The Dream Journey - Salto

The Dream Journey
By Ena Šimić, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (“Our birds”/Youth Center Livno (SO)),
contact: [email protected]
Ena Šimić, a volunteer from an environmental organization from BiH, is bringing her
personal experiences with EVS programme, the difficulties she had at the beginning but
also the positive experiences and contacts she took back home. She was a part of a project
in Spain and during her stay she got to learn more about international volunteer work but
also what EVS is, how to apply to it and how to use the best of it.
I applied for my EVS project in January
2009. I received a positive answer really
quickly. At that moment I didn't know
what EVS was.
I had met the director of the Black Vulture
Conservation Foundation (BVCF), a nature
conservation organization based in the
northern part of Majorca (Spain), during a
seminar in Sarajevo in 2006. He told me
later that there is a voluntary service for
which I could apply. So this was the only
project that I applied for. I am a member
of the ornithological society in BiH “Our
birds”. This NGO is not accredited for EVS,
so it could not be my sending
organization. Through a friend of mine I
found a sending organization: Youth
Center Livno. Youth Center Livno asked for
information about my documents in order
to find out which documents I would need
to go to Spain, so I wrote to them with all
the necessary information. We thought
that I would not need a visa for the EU.
On my pre-departure training in April in
Sarajevo, I found out what EVS is. My
trainer asked if all of us had a visa. I told
him that I didn’t need any, because I have
a Croatian passport. He said that this was
strange and that I should get more
information about it. So I wrote to my
sending organization and I called the
Embassy, and found out more: It was true
that I didn’t need a visa, but only for a
period of up to 90 days as a tourist. For a
longer period and for working I needed a
visa type D. So immediately after the
training I applied for the visa in the
Spanish Embassy in Sarajevo. They told me
that the visa should be ready within a
period of 15 days to 2 months. The
problem was that I had my flight reserved
for 5th of May and applied for the visa only
at the end of April. I had to reschedule my
After 20 days of waiting, I started calling
the Embassy every day to find out when
the visa would be ready. Unfortunately,
they couldn’t tell me anything because
this type of visa doesn’t depend on the
Embassy in Sarajevo but a Ministry in
Madrid. The worst was that my project
had already started on 6th of May and that
I lost an entire month of my project. In the
end, I received my visa after 44 days, and I
rescheduled my flight 4 times in total.
The first days at work were tough. The
BVCF mainly deals with reinforcement and
reintroduction of vulture populations in
Europe. Also it implements projects
related to raising awareness and
education about the environment. We
worked a lot and did mostly physical work.
Every person was given a specific
responsibility in the Centre. Gwendoline
and I were working with the animals
(vultures, dogs, horse, sheep, etc.) and
Mate was working with Tim, a volunteer
gardener from the U.K. Also the language
took a lot of our energy: We had to talk
the whole day in Spanish, which was
difficult at the beginning. Anne helped us
a lot at work because she had started her
EVS project in January 2009.
Finally, on 11th of June I arrived at Palma
de Majorca airport. My tutor came to pick
me up. I could speak some Spanish, but
not very well because I had never actually
spoken it. So my first language upon
arrival was English. My tutor only speaks
Spanish and Catalan, which made our
communication a bit difficult at the
beginning. He drove me to my new home
in Campanet, which is a village of 2500
inhabitants in the North of the island near
the mountain chain Sierra de Tramuntana.
After three weeks, the responsible for
environmental education at the Centre
gave me a new task: giving presentations
about the Foundation for visitors in
English and Spanish. This experience
helped me to improve both languages.
Anne from the U.K., one of my
roommates, was waiting for me in the
house. The other two volunteers were in
Barcelona at the on-arrival training. The
next day Anne went to Barcelona to join
them and I was left alone in the new
house, in a foreign country. I felt so alone
and scared! After three days they came
back. I had been really looking forward to
meeting Gwendoline from France and
Mate from Hungary. Finally the house was
full of positive energy and smiling people.
After a month, Anne returned home and
Nina came, a great girl from Germany.
Nina and I were working on the webpage
of the Foundation. Through this work, I
learnt a lot about the natural and
historical values of Majorca. After two
months Nina returned home and two new
volunteers came: Barði from Iceland and
Natalia from Spain. Natalia worked on a
different project, sustainable tourism, and
Barði was working with Gwendoline and
On both seminars I met a lot of people
coming from different countries. What
connected us was that we were all
volunteers in a new country, ready to
learn about Spain, but also to tell people
where we came from and how great our
own countries are. We shared our
experience, talked about our fears and
problems and tried to help each other.
During the last month of my volunteer
work, the project director of the BVCF,
Juan José Sánchez Artés, offered me to
work on preparing a project in BiH. I
learned a lot with this experience and it
will be very useful for my future work in
BiH. The project is about work with state
institutions in BiH on environmental issues
and education. I helped with my
knowledge about the political and
environmental situation in B&H. I learnt
how an application for a project looks like
and how to write it.
At the beginning of November a new
group of three volunteers arrived: Giada
(Italy), Beatrix (Hungary) and Mathieu
(France). The director of the Foundation,
Evelyn Tewes, asked Gwendoline and me,
if we could work three more days after the
end of our project to introduce the new
volunteers to their future work. We
accepted with pleasure. On 16th of
November I left Majorca both sad and
happy. Sad because I left my life and
friends in Mallorca, but also happy
because I was going to see my family and
friends at home.
I participated in two training sessions for
EVS volunteers in Spain: the on-arrival
training in Torremolinos (Malaga) and
mid-term meeting in Alborache (Valencia).
During my volunteer project in the BVCF I
had a wonderful time. The BVCF team is
great, full of people with professional
knowledge and positive energy. They were
always ready to help us with every kind of
problem we had.
The other volunteers I was living with
were very kind and communicative. I
learnt a lot about their different cultures
and I taught them about mine. We made
panels with important words in 7
languages (Spanish, English, French,
Italian, Hungarian, Bosnian and German)
and put them up on a wall of our house.
We discussed a lot about the differences
and similarities between our cultures and
languages. Of course, we had problems
too. At the beginning we didn’t speak
Spanish very well, so we often
encountered communication problems. I
learnt to be really patient and to try to be
understanding with people.
I’m a biologist and this experience helped
me a lot for my future professional plans. I
learnt to work with vultures, their
behaviour and their position in the
ecosystem. Also I learnt how to prepare
projects and how to give oral
presentations in front of people.
My EVS experience was really useful for
my professional career and “Our birds”.
Through this project I met a lot of
biologists from Spain, and these contacts
are going to be useful for future projects
of “Our birds”. As I proved that I’m a
valuable co-worker, the project director of
BVCF is really interested in future
cooperation with me and “Our birds”.
The EVS programme is a great opportunity
for every young person who is willing to
experience a new culture and a different
life. Definitely you will need a little
courage to do an EVS project. Sometimes
it is not easy when you are all by yourself
in a foreign and completely different
country with a language you might not
understand. On the other hand, be sure
that you will have the time of your life!
You will meet friends for your whole life.
These kinds of friendships are really
strong. You will also have the opportunity
to learn a new language and culture and
visit a different country. EVS is a “MUST
DO” for every one of you!!!
Photos: Ena Šimić
Published by:
SALTO South East Europe Resource Centre
Dunajska cesta 22, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Tel: + 386.1.430 47 47
February 2011