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Monday, July 22, 2013

“Volunteering for Empowerment”

The training is organized for 27 youth workers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Its aim is to train youth leaders and project coordinators to improve organizational competences in managing both local and international volunteering projects. The training is based on non – formal education methodology which includes discussions, debates, workshops, role plays etc.
The first day focused on the presentation of the training program and it also provided the participants with the opportunity to define their own expectations which will be reflected upon at the end of the training. Through debates, discussions and activities, we not only had the chance to get to know each other but to also get to know the culture and the local community. Through the Intercultural Night, we learned a lot about the different cultures of the participants.

The second day of the training was devoted to the concepts of Europe and (European) citizenship. After the first exercise, it became clear that everyone had a different version of Europe. Should Russia, Turkey and / or Azerbaijan be included in Europe? And what is the real essence of Europe? It is very difficult to really define European citizenship and the essence of the European Union as everyone has their own perspective on what it should be. The different dimensions of citizenship are leading to many forms and motivations of volunteering.
The next two days of the training were focused on the concept of volunteering and the motivation of people to become volunteers. First everyone had the chance to reflect on their own experiences as a volunteer and how volunteering was defined in their own country, which showed that being a volunteer in one country could mean something completely different than being a volunteer in another. For example, volunteering in the United Kingdom is often a requirement to graduate from university whereas in Azerbaijani volunteering literally means “with the heart.”
Even though there are so many interpretations of the concept of volunteering, there are several common aspects. Volunteering is often seen as a desire to help others, showing good will and make a change in society. It was agreed upon that volunteering is also working for free or an absence of salary. However, you also get a lot in return. Among many other rewards, it brings you personal development, professional experience and gratitude.

Through case studies, different problems of volunteer management were highlighted and the importance of setting up your own needs and expectations as a volunteer was clearly illustrated. The management of volunteers is a continuing supporting process which starts before the beginning of the activity and continues after the projects.

The last few days were spend with debating and reflections on the reason why people are volunteering. Next to the training, we also had great moments exploring the city, learning from the other participants and we had a wonderful boat trip on the Volga River and a BBQ at the beach.
All in all, the training in Russia was a great experience; I learned a lot and hopefully GHRD will benefit from the newly gained knowledge.

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