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Endpost: My volunteering experience.

Hi everyone, this will probably be the last post that I’ll write here. For those of you that don’t know: my name is Bart. I have been a volunteer at the Nõo youth center since November 2019, and my time here in Estonia is about to end in a few days. I wanted to talk about my experiences here for a bit, as well as say goodbye and give you a few tips on how to volunteer abroad.

Start and Finish
When I think about the first days, I clearly remember being on the train – a suitcase completely packed with clothes and other necessities next to me – looking around frantically and trying to get out of the train at the right stop. Finally, there it was: Nõo. A sleepy village with quite a bit of greenery. It was completely different from the noisy city I am from, but it certainly seemed like a nice change of pace. I met up with Egle, my colleague and tutor, who showed me around town and helped me get installed in my new home.

The first few days I was quite nervous, since I didn’t really know what I was doing and how the youths would react to me. At first my plan was to feel the atmosphere and see how things would go, trying to get to know the kids a little bit. Before I knew it, I found myself having full-on conversations and just enjoying connecting with the youths. I was very surprised at their high level of English, but it really helped me get more comfortable quickly.
My first days at the new house were a bit awkward, since I wasn’t used to living with cats. But I made some great feline friends!

A few weeks in I felt like I was doing fairly well, I felt pretty motivated to try out new things and even if I still felt a bit new to everything, it seemed to go alright. I believe my first project outside of the youth center was during two English lessons at the local school. I got to talk about the Netherlands and about myself a little bit, which was nice. It was also quite interesting to see how things worked outside of the youth center. After my first project outside of the youth center, I organised some other project days in Nõo Noortekeskus as well.

After the first two months I really started to get comfortable and quite enjoyed my time. I had made my first volunteering friends during the Arrival meeting, where volunteers all over Estonia gathered and had a few trainings together. I met them again during Christmas, and it was quite nice to be with people who are in a similar situation. Somewhere during the first week of the new year we made some Dutch Oliebollen (snack eaten by Dutch people during new year) and in February we celebrated my birthday by making 5 liters of chicken soup and egg- and tunasalad. Needless to say: I like cooking (the chicken soup was way too much, by the way). I did a few more projects here and there including a Dutch Game Day (where we played some traditional Dutch games – bite the cake was a hit), and the final project we did in-person was the Health week. This was a week where we talked about the health of the planet, physical health, mental health and much more. It was one of the bigger projects we did, and it was a lot of fun.

To infinity.. And beyond!
VolunTeers

During my last few months as a volunteer, Covid-19 made the youth center close. It really sucked, since I thought that I would be able to finish everything in a nice and personal way. Sadly, this was not the case. We put up an online discord server and started trying new things out and tried to run the youth center online. For now, I feel like it’s working.

You can find more information about my volunteering experience in this video:

Proud moments
I was quite happy to be able to teach the 5th graders and 9th graders at the local school on my own and have the space to do what I want. Even though I was nervous, I feel like I did quite well overall.
Asking for help with the things that I needed help with and getting it was very relieving, and I’m happy I did.
Much later in the volunteering project, my parents came to visit Nõo. I felt very proud to be able to show them what I had been up to.
Getting the ‘King of the Ducks’ stickers from a youngster at the youth center was also pretty nice. I really appreciated that!

What have I learned?
Although I really enjoyed working at the youth center, my development has been mostly on a personal level. I feel like even if I still have the same problems and continue to make some of the same mistakes, I do think I’ve grown a bit and learned how to deal with them a little bit better. I especially learned how to communicate better and that I shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help. Overall, I feel like I’m happier with myself as a person and I really appreciate my time here.

If you want to try out volunteering outside or inside of the country as well, I’ve got a ton of links for you at the bottom of this post.

All in all, I feel like this volunteering project has had a positive inpact on my life. I just want to thank everyone for the support and show my appreciation for the youths at Nõo Noortekeskus. You’re great, all of you.







Hey Bart, that volunteering stuff sounds great! Where can I sign up?
Well, great to hear you’re interested! First you have to ask yourself a few questions though: do you want to volunteer in your own country or in a different country? I’ll just tell you right now, volunteering outside of your own country is a great way to broaden your horizons and see a different culture, but it’s also not something that you should take as lightly as going on holiday: you’re probably going to find out a lot about yourself, be it good or bad. It’s a great way to learn, however, and I’m pretty sure you can gain some life experience.

