Thursday, July 11, 2019

Leaving a place that feels like home

The time has come, our project is almost finished and in just one week, all of us will leave Romania to go back to our home countries. After six months of being a volunteer in Arad, we saw more places than just the schools we carried out our activities. We have talked before on this blog about travelling and for me personally this was also one of the biggest advantages that came with being an EVS volunteer. Anyway, every time that you travel there will be a point that you have to come home. This made me think about what ‘’home’’ really means for me. I realised that it is not just the village I live in for a long time in the Netherlands. In these six months, Arad has started to feel like a second home for me and I am really grateful for that.
It will be weird to leave this place, after living my daily life here for a long time. I am thinking about the bridge I have to cross everyday to go home, KF (the bar we always meet together with all the volunteers), the river, my own apartment and a lot of other places that I got so used to. It is all small things, but it made me feel at home.

When other people ask me if Arad is a nice city, I always used to say that it’s not that special. I think, though, for me now this city will have a special place in my heart forever. 

- Coco

Sunday, July 7, 2019


You may or you may not acknowledge that dance is a universal language. Any language is a system of communication common to a specific area or culture. I never understood how important communication was until I came to Arad and became an Actress of Change. It is a fact that the world is moving forward to individualization, which means that everyone is changing into a more introverted and selfish individual. People care only about their own problems, and concepts like family or community are losing their significance. However, through our workshops I have understood that communication is the first step of understanding others. The more you know about a person, the more you can accept their true self and erase prejudices from your mind.
Personally, I think one of the main problems that people could have regarding communication would be the lack of confidence. That feeling you get when you feel like others will not listen to you or they will not care about your opinion, so you decide to stay silence. For that, we should do something to improve our own insecurities and here is when dance steps in. Have you ever realized that through dance you can express any emotion? Dancing ballet you can show your delicacy, dancing hip hop you can show your excitement and flow, dancing folklore like flamenco you can show your roots…there are infinite options and many that hasn’t been created yet. Dance is fitting body movements into music and feeling free to speak with your body. When I started dancing, I felt shy sometimes knowing that other people were looking at me doing something different as well as hard. With time, I feel much more comfortable and I put less pressure on myself, because as I said before what matters is that you are saying something with your body.
This picture is from the Festivalul Voluntarilor EVS that we did in Parcul Copiilor in Arad April 16. If you were there, you know how much I enjoyed creating a choreography and teaching it to the girls that were there following the steps gracefully. Do not forget that no one is never too bad to try to dance. Dance unifies people and creates a loving community.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Experiences; Learning another culture

After five months living here in Romania I believe I got to meet a lot of the country itself and its culture as well. Although I think there are still a lot of things I could learn, I’ve already caught a hint.

To be honest I didn’t expect it before, as I had in my mind just a post-communist image of the country, but Romania is really beautiful, the northerner you go the more beautiful it gets. The surrounding nature combined with the castles and the architecture seem resemble to a place described on a fairytale. I like traveling around Romania.

The people here are also very nice. I’ve traveled quite a lot just by hitchhiking and I’ve met some very helpful, kind and generous people. It worths mentioning that I could notice many similarities in the daily lives Romanians and Greeks . Maybe the bad economy that both countries had in the past few years have something to do with it, who knows.

My journey here is coming to an end , but one thing is certain; I liked living here and I’m glad that I could see more of România and break any stereotypes that I may had in the past.

- Michael

Monday, June 24, 2019

Romanian Travel Photo Diary

     Now that my stay in Romania is getting to its end, and after more tan 5 months living here, if I get to think about the best things that bring you the EVS experience one of the first things that comes to my mind is the opportunity to travel, and I think most of the volunteers would agree with me on that.

Traveling around Romania and the neighboring countries has not only allow me to get to know new places and people, but it has helped me to understand better romanian history and culture, and, as a volunteer, it has taught me how to travel with very little budget.

