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The EVS explained to an Italian

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It certainly cannot be considered a walkover to take part nowadays to the European Voluntary Service in Donetsk. Ukraine and its eastern regions are going through a very turbulent period, in which intolerance seems to be promoted, prejudice and contention to be encouraged and cultural differences, instead of being a way to oppose discrimination, are being used as an instrument of conflict. The atmosphere of tension that reigns in the streets is such that it is quite easy to forget the reason for which we came here. Yet Donetsk is a charming city, which unlike you might think about a post-Soviet reality, it offers a lot of green spaces and areas for young people, for meeting and socializing and, last but not least, the incomparable warmth and hospitality of its inhabitants. To this extent, taking part to the EVS in this city is something rather meaningful, for which the enhancement of the values of intercultural dialogue and non-formal education play a very important role, as well as being a time of self-reflection and personal growth.

My adventure in Ukraine began on February 12, when a bit scared and a bit excited I was able to land at the Donetsk airport after a brief stop in Kiev. Waiting for me in Donetsk, except for the coordinator of the organization for which I serve - Center of European Cooperation - there were my friends and colleagues, with whom by that time I have been able to share many experiences of life and work. After a few days of orientation and familiarization in the new environment me and the other volunteers moved to Kiev for the on-arrival training course, which provided me with all the tools to better afford such an extremely significant experience. And it is thanks to the on-arrival training in Kiev that I could better delineate the three directions - Intercultural Dialogue, non-formal education and promotion of Italian culture – according to which by that time it would have moved my contribution to the EVS project "Active Citizenship" promoted by the organization for which I work.

Regarding intercultural dialogue and non-formal education my activities here in Donetsk have focused on the preparation of projects, the organization of training courses and speaking clubs and, finally, participation in conferences to promote the values ​​and prospects of the European Youth in Action/Erasmus+ program – of which the EVS is part – and the activities of the NGO at which I am working. In this context, I got to learn a good deal from the meaning of volunteering, so that while you are voluntarily offering your knowledge and qualities, you have at the same time the opportunity to learn and develop a variety of skills, such as self-management of your activities, their direction and goals. "That is easier said than done" of course, especially when you consider the fact that my educational and professional background has always developed in "formal" contexts and that, moreover, to give unity and consistency to a project requires an additional effort. On the other hand, it has been for me one of the most ambitious challenges in the frame of the EVS project and today, that the time to pull the first sum of what has been done in these first months in Donetsk has come, I can say I am quite satisfied with the results obtained. One example in this regard is the organization with another volunteer of trainings on creativity, which enjoyed considerable success both in terms of participation and interest raised by the activities organized. As a result now I have an enviable bestiary of animals and imaginary creatures, to be consulted whenever life should require from me original solutions!

Finally, with regards to the promotion of Italian culture, which can fully be considered as part of non-formal education and intercultural dialogue, I would like to spend a few more words, thanks to the success of the activities carried out in this area. Probably, in this context I was helped by the exotic charm that Italy and the Italian has always exerted over the inhabitants of Donetsk and that allowed me to organize from four to five lessons per week in different institutions. From ten to fifteen people are currently attending each of these courses and about three months after the beginning of the lessons most of them are now familiar with the basic structures of the Italian language, thanks probably, as I said, to the fascination exerted by our history, our expressiveness and, unfortunately, to some stereotypes that feed the Italian spirit idea – if you have not realized it, I am talking about the triad "pasta, pizza, mafia." It is amazing that while in some areas of the city and region two armies still face each other promoting mutual antagonism, local people still want to participate and learn while having fun.

In conclusion, after about four months from the beginning of my EVS project in Ukraine, I can state that I am very satisfied with the work done so far: there are difficulties of course, the atmospehere is certainly not conducive for carrying out activities that promote the values of dialogue and tolerance, but the results, clear and encouraging, are the feedback to move forward in spite of what is happening. And at this point, after having briefly explained the results the work so far done in Donetsk, I cannot help but conclude with the hope that everything that is poisoning this charming city comes to a quick and painless end. And I try, in a small way, to give my contribution to this extent.

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