Category: ESC
Carla loves borsch – Carla San Andres

Almost 3 weeks in Lviv, and I still don’t believe it. I’m meeting so many amazing people, so many different places that I never want to end. Last Friday, November 29, with the help of co-workers especially from Katia, I was able to experience my first approach to Ukrainian culture. We prepare dinner with two typical dishes of the country; Borscht and Vanerykys. First, we went to buy the necessary ingredients with Katia and then we learned how both dishes are made, it was really fun and enriching. We spent an hour doing the Vanerykys together and in 5 minutes we had finished with the whole dinner. It was an amazing and special night for me. Thanks to everyone who shared it with me.

The rest of the weekend was quite complete too. On Saturday we enjoyed several live concerts at an event organized by Solia and in a cafe, a really cozy atmosphere, where even Solia sang a Mexican song called ‘Cielito Lindo’ that we usually sing in my family so for a moment I felt like at home.

On Sunday to finish this fantastic weekend, I met with my mentor, Piotr, who showed me a spectacular vegetarian restaurant and with which I enjoyed a beautiful road through the streets of the city center.

This week has started somewhat white with snow, which I can not stop photographing, so long ago that I did not enjoy the snowy landscape that only this detail improves my days. Thanks to all who are sharing this experience with me and greetings to all those who I have left far from the snowy Lviv!

Getting used to – Luca Bonamin

Week 3

Only a week can pass, but many things can happen in seven days.

First of all this week, we had the “Borsch and Varenyki party”.

It was amazing to be able to enter in the culture of this different country for the first time, seeing how two famous dishes of their tradition are prepared and then eat all together.

And Varenyky are Varenyky: everyone likes them, but if you want to cook those, just remember to have enough energy for the preparation.

A special thanks go to Katya, the best Ukrainian chef.

Then I don’t know if you know the High Castle of L’viv. I didn’t go there, but to the hill next to it.

I advise everyone to go there at least once to see the view from there, and I think I’ll be back there, just to sit there, breathe that air and admire the city from above.

Now the special thanks go to Solia, my awesome project mentor (the yellow girl in the pic) that brought me there.

And in the end, I have the pleasure to tell you that these will be only the first of many Italian-themed days that we will have in the period in Ukraine, full of Italian great food and with an awesome musical background. I have to say all of these make me feel a lack of home.

And obviously I can’t wait for the other countries to show their culture, show their food, show their languages because one of the best moments in these European projects is when cultures are shared and new things are discovered.

I don’t think I get use to living here yet. Certainly, it has only been a little over twenty days since I arrived in Ukraine, but seeing how things go I think I could get used to it soon.

Adaptability – Francesca Rossi

I’ve been here in Ukraine for two months and almost a week. The first month seemed endless to me, there was no longer that fateful day when I would celebrate my “first month”, but the second month passed really fast. And it’s all about having the days full of plans going on. I spent five days in a hotel in my district, for the arrival training, together with about twenty other volunteers, without having free minutes to waste doing unnecessary actions as usual. I went to see a football match, Denmark and Ukraine, at the stadium, which was the first match I’ve ever seen. 

I spent three evenings following events designed and organized by volunteers who share the apartment and not. I attended a conference all in Ukrainian, of which I will have understood yes and no few words, but it doesn’t matter. I walked through a forest with two local people, enjoying a spectacular view and finally, I realized my dream of when I was little, that is riding a horse in a spectacular place, whose churches remind me of those in Dubai, despite the strange comparison.
It has been a really full month, counting also all the evenings in the center in the various restaurants and bars.

Nostalgia is obviously present, who can deny it, but I’m really appreciating these days, so much so that I don’t have time to think about the rest.
I also had the privilege, not only the pleasure, to see published the interview that was done to me by a woman who works in this office, on the official website of the district. I was very proud and it wasn’t the only thing I was proud of.
Now I’ve also established my own routine and I’ve been very surprised at how quickly I’ve managed to do it, but I always thank my ability to easily adapt to my environment. 

