After the forced break that we took because of the health emergency, between November and December 2021 we had the chance to participate as Vicolocorto in a residential Partnership Building Activity (PBA) within the European Solidarity Corps.
The event “Solidarity: opening the door to new volunteering fields” was organised by the Finnish National Agency of Erasmus + Youth & European Solidarity Corps and the SALTO European Solidarity Corps Resource Centre and took place in Helsinki from 29/11 to 03/12/2021.
We interviewed Daniele, who participated in the PBA, to better understand how these types of activities take place and why they are so important in the world of international volunteering.
First of all, what is a PBA and why is it important to participate in this kind of activity?
PBAs, as the name suggests, are activities whose main purpose is to meet associations working in the field of European Solidarity Corps in order to create new partnerships at international level. They are unique opportunities to meet possible partners and youth workers active in the world of European Solidarity Corps. These activities allow those who work in this field, and also those who would like to start working in this world, to discuss the programme, its implementation and to share best practices. They are important occasions for the creation of new networks at international level and, consequently, also of new projects.
Which countries did the various participants come from?
One of the most beautiful and interesting aspects of the Erasmus+ programme and the ESC is precisely the opportunity they offer you to meet and work together with people from all over Europe and the world. In this case, I worked with participants from Finland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, Portugal, Greece, Serbia, Hungary and of course Italy.
What were the main activities?
The event was residential, organised in a seaside hotel in the Helsinki area. It was very short, as the actual working days were three. Therefore, the event was preceded in November by a first online team-building session and presentation of the course objectives.
The main focus of the course was on sharing and planning in the field of volunteering and solidarity. There were multiple moments of sharing experiences of volunteering projects from the point of view of participants with different levels of experience. We shared best practices and explored together the evolution of the programme from European Voluntary Service to European Solidarity Corps. In the European Voluntary Service, the project was primarily focused on the personal growth of the volunteers; now the focus has shifted to the impact that volunteering projects have on the local community and efforts are being made to understand how these two realities can dialogue better and better.
From my point of view, the great added value of this course was the presence of wonderful facilitators, the presence of the Finnish National Agency and of Romina Matei from SALTO European Solidarity Corps Resource Centre: they gave us the opportunity to learn more about the programme and its changes and to understand what happens behind the scenes.
During the three days, they also organised field visits and meetings with local associations working in the world of volunteering. The course will now end in January 2022 with an online follow-up event to further strengthen the partnership work carried out during the residential and to start analysing the long-term effects of the project.
From the point of view of those who have been working in this field for years, has the pandemic changed cooperation between associations? If so, in what way?
Obviously, there has been a lot of talk about it: the pandemic has changed and continues to change not only the organisation of international courses and projects, but also the activities of individual associations. This was my first residential course abroad after a two-year interruption due to the pandemic. The group was very small compared to what had been planned, precisely because of infections before the start of the course; there are more difficulties in finding willing participants, of course, every activity is carried out taking into account social distancing and the use of masks is compulsory. Clearly the current situation is very different from the one we had in this area before the pandemic, but in spite of everything the activities have not stopped and we can still continue to collaborate internationally, albeit with all the necessary precautions.
For example, thanks to this opportunity to meet, we have become partners in a volunteer project in Finland starting in March, which will give young Italians aged between 18 and 30 the chance to spend 8 months in an eco-village to learn more about sustainability and permaculture.
Was it your first time in Finland? What impressed you the most about this short stay?
Every stay abroad in contact with so many different people, however long or short, always gives you the opportunity to enrich yourself and get to know new aspects of your host cultures. It was my first time in Finland and I must say that these days allowed me to overcome the stereotype I had about the Finns: I always thought that they tended to be cold people and, instead, despite an ongoing pandemic, I found a fantastic welcome and warmth! It was a very constructive experience from all points of view!