The next thing you should ask yourself is how long you would like to stay. Do you not have a lot of time? Then a youth exchange (noortevahetus) might be perfect for you! This is a cultural exhange abroad that lasts between 5 and 21 days. You can apply for a youth exchange from the moment you are 13 years old or older. You can find more information here:
https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/opportunities/individuals/young-people/youth-exchanges_en

If you have more time then the European Solidarity Corps (Euroopa Solidaarsuskorpus) might interest you more, since you as a volunteer would be staying in a different country from 2 to 12 months, depending on the project. You can apply from the age of 17 and go when you turn 18. You can find more information here:
https://europa.eu/youth/solidarity_en
This is the official site of the Solidarity Corps. It seems like a lot of information but look into the Frequently Asked Questions and hopefully you’ll gain some clarity.

Where do you sign up?
The first thing you should keep in mind is that there are multiple kinds of projects out there. The first three that come to mind are Youth Exchanges, Erasmus+ projects and the European Solidarity Corps. There are more kinds of projects out there, however, so make sure to look into it and find the one most suitable for you.

Here are a few websites to help you get on the way:

If this all seems a little bit complicated, don’t worry! There are a lot of organisations that organise these youth exchanges and other projects. They can definitely help you along with making the right choice. I’ll list a few Estonian ones here, but it definitely pays off to search for some yourself as well:

  • https://www.nyh.ee/
    This is the organisation that took me in during my time here. I personally recommend them because they keep in contact and provide you with good, personal guidance.
  • https://estyes.ee/estyes/organisatsioon/
    Estyes seems to pop up quite often, and a friend of mine talked about how it is a good organisation, so here we go.

Another way of getting a volunteering project is going to the European Youth Portal and finding a project there. I would recommend to find an organisation in your country first though.
https://europa.eu/youth/EU_en

I hoped this information helped you along! Have a nice day, and I’ll see you around.
-Bart

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Room for Thought

Good afternoon from an appartment in Tartu. We’ve been in quarantine since the 13th of March, almost a month by now. It might not be the most fun thing to do and honestly I would prefer to be working at the youth center right now. But we’ve got to hold on to stop the spread of the virus as much as we can, for the people we love and those who are less fortunate. I have always been an indoors kind of person, but even I get bored of being inside after some time. We try to go outside as little as possible (a walk once every two days and going tot he grocery store) and always desinfect our hands and faces after going outside. It feels like we’re in a science fiction movie at times.

What I think is the worst side-effect of all of this is that I don’t feel like doing anything, it’s just a pretty demotivating situation. I’d just spend hours and hours on my phone or gaming and lately I feel like I want to make the most of my last few weeks here. And so, I put an app on my phone that checks my time and locks certain apps whenever I go over the time that I allowed to myself and try to do other things I like to do instead. I’ve started picking up reading again after a few years of barely reading anything and I’m trying to start writing. What I would like to do is start to learn how to program, even if it’s just a little bit. It makes me quite sad that I probably won’t be able to see the youths anymore during my time here, because I really appreciate the time we spent at the youth center. Oh well, it’s for a good cause.


My family back home is less fortunate than we are here. Thankfully, none of them are sick as of now. There have been 148 confirmed cases of people with the coronavirus in my city alone, with almost twenty thousand confirmed cases nationwide. Twothousand of those people have died. Those are some scary numbers, especially if you consider that the situation isn’t that bad in the Netherlands. I’m quite worried about my family, especially about my grandparents and my mother, who works in the local hospital. Thankfully, I keep regular contact (skype, videocalling) with them and I know that they’re okay.
Alright, that’s it from me. I hope you all have a nice day and stay strong out there. It may be boring but trust me, you’re going to be fine. Take proper care of yourself, make the most of the situation and enjoy the weather – from your backyard or balcony 😊

-Bart

avatud ruum, noored, nutinoorsootöö, uued võimalused, vaba aeg

The Nõo E-youth center!

Hello hello, today we are proud to announce something we’ve been working on for a while. We have created a Discord Server that will function as the online youthcenter for the upcoming few weeks. Please come check it out! We’re still working on setting up events like a quiz evening and some other games as well. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!

What can you do in the e-youthcenter?
If you have any ideas or something you would like to do/organize, you can put it in the Ideas-channel and we will see if we can organize something together.
If you are bored, we even have some recommendations in the #recommendations-channel.
Overall, it’s just a great place to hang out!
The admins are online from 13-19 o’clock, but of course you can be on the server 24/7 🙂

Server link:
https://discord.gg/fAxbNb4

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Indoor Activity: The Word Generator Challenge.

Hi! My name is Bart and today I have a challenge for you. Go to a random word generator (for example: https://randomwordgenerator.com/), pick 1, 2 or 3 words and make a drawing out of these words. Then, share your drawing with us at noortekeskus@nvv.ee, in the FB mailbox, or share in instagram #n6onoor.

Here is my example: I got the words ‘artist’ and ‘light’. I tried to recreate the look you get with long-exposure cameras and light. As for the ‘artist’-part, I decided to make the lines seem like the frame of a painting.