Being here, I have learned above all to eliminate the stereotypes I had in my mind before I left: no, there is no war every day, there are no noises of daily bombs and there are no cases of kidnapping every day. “It is easier to break an atom than a prejudice,” said Albert Einstein and it’s an absolutely true phrase. I’m glad that in my case, the prejudice broke so quickly: there’s nothing worse than an idea that creeps into your mind and leaves no way out for the truth. So, I’m happy to come back and do my part, spreading the truths of the place.
I was asked a few days ago by a friend in Italy, how my experience was going. My answer was “I’m happy”. And writing it now, I am glad to have these two words engraved in my mind, which will not go away very soon!

Looking for my way in L’viv – Carla San Andres

Hi there! I’m Carla and I came from Madrid, Spain. In June I finished my studies as Social Integrator and I did my training period in an organization that works with gypsy and immigrant populations. My main functions were working with children (3-18 years) and intervene in the relationship with their families. In this organization, I met an Italian boy that belonged to EVS and he told me about this program so here I am in Lviv.

When I finished my studies I didn’t know honestly what I really what to do, starting university, looking for a job… so I thought that will be quite interesting doing an experience like the Italian volunteer’s in my organization, going out of my comfort zone and spend one year in a country really different from mine.

In my city, I was part of a feminist antifascism collective that organized some events like, political discussion, protest, or women’s groups where we share experiences. On the other hand, one of my passions is art in all its aspects, most people around me are studying something related to politics or art so I’m really involved in these issues. So when I decided to sign up European Solidarity Corps and I found the SII’s project which mixed my two passions (politics and art) I thought that it was made for me.

All this happened this summer and now I have been here in Lviv for a week, and I still don’t believe it. There are so many things I want to do here, so many things to see and discover that I am really excited and grateful to be able to live this experience. Maybe I can find my way in Lviv.

The beginning of something bigger – Luca Bonamin

Hello everyone, I’m Luca, I’m 19 years old and I come from Italy, the town one hour away from Venice.

I always thought that what everyone should do is spend a long time abroad to be able to grow inside and to be able to open their horizons; and as far as I’m concerned, even just for getting in touch and know a different culture from own.

This summer after graduating from high school, I realized I wasn’t so sure what to do in life, so why not try to find my way?

Since I was a child I’m inside an environment that made me learn the importance of NGO defending human rights, the development of civil society and volunteering, but above all I learned the importance of European projects. So in September, I decided to deepen my little knowledge of the European solidarity corps /ESC.

After sending several emails throughout Europe, and even outside the continent, I found the project I was searching for.

When I arrived on Monday 11 November I realized I finally found what I was looking for: something different from my everyday life. Ukraine, for now, appears a little bit different than Italy, not because only of urban aesthetics, but also because of how people think, what they do and how they live.

I hope that I will learn new things, and also I hope I will be able to implement the skills I already have, but above all, I want to be able to understand and help others understand what be an active citizen means, what being European means and how important it is defend rights.

Many times I heard people asking me “Why Ukraine?” and now I think I know the answer. Because in life the easiest way is not always the best. Deciding to be a European volunteer to spread human rights and help civil society to develop in a country that needs it more than others is the right choice.

I want to make this culture mine, and I can’t wait for that moment to arrive, because I like what I’ve seen, and it’s just the beginning of something bigger.

The Laws of Adjustment – Sarah Azevedo

It can be hard adjusting to a new way of life. Leaving everything you know to jump into the unknown, only hoping things will go as well as you want them to. But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, you lose your credit card right after going out of the plane and you find yourself not knowing how you’re going to survive without money in a new country, just like it happened to me when I landed in Ukraine. Sometimes, you realize than you miss your loved ones a lot more than you thought you would and start wondering why you even left them in the first place. Sometimes, you get scared of doing things by yourself because you realize how alone you are right now, away from everything you know. But the truth is, those problems are only temporary and if taken one at a time, they are manageable.