So here I would like to share a small collection of some photos I’ve been taking during those trips, hoping that they will inspire someone to travel and discover new places.

06.01.2019 Timisoara, Romania

08.02.2019 Bucharest, Romania

02.03.2018 Belgrad, Serbia

31.03.2019 Budapest, Hungary

13.04.2019 Oradea, Romania

28.04.2019 Istanbul, Turkey

30.05.2019 Vama Veche, Romania

09.05.2019 Brasov, Romania

18.05.2019 Cluj-Napoca, Romania

- Lucía

Friday, June 21, 2019

Educating with a language barrier

Hello everyone! Last week we finished our last classes in the schools, so the project is almost over. After almost six months of going to, in total, seven different schools, I have noticed some similarities. Some things are the same in different schools, in various classes of different grades. There is one thing that stands out for me. In every new class that we went to, we always had to see what was the level of English of the students. All of our activities are in English, because we are not really Romanian experts, so to say.

Sometimes it was hard for us to make the students understand, because we didn’t know if they would be able to understand what we were trying to teach them. For the subject of our workshops though, it’s really important that the information is passed on correctly.
We were lucky actually, for most of the classes there was at least one student that knew English well enough to understand us. He or she would then translate to the classmates, in Romanian, and this way they could still understand.  The situation is not ideal, of course, but at least it worked out like this. 
One time we were in a class of ninth grade. I was surprised to see, actually, that almost none of them knew the English language well enough to communicate with us. Maybe they were too shy to speak in English. When actually there is no need to be shy, because for us English is not our mother language either. The teacher told us that this is really a problem for some of them, because they have the desire to study or work abroad, later in life. For the third module we did, the students would have to answer some questions on a paper, in English. In this particular class, this activity turned out to be too advanced, because of the language. So in the end, the English teacher, who was with us in the classroom, translated all the questions that were on the paper,  in Romanian. This way, the students would understand. In the end we weren’t really able to properly discuss their answers together, like we always do, but at least they had the possibility to understand something from the activity.
In conclusion, in the end we always managed, somehow, to make our students understand at least the general idea of our workshops. I think we all have learned from this, how to make ourselves understandable for people with only a small knowledge of English. It was worth the challenge.

-          Coco

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

On the way to acceptance

Hello everyone! First of all, thank you for clicking the link to the blog and giving us a chance to surprise you with our experiences. I would like to use this space to explain you the goals that ‘’Actors of Change 2.0’’ (I know the 2.0 it’s swagy) have for this project. Some of you might see us in your class and wonder why we are there, maybe because of the language misunderstandings or maybe because the time we have is short and we have too many things to say.

So, what do we want? Basically, we aim for tolerance, acceptance and social inclusion. We had this magnificent opportunity of coming to Arad to perform these workshops in the schools… which really doesn’t mean that in our home countries there isn’t discrimination between youngsters. Just a mix of the destiny and the European Union has brought us here.
Through our workshops, we try to make you realize and voice your opinion about bullying and some of the different ‘’isms’’. The suffix ‘’ism’’ is used to indicate a ‘’political, religious movement, beliefs or attitudes of a grand narrative’’. To summarize, the isms are different forms of discrimination that we can observe in today’s society. The usual problem is that we don’t take time in our life to think about other people or how we can help them. It is easy to avoid a topic that you find weird or different. Many times, we turn our backs on others without sensing it. So, step by step, because the world wasn’t built in one day, we need to open our eyes. Let’s face it, we are young, hopefully full of life and energy to make our community a better place. If you think that you are safe because you haven’t been bullied and your life is perfectly normal… then it is a favorable time to help others and join their fight for rights. The best part is that you can do all of this without failing to your own beliefs. Because we enrich the world with culture, ethnicities, gender identity, family backgrounds, generational time…and this makes us unique individuals. But we cannot live in a bubble, therefore we must educate ourselves. For example, I am an occidental woman seeking equality between women and men. Nevertheless, I can’t forget about racialized woman who still have less rights than me in the society. Because the equality must be for all human beings, without excluding anyone.
Our project wants to awaken in you the ability to empathize with people. We are not trying to say that what you are is wrong, just showing that there is much more beyond that. You might make some people scared by perpetrating their discrimination in society and not realize it. You might think that you are just a teenager, that no one cares about what you think anyways. Except that we really do. Because a community is not only built by old people. We are the younger generations that are able to change the unfair things happening in the world today. Do you want to be a part of that?

