What have I learnt with my EVS projects

During EVS, besides of the every day jobs, we have to develop a ‘personal’ project on the long-term. ‘Personal’, here, means that this is your own project and not the project of the association who host you, even if they are here for helping you when it is needed. It doesn’t mean that you do it for yourself: the goal is to contribute to the society which welcomes you.

I developed two long-term projects.

One was about farming and food distribution. I created a presentation (based on a powerpoint) about a short distribution system we have in France (AMAP : http://parkistra.com/en/uncategorized/short-distribution-channels/) and about an association located in Nantes which is kind of an AMAP available for everyone, including people who have little money (ADDA: http://parkistra.com/en/uncategorized/sustainability-in-food-distribution-the-example-of-adda-association/). I presented it to different target groups: farmers, students, permaculture network, international volunteers. My goal was for these people to pick some ideas in this AMAP system and in the model of ADDA for improving some systems they already have in Slovenia. The idea was that it would be an exchange: that I could also learn with them about the organizations they have in Slovenia and bring some ideas to France.

With this project, I learned more about these systems we have in France and about what is going on in Slovenia. Besides, I improved my presentations skills – as much my speech as my powerpoint. Eventually I realized that if you offer a presentation that people are not asking for, it means that it is only a small part of your public who will be really interested in, and even a smaller part who will ‘use’ the information for doing something (improving or starting his/her own project, communicating about the subject to other people…). As a consequence, you need to do the presentation as many times as possible, to as many people as possible, in order to increase likelihood to have an impact.

Another project I had was to make portraits of people who are involved, professionaly or not, in a sustainable development of Primorska region (Slovenian Istria). These last decades, lots of people left the countryside of this region for going to Ljubljana or to the towns of the coast (Koper, Izola, Piran…). In addition, after the Second World War, lots of Italians had to leave Slovenia. Some people also left the country because they didn’t want to be part of Yugoslavia. As a result of all these emigrations, lots of houses have been abandoned and are falling apart; in addition the average age in the countryside became very high. Some people there are working to bring life and youth back to the region, to restore the cultural heritage (churches, houses, communal buildings…) and to develop tourism while preserving the beautiful natural and cultural heritage. This region has a big potential for development and it is crucial that this development would come from the locals, who know their region and know what people and nature need there, and not from big touristic, real estate or farming companies. While I was meeting some locals working in that direction, I thought that interviews would be a great medium for me to discover deeper what they do. I wanted to discover what they do and how, what are their difficulties and how they overcome them, and I wanted to share all of this with the readers of the interviews, in order to make this more known and to give motivation to people, including myself, to be active for what we believe is important.

With this project, I learned how to photograph and how to interview. I also learned that it is much easier and much more interesting to interview someone you already met. Most of the time I met people I interviewed thanks to volunteering at their place. This helped me to establish a contact, to build a reciprocal trust and to know more about their professional activities. Then, the interviews themselves taught me a lot. I learned how fulfilling and meaningful it is to manage your project on the long-term, overcoming the difficulties and keeping your initial motivation as a lighthouse. That’s how people get results and manage to make the society take few steps more in the direction of what seems right to them. I have lots of respect for the people I met and I enjoyed a lot having interviews with them. This was a really good way to complete my volunteering: to learn about their project with doing and with talking.

These two projects were really rich for me and I hope that I also enriched some people who heard my presentation or who will read the interviews. It is a bit peculiar not to know about that: I cannot know for sure if I touched someone, I can just hope for it.

My interviews are published on a collective website, Maptia. We will also make a little exhibition in August, probably in the village of Smokvica. I invite you today to get close to the voices of these people who have a lot to share about their profession, their citizen actions, their thinking and their life: https://maptia.com/annalyse.

Anna Vittet, EVS volunteer from France