At the moment I am volunteering through Interreg Volunteer Youth program. On the official website it says that: “Interreg Volunteer Youth” (IVY) is an action to offer the possibility to young people aged 18-30 to serve as volunteers in cross-border, transnational or interregional programmes and related projects. Being solidarity and volunteering at the heart of IVY, this initiative is part of the European Solidarity Corps.
This means that every European Union’s citizen (and some partner countries outside EU) aged 18-30 can volunteer abroad up to 6 months with all costs covered – food, accommodation, travel, health insurance etc. When I first heard about it I thought it sounds too good to be true. But now that I am doing it, I can assure you that it is very real – and even better than it sounds!
Interreg Centralparks project
Here at European Wilderness Society I am involved with Interreg Centralparks project. It aims to improve integrated environmental management capacities of protected areas within Carpathian region; to reconcile conservation and sustainable tourism; and to promote the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas. Honestly, before starting the project, I did not understand most of these words and thought that the objectives are impossible to reach. But during my first month, I have already learned a lot about how to create international cooperation and how important it is. I have met project team and was impressed with how professional, knowledgeable and passionate they are about their project.
In addition, I have participated in an online synergy meeting between Interreg Centralparks team and Interreg CEETO (Central Europe Eco-Tourism) project. The goal of the meeting was to share best practices about sustainable tourism development in protected areas. Interreg CEETO has developed many useful tools and strategies for sustainable tourism during their project time and Interreg Centralparks team was able to use this information for their project goals. I was fascinated and inspired by how much people can achieve in cooperation. In addition, I am also learning about the structure of European projects and how they are carried out. These experiences are very inspiring and useful for me. I am looking forward to applying this international experience back in Lithuania.
Free time fun
In my free time, I am enjoying the beautiful Alps. I have never lived in mountainous area before, so it is all very exciting for me. I am enjoying hiking and biking and discovering beautiful sceneries every time I head out. So far, I found a glacier on one of my hikes; swam in a lake which was 2100m above sea level; collected many wild strawberries and blueberries.
The team I work with is very friendly and very international. Each person comes from a different European country. In order to learn more about each other’s culture, we have decided to make thematic dinners at least once a month. So far we have tried traditional German and Slovakian cuisines and Lithuanian buckwheat night is coming soon! I find it very interesting to learn about the life in different countries. It is amazing, how different and how similar we are at the same time and how wonderful that we get a chance to connect via European Union.
Overall, I am very happy to be taking part in IVY initiative and would strongly recommend doing it to everyone. It expands one’s knowledge about European union, different cultures and provides with unforgettable memories!