Volunteering Eastern Europe.


Oct 4th, 2012, 09:36 AM
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Volunteering Eastern Europe.

I'm a Dutch girl, 23 years old. I'm planning to travel to Eastern Europe to do volunteerwork. I'm going with EVS, a project of the European Commision that gives subvention (is that the right word?) for volunteers. As a send-organisation I've chosen UcDean, a Dutch organisation that specializes in Eastern Europe. Because that is quite a big area and there are a lot of projects I can choose, I've decided to pick a country first before I choose a project to work at. I know that I work with mentally handicapped people, this is what I do for a living and it makes me very happy.

The thing is that it's hard to find the information I'm looking for about the countries that I could go. I can find information about the economy, the tourism, the history and monetary unit, but that's not what I'm looking for. I would like to know how the safety is in such countries, can I go alone outside after dark for instance. How are the people, friendly, distant, cold? How are women's rights (do they have the same rights and all as men? And how is the health care/care for the handicapped? What is the culture like?

I find it hard to find words for the things I'm looking for, I hope you get what I mean. I can choose the following countries: Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic,

Ik vind het moeilijk om vragen te stellen omdat ik op zoek ben naar algemene informatie, maar wel specifiek over een land en hoe anderen het beleefd hebben.
Ik hoop dat iemand me kan helpen! Het gaat om de volgende landen:
Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Caroline_Verber is offline  
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Oct 4th, 2012, 09:46 AM
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<< can I go alone outside after dark >>

From your list I've only been to Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary so I will speak from my limited experience. I imagine you're interested in evening activities and will not be roaming the streets at 3:00 in the morning. In winter it's usually dark at 4:00 or 5:00 when people are still at work and they leave offices/shops and walk home in the dark so I would not be frightened of the dark. Use normal precautions you do at home when going out in the evening.

I found the Polish and Hungarian people to be friendly. The Czech people were not unfriendly but were more reserved.

If I were you I would choose based on location. Cities offer more to do than small towns so I would choose a city location where you have activities and are more apt to meet other young people.

Also socialize your questions on the thorn tree forum where there are lots of young people posting. This board is more for mature people who are young at heart but do not have the young experience.

For gender and health care issues you can consult a large library (university library, perhaps) near your home and do some research there if you don't get answers to those questions on this thread.

Will you need to speak the language of the country you're going to? I would imagine you would need to be somewhat fluent if you're helping local people as they may not speak English or Dutch.
adrienne is offline  
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Oct 4th, 2012, 09:46 AM
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The countries you are asking about are really not any different from western europe in how women are treated and in general safety. All have substantial tourist infrastructures - I have been to Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary as an independent tourist and we never had any problems. And English was fine for getting along. However, that was in major cities and as a tourist.

However, in terms of the healthcare system I really don;t know much - since I was never ill. If you're looking for facts and figures I would have a look at WHO data.

I think a bigger problem is how you will be able to help mentally handicapped people if you don't speak their language. I would ask the organization you mentioned to provide you with a lot more information, including what part of the country you would be in - since I imagine outside the major cities English is much less commonly spoken and no one will speak Dutch.

(I had a friend who volunteered with Doctors w/o Borders - but she spoke quite good Spanish and was sent to countries where that was the language.)
nytraveler is offline  
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Oct 4th, 2012, 09:46 AM
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Good luck with your volunteering, it seems like a very valuable project. I hope you get some responses, if not think about asking a more specific question in the title box and dont call it a trip report (because it isn't one). I can only talk about Bulgaria where people are very friendly and I felt very safe in both village and city. All the very best.
stevelyon is offline  
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Oct 4th, 2012, 10:16 AM
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I am interested in how you will be integrated as a volunteer to an organization.
Gretchen is offline  
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Oct 4th, 2012, 01:56 PM
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I lived for about 2 months each in Prague and Moscow, and have travelled elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Other than having to regularly walk home through a park at midnight in Moscow, I never felt any different than I would in any other city. People can sometimes be a bit cold and distant in public, but warm and hospitable as you get to know them (stereotypes of course). I found it distressing to see disabled beggars (missing limbs etc.) on the streets, but I think you could take comfort from the fact that you will be making a difference. I didn't notice any difference in how women are treated to anywhere else.

I know there is a huge variety of EVS projects out there, but as your sending organisation specialise in Eastern Europe, I'd ask them for more information or if they can put you in touch with former volunteers. Overall, I'd say go for it and just keep an open mind!
gwan is offline  
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Oct 15th, 2012, 05:59 AM
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At first, thank you very much for all your replies. I wasn't quite sure if this was the good forum.

You were right, I'm interested in normal evening activities. The organisation I'm going with, advised me to pick a city that has over 50.000 people. Otherwise you may be the only volunteer and that can get really lonely when you're living there for 9 months. Thank you for the idea of going to the universitty library and the other forum, I will try there. The EVS program also provides a language course. Besides that, when I've made a choice, I want to do an internetcourse or something like to learn the basics - greeting, making smalltalk. Stuff like that.
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