There is no rule to adjust to a new environment. Some people feel at home everywhere, comfortable in every situation and are made to live on the road. Those people make it seem so easy to travel because they appear to have no strings attached, to be as free as the wind and able to find happiness everywhere. Some others have more difficulties to adapt, to find their way in a new way of life. I am one of these people. This dynamic is complicated because the will to travel is there, but the fear of the unknown, of failure, of loneliness, is still omnipresent. So how can one enjoy traveling, having new experiences out of their comfort zone when fear doesn’t leave them? How can one adjust to a new life when finding their way is so difficult?

I sadly don’t have the answers to those questions yet. It’s been only two weeks since I arrived in Ukraine and I am still looking for my routine, a comfort zone in such a different environment. But I have many paths to explore in order to find the happiness I long for.

Understanding and reminding ourselves of why we left is necessary to adjust to a new place. It can be easy to forget the reasons that led us to leave when loneliness takes over. We can start feeling a need to go home, even start regretting leaving. But if we decided to leave it is for a reason and remembering those reasons is a good way to keep our objective insight even in moments of doubt.

Don’t forget loneliness is an illusion. I am lucky to be flat sharing with the other volunteers and to have such an involved and benevolent team around me. Besides, I have regular contacts with my loved ones in France and, against all odds, being separated from my close ones allows me to feel even closer to them, by realizing how much I miss them and how much they mean to me. Go out often, agree to do group activities sometimes, don’t hesitate to ask for help when you don’t feel well…All those reflexes can help you feel safe and realize how loved and needed you are, even far from home. You are never as alone as you think you are.

Enjoy the moments of happiness you find along the way. I had the chance to participate in an activity in an orphanage last Sunday. With some members from a university, we want to the Sasov Zolochiv District to spend the day with the children. We brought them games, coloring books, drinks, and sweets. Spending a few hours with those children, knowing our presence brought them some joy, that I was able to make children smile by teaching then English or just playing with then despite the language barrier made the whole trip worth it in a second. Those moments of joy are everywhere around us. Walking in Lviv’s streets by nightfall and enjoying the lights sparkling in the dark, admiring the Halloween costumes and decorations, discovering new restaurants and having a drink while talking about anything, spending the day in bed with Netflix and a hot chocolate…Take the time to enjoy those moments when you live them.

Everyone has their own method to bear difficult moments during an experience as intense as a long trip abroad. If social media make it seem like all these experiences are exclusively positive, without any problem or moment of doubt, we can’t believe them. It is normal to doubt, to feel alone sometimes, but we must look forward and be honest with ourselves. Happiness takes many forms, and the future holds so many beautiful things, it just takes time to adjust, to find our own way, but it always happens.


Getting involved in a human rights promotion project was only a logical step for me – Paul Lorentz

It had been quite a while since I was preparing my arrival in Lviv, as I already applied in February. In the meantime, a lot of things had changed, but not my desire to come forward and spend a year in Ukraine.

At first, I was only interested in the project offered by SII, since I had never had the chance to discover Lviv before. Getting involved in a human rights promotion project was only a logical step for me, as I had graduated recently in this field. I was looking for a new perspective that would expand the scope of my lacunary and mostly academical understanding of human rights, especially since I only had explored it through the lens of law. Starting only a few months later was nothing less than convenient for me, as I was already involved in a project of information sharing to refugees in Greece, with the Mobile Info Team.

I am very eager to discover how a human rights promotion project is implemented and how to create a space for discussion and sharing of perception of human rights narratives. Even though I had asked a few Ukrainians friends if they liked Lviv, and they all answered it was an amazing city, the choice of Ukraine was initially not my main concern, but it came out to be a lucky pick!

However, when the funding of the project was finally confirmed, I went to have a deeper look at the city and about Ukrainian folklore, and ended up spending hours watching videos of Lviv and events taking place here, being absolutely amazed about how beautiful the city is. Fortunately, one of the former volunteers that was involved in the organization I was then working with had forgotten a book about Ukrainian culture. I started browsing it, got absolutely caught.

In the end, I was eager to start discovering Varenyky, bortsch, and other amazing Ukrainian dishes, but also to learn more about history, Tatars… The more I looked into it, the more I was enthusiastic by the slight glance to Ukrainian culture I had from afar.