- Sofi

Perception on homophobia and LGBTQ+ rights

These two months working as a volunteer in Romania, talking about bullying and discrimination with the students in the schools, it has caught my attention especially their reaction when we talk about homophobia and LGBTQ+ comunity, so I’ve decided to dedicate my first post in this blog to talk about this topic.
During the development of our workshops me and my collegues have noticed that many of our students don't feel confortable talking about homosexuality and have even shown some attitudes of intolerance towards the LGBTQ+ community. These attitudes have appeared mainly during our third workshop when we do an activity called Life cards. During this activity we give the student different ‘characters’ such as gay, lesbian, transgender, gypsy, jewish, muslim, refugee or blind among others, and they have to imagine that they are those people for a day and how their life would change. The main aim of this activity is to help understand diversity and to develope empathy by putting ourselves inthe place of others. Though most of the people in the classes perform this activity very well we have noticed that they have more trouble in putting themselves in the paper of lesbian, gay or transgender than in any of the others ‘characters’, even refusing to answer the questions about them out loud. 
But what impressed me the most was seeing in the questionaries we give them on the first workshop that almost all of them would feel unconfortble having a friend that is homosexual or transgender.
So homophobia can be described as “negative attitudes and feelings towards people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender”, and generates fear and prejudice towards these collectives that can manifest in legal restrictions, institutional discrimination, bullying or even violence againts them. 
In my own experience I think romanian society is still quite conservative in regard to the rights of gay, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people, and though the country has carried out many legal changes in the last tweenty years by descriminalising homosexuality and enforcing laws against homophobic hate crimes I think there’s still a lot to do in this field.
We as society and as individuals cannot forget that “every person regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are entitled to their rights. LGBTQ+ rights are not special rights, but the same human rights that should be afforded to all individuals”, and I’m glad that me and my colleges are able to talk about this topic and hopefully also transmit this message to the youngsters.

- Lucía

Learning how to teach

During this EVS experience, my first challenge has been the fear of teaching, especially to the older kids.
In fact, after only one month of workshop there're some facts that I already notice and, also, the evaluation forms that the kids had to fill can confirm my theories.
But, before getting to that part, it would be better to describe the different activities that we use in the workshop, in order to give a more complete picture of the situation.
Well, let's start saying that of course EVS consists in a non-formal method of education, so that means that we don't use the old school method of the frontal lesson with the kids. Therefore, the activities and the methods that we use are designed to let the kids think about the situation and fid their own solution, without judging them in any case.
That's why we and, basically, most of the EVS projects are based on workshops, that is by definition a “mental space”, a “forma mentis”, in order to interact with reality to comprehend it and/or change it.
That's why the workshop can be used basically for every kind of subject, from the informatics 'til the specific ones, for example in chemistry, biology, etc.
The reason why this teaching is very popular is because with it, basically, the student masters is own learning, because through the actions, he gets to the result on his own.
Regarding to our teaching strategies, we use a mix of them, because every module is focused on a specific one. In particular, we use:
  • the Brainstorming, that gives total freedom to the student, giving him the chance to express himself in a total safe space, without the risk of being judged;
  • the Role playing, where the students actually play a specific role;
  • the Case study, that means giving to the students a situation that could be real or not, in order for them to find a solution or just thinking about it.