 

We hope you’ll enjoy this challenge, good luck and have fun!

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The Dutch Game Day

Hello again, it’s been a short while. I’m happy to announce a small Dutch cultural event: The Dutch Game Day. We have posted a few flyers around town (the bus station, local school and the youth center) and are hoping for around 18 people to join us. The event will be held on Thursday the 30th of January at 3 o’clock in Nõo Noortekeskus. This post is to elaborate on the activities we will be doing.

Eierlopen
*This game is pretty straightforward. You put a raw egg on a spoon, hold the spoon in either your mouth or your hand and start running a small obstacle course. If the egg falls, you need to go back to get a new one. The winner is the team where everyone has successfully done the obstacle course the fastest – with their eggs intact, of course.

Koekhappen
*Koekhappen is a game where you tie a line of thread/thin rope inbetween two trees. You can put something edible on this line, often a snack. Dutch people like to use peperkoek, which is kind of similar to gingerbread, but in cake form. Then, the participants stand in line and try to eat it all without using their hands. The person who has finished it all first without dropping anything on the ground has won the game.

Stoelendans
*In English, this game is called musical chairs. Although it might not be an exclusively Dutch game, almost everyone knows it and kids love to play the game. Combine that with some traditional Dutch music and you’ve got a fine addition to the games we are going to play.

Spijkerpoepen
*This game involves a bottle, a nail and a thread. You tie the thread around your waist and put a second bit of thread underneath you like a tail. Attach the nail and you’re ready to go. Put the bottle on the ground and try to put the nail inside of the bottle without touching anything with your hands. The person who manages to do it first, wins!
*If you would like to make it more difficult, you could always tie a handkerchief or something alike around your face to do it blind while your teammates tell you where the nail and the bottle are.

I hope the explanations provided were sufficient. If you have any questions, please let me know. See you on Thursday!

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com
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Estonia: first impressions from a Dutch person

Hi there! I’m Bart. I am from the Netherlands and I’ve been living in Estonia for these past two months. I will be staying here until the end of April. Now that it’s the start of a new decade, I would like to reflect a bit on my time here.

In all honesty, life in Estonia is pretty silent. The sleepy town Nõo is definitely something I needed to get used to. I come from a country that has about 16 times the Estonian population density, and I’m from a city with twice as much people as Tartu. So it’s safe to say I wasn’t that used to the silence here, but I personally think it’s a good thing. I can really relax in this small community.

An Estonian person asked me what I thought of Estonians in general a few weeks ago. I said they were very friendly and nice people, to which she replied “well then you’ve only met the nice people”. I suppose that might be true, because the people I met here have been helping me out a lot and have been really kind to others. I do think that in general, Estonian people don’t feel the need to be overly friendly all the time as much – in my eyes, you’re basically the opposite of Americans. Another example of this is that it seems you don’t like exaggerating that much. When something tastes very good, it’s “not bad” or when someone asks you how your birthday was that you secretly looked forward to for months, you’ll say that “it was okay”. Personally, I like seeing that modesty a lot.

Estonia as a country looks very nice. Sure, the houses seem older than in my country but at least they have their own characters. And as long as they are warm, cozy and not a complete danger to your life every time you open a door it should be perfectly fine. The Estonian landscape – or well, what I’ve seen anyway – seems like there is a lot of forests and nature. I really like that about Estonia. This country feels really atmospheric to me and it definitely has its own ambience. I do have a problem with the fact that it’s dark really early in winter though. It’s definitely something I’m not used to – I look outside and the sun is shining, next thing I know it’s pitch black already. Oh well.

I’ve gotten quite used to living in Estonia. Your food tends to be quite alright, maybe it’s a little salty at times. Work life is nice as well, I have a lot of time to work on personal projects and there is a lot of room to work together with other instances. I’ve gotten to know quite a few nice people whom I have met up with during the Holidays. Speaking of Holidays, Christmas has been a blast. I got to be a judge at the local school’s Christmas party where they performed their own acts with Eurovision Song Festival songs. There was also a company lunch, which was really nice. I didn’t know that Estonians eat a lot for lunch since lunch for Dutch people is literally slapping two slices of bread together with some cheese inbetween and get a glass of milk or coffee. Nothing more, nothing less. Needless to say, I didn’t expect a complete buffet to unfold right in front of my eyes. It was really nice though.To summarize my stay up until now, I’ve been enjoying the last two months. Every day is a new experience and I honestly don’t feel like two months have passed by. I discussed this feeling with other volunteers and they agreed. “It feels like you’ve only been here for a week but at the same time it feels like you’ve been here for years.” I feel at home in Estonia but it also feels like I’m super new to everything at the same time. 2019 has been a blast, onwards to 2020!