Finally, I managed to book my flights, after interesting administrative adventures, as we all enjoy it.

Having just arrived, I can only say a few things about coming here; but even though the language barrier has been challenging, I discovered warm and welcoming people, that can be reluctant with English but enlighten themselves as soon as you pronounce even a few words in a messy Ukrainian  (and they can be proud of their language because it is a beautiful one).

I am now looking forward to getting involved in projects to participate in the life of Lviv, trying our best to make it a better place for everyone to live in!


When adventure calls – Sarah Azevedo

My name is Sarah Azevedo, I am a 20 years old French student from Nancy, in the east of France. Some of us have, at some point in our life, the need to discover the world, a new culture and leave the comfort zone we’ve been living in forever. I felt this need one year and a half ago, in the middle of my second year of college. I realized how much I wanted to go on an adventure, just like my best friend had done before me by going to London for a year. Therefore, I did a lot of research to understand what, as a student, were my options to leave France, that is when I discovered the European Solidarity Corps, or as it used to be called the European Voluntary Service. Part of the Erasmus+ program, the principle of the ESC is to allow people between 18 and 30 to go abroad to work on a mission, mostly to help communities and individuals.

During my years of college, I had already been a part of many different organizations. I was the secretary of a feminist association, volunteer for an audio-visual one, a political militant…I always loved to give my time for bigger causes. The idea of being able to mix what I loved and my will to go abroad seemed perfect. I kept going with the research, read many testimonies, all we’re saying how their ESC mission had been the greatest experience of their life. My desire to go increased with each day passing by. I already knew that if I had to go abroad it had to be between my university degree and my master’s degree in Cultural Studies. I had more than a year to prepare for this trip.

I started contacting sending organizations in my region. In order to do an EVS, you have to find an organization in your country that can handle your departure and find an organization abroad who wants you for a mission. Often sending organizations already have several missions they can offer you; many find their happiness there. If you don’t, just like I didn’t, you must find a mission by yourself using the different online portals. This is very simple: make an account, answer the questions about your motivation, your professional journey, and then you apply for the missions you like. If the organizations like your profile, they contact you and then start the hiring process (often by skype). I got lucky, Ukraine was only my third application and the first to answer me. No worry if you don’t find a mission you like, it takes time. It takes an average of six months to find the mission and go.

So, I got accepted to become a volunteer for the EqUalize 2.0 mission by the Society Initiative Institute. I contacted a sending organization I already knew in my city who agreed to take care of the project. I was supposed to leave in august 2019. But because of grant issues, my departure was a shift to September 2019. When we got the grant, I started the process to get a visa and I finally left, after months of waiting patiently, the 23rd of October 2019. It took time, but I finally got there.

We all have a different journey, but if one day the desire to go on an adventure, to discover a new country, a new culture takes you, the ECS could be a good way. Too little known by the public, it is an easy way to get an important et rewarding professional experience in various domains. When I started talking about my project to my relatives I often heard « What about college? » « You’re going to miss a year! » « Aren’t you scared ? ». And they were right, I was scared and I still am. But I never doubted my desire to do this adventure, because I knew when I decided to go that it was the right time. There is no perfect time to do anything, so just do it when you feel this is right for you. Whether you decide to do this right after high school, or during university, or when you’re already working, if this is what your heart desires, if the adventure calls, you must answer it. 

On my part, I have a lot of hope for this mission. I left France because I wanted to discover new things, find happiness where I never went before, learn about the world and about myself. I long to make of this experience something positive and powerful. But saying this is easy would be a lie. Leaving my country, my life, my loved ones to go by myself to a whole different place, for an entire year is probably the hardest thing I have done in my life, but it also is the most exciting. I don’t know how long it will take for me to adjust to this new life, but I have high hopes about the future, and I wish for everyone to feel this way.

Life is mainly made up of questions, not just answers – Francesca Rossi

My name is Francesca Rossi, I come from Italy and I have just finished high school. I have always had a passion for volunteering and I took this opportunity when a friend of the family shared his experience of volunteering abroad. In this way, a world opened up before my eyes that I could not wait to enter. So it was, and now here I am in Ukraine for a year.