1. Example of role play with the VIth grade
2.Example of role play with the Xth grade

So, the first thing that we can notice from these two pictures is how the older kids tend to be more shy in the interactive activities, while the younger ones enjoy them more.
This has been reported also in the evaluation forms; for example, many forms from the VIIth grade recomend to “use more role play” or just in general “to be less serious”. Instead, the forms from the Xth grade, say that the workshops were “ok, but sometimes boring”, in relation in particularly to the role play activity that they found “childish”.
Another difference that we can observe related to the age is their level on english and how it effects their participation to the classes: many people would say that probably the english level is better for the older one, so these workshops work better with them. Well, atualy is the other way aroud: the younger kids, even though don't speak english very well, participate more to the workshop. Thaks to their curiosity, they use every instrument available to communicate their opinions, like asking to the teacher to translate for us or ask one of their classmates to do it.
This doesn't happen with the older ones: the ones that don't speak english very well don't participate that much and I think that it's due to the peers pressure, meaning that they're afraid to make mistakes in another language in front of their classmates.
In conclusion, I can say that luckly we are getting good outcomes from all the kids: most of them seem to enjoy the activities and are really interested in the topic.
Of course, our work needs some adjustments in order to get everyone's attention, disregarding the age, and with time we'll get there.


EVS first experiences

But what is EVS? What exactly are you doing in that project? Two questions I've been asked the most in this period. EVS is an acronym for European Voluntary Service. It's a program created by the EU. Its actual goal is to help young people discover other countries and experience the European ideals through helping , by many kinds of projects , the community. That explains it pretty much..

However, by that two-sentenced and pretty correct summed up definition, you still can't express what you actually get out of EVS. My project's main subject is anti-bullying and anti-discrimination. Going to schools and doing some interactive activities with children is what I and my team do in order to pass our message. Through this I saw three things.

One is the personal development, to overcome any struggles you might have. You are set free to be creative, you learn how to work in a team and you gain confidence as you have to speak to an audience, people that are interested into what you have to say. Second, the realization. The realization, that comes up when you interfere with the students , that it actually exists. The situation we are trying to solve with these activities, trying to be our best selves in order to deal with it. Well, it was obvious that the problem existed, that's why the project got created in the first place, but realizing it and seeing it with your own eyes is something different. And the third, that there are bright minds. In these classrooms there are bright and sensitive young people who are aware of the problem and by their attitude towards it they can actually help solving it and continue that way our attempt, be in a larger scale part of our project's group.

I've been in Arad of Romania with the EVS for almost three months already and what I described is only one part of my experiences here so far. The ones regarding the project itself. There are more to tell though.


My first impressions of Romania

In this post I want to talk about my experience with living in Romania so far and my first impressions. Before I went here, I did not know what to expect, because I had never been to the east part of Europe. When I arrived here, the whole city was white because of the snow. That was already special for me, because I am not used to a lot of snow. Then I met the people. In general Romanian people are very nice. Sometimes they don’t speak English very well, especially the older people, but at the end we understand each other. Something else that I had to get used to here, is the fact that everything takes a longer time. When you make an appointment with someone, it can take some time to plan it and it is less punctual. It is not something bad, because it is just part of the lifestyle and slowly you get used to that. Then also, at some point, I discovered that Romania has really beautiful nature. When I went out of the city and we were driving through the mountains, I got so happy because it was beautiful. Another thing I have noticed about Romania is that here you can see a lot of things from other countries. When you walk down the street, you will see a lot of Italian restaurants, shops with Turkish delicacies and German supermarkets. I don’t know if it was always like this, but Romanian people seem to like other cultures a lot. Also, coming back to the weather, around this time it almost never rains in Arad and when it does, it is just a little bit. I don’t know if it is like this in all of Romania, but here it is really something that surprised me. Someone told me that from the end of April it can already be around 30 degrees Celsius, so the summers here must be really warm.  I am excited.

- Coco 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Actors in progress 🚧

Hi guys!!!

We're Actors of Change 2.0...we may look tired, but just because we're working for you! 💪
So see you soon 👋