t I mention giving TWO interviews? One – for the newspaper, second – for TV. Talked about how I got into volunteering, my plans, impression of Latvia and some other things.

August 2019 was filled with different things, traveling and meeting lots of new people! Being more specific:

  • Phase 1 of #EUmakeadifference project with “do some-good” poster appearing in towns of Ropazi municipality.
  • Taking part in Eiropas filmas un sarunas event in Ikšķile,presenting the Greek short movie “Party animal” – and getting to know volunteers from Ukraine, France, Poland, Germany.
  • Visiting Ogre with my mentor Janis and going to a road trip to Lielvarde and Salaspils later. Lots and lots of beautiful Latvian nature and crossing Daugava twice – and it was wonderful!
  • Hosting my cousin from Ukraine and showing him places. Going to Jurmala with him – and finally seeing sea…okay, a gulf, but still – seeing a lot of salty water after 5 years.
  • Going to Riga to see Rigas svetki – happy 818th Birthday, Latvia’s capital! Seeing retro cars parade, living statues, concert – and taking part in photo- quest orginised by other volunteers. The atmosphere was amazing!
  • Taking part in ciems days in Kakciems and Silakrogs – the events which show how cozy and friendly small communities might be.September was a month with more activities in the day centers, that si for sure. But the most important part of the month was EU ROPAZI festival. My part was to bring spme volunteers so they could tell about their home countries. So, we had representatives of France, Lithuania, Portugal and, of course, Ukraine. Even though not many people got to our tent (probably,because it was pretty hidden), the experience was worth it. 

October-November was a pretty busy time (sometimes) and during this period the following things happened:

  • THE WINDOWS CLEANING DAY! Ukrainian volunteer and a team of 6 Latvian youngsters came to Silakrogs and made a difference. Washing windows for seniors to see the beauty of the place where they live – it was pretty inspiring. Plus, now I know in which countries to try coffee and cakes (Italy and Austria) ^_^
  • The TEDed club in Ropazi school with a Ukrainian volunteer and English teacher Daira has started – and it’s going pretty good! We even had a call with another TEDed club – from South Africa! Pretty good, eh?
  • Trip to Vilnius, which concluded ‘’Baltic states capitals” tour. The city is awesome, beautiful and people are rea-a-ally into basketball.
  • I HAVE PLANTED A TREE!!!
  • Games in English for kids in Silakrogs and Mucenieki, which is pretty fun!
  • A mini-quest in Silakrogs day center with kids searching for QR-codes, hints in books, solving puzzles – and getting a reward they definitely deserve!
  • Have witnessed a celebration of Latvian Independance day, which was amazing!
  • Had a chance to volunteer at a book about Kakciems (a little town in Ropazi municipality)  presentation, which was pretty interesting.
  • OH, AND I CARVED MY FIRST HALLOWEEN PUMPKIN! 
  • Thanks to Janis the Mentor had a chance to see a Latvian movie Dvēseļu putenis, which is a really good patriotic movie. It’s so good that me, non-Latvian, recommend it to every Latvian I talk to!
  • Thanks to Ilvars, I’ve been to an ice hockey match, and what can I say? Tikai Riga, tikai Dinamo!!! (Also, had an opportunity to try myself as a commentator, which was awesome) 

At the end, I can say that the participation in the project was worth it. Even though not all thet activities nad ideas worked out, this experience is something that will, I hope, be a life-changing. From what I figured out while hanging out with other volunteers – each EVS/ESC experience is unique and one of a kind. And maybe in some things I could have gotten more of mine, I still consider it awesome!