By registering with the volunteer site (European Solidarity Corps), I was contacted by the Italian agency Nous, who followed me on the journey before departure, until a direct meeting here in the city with the coordinator. They assisted me with visa procedures, the necessary documents for access to the country and general questions about everything that could help me, despite some bureaucratic implications that were finally resolved.

Being aware of the fact that I was born in a certain part of the world that allows me to have the freedom that is denied without reason in other parts of the planet, I have always had the privilege of being able to choose. Choose whether to attend a particular school instead of another, choose which sports course to attend, choose which social group to belong to. At this point in my life, I had to decide a place to reflect on my future and Ukraine turned out to be the desired destination.

This project is for a year; my cultural baggage will definitely be enriched at the end of it. It is what I believe would each person should do at least once in their life.

Having opportunities and catching them on the fly: this is the way in which I think we have to face the only life that is currently available to us. Experiences happen even when a person is implementing that particular project, as it is in my case.

These are my experiences:

  • I had the opportunity to take a plane alone, to have to adapt very quickly to an environment unknown to me and surrounded by people I could not verbally understand. There was a chance to enjoy a spectacular view, watching the sea of ​​clouds below me.
  • I had the opportunity to learn to communicate in a language I rarely used and with which now, after only a little over a month, I find myself even thinking.
  • I had the chance to overcome the embarrassment of entering a store and communicating only with gestures with those who worked, to make them understand what I intended to take.
  • I had the opportunity to gain experience in teaching, designing projects for some children.

Having the ability to take certain actions is the best way to learn. And learning means opening the mind to novelty. And opening the mind to novelty means being ready for anything, eventuality.

Fortunately, since I was a child I was introduced to the world of volunteering, so my mind is already open to new things and I think I am lucky because I have a great capacity for adaptation.

Living in a certain reality, it only takes a few days to understand how the environment in which you find yourself is structured, and the most important thing to remember is always a saying from Confucius that I read years ago, but which I still remember today: “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.” Life is mainly made up of questions, not just answers, you always have to remember it.

The experience I am going through now has already led me to learn new things and to live new experiences, which before I could only imagine but which I now really understand.

At my young age, I must say that it has already been a challenge for me to experience what it means to live alone and manage a certain amount of money. I call it a “challenge” because I had to put myself on the line first, without support from the family, which I used to let me manage my life, even simply referring to the part linked to the basic needs.

I think I did very well to catapult myself into this experience, which would have been very difficult to accomplish maybe at another time in my life and I do not regret not having chosen to continue, after high school, in the university environment: I have all life to make choices that I may have ignored.

I have heard many people here congratulate me on my courage. Courage to go to such a distant place, having such a young age. But I believe I had more courage to choose the path of volunteering than an average person could because I find it right in life to live also for others and not just for ourselves.

I also found people who totally disagreed with this decision of mine and I respected their ideas. Unfortunately, I discovered that many people put themselves in the first place, without considering those around them. And this, too, was, therefore, further teaching to me, which I could not have received from life if I had not done this project.

For me, every excuse is good for learning something new. And I feel fortunate to have some people around me who directly, or even indirectly, involve me in the news.

Every day we are projected into a negative reality, if we inquire about problems concerning the world around us and that we cannot fix with a snap of our fingers. The only thing we can do is to live in a small way, so that, perhaps, we act as an example to others.

Standing here, I cannot help but be amazed by the diversity that surrounds me and to which I was not at all accustomed. I am often surprised by everything since I was a child I have the vision projected towards positivity, so I am surprised by the smallest news and I can see everything that surrounds me in its full splendor, even if at first sight, not everyone is inclined to see this in this particular way.

Ukraine is definitely full of places to visit and old buildings to observe, both in the district where I live and in the center. From the street artists that accompany my steps when I walk in the most central part of the city to the buildings that offer free guided tours, to make a world known to me.

It is also full of parks that appeal to people of all ages and enjoy moments of rest.

In short: it is really a beautiful place to stay and it has many places to visit, experiences to go through, which also leads to full days. As I am trying to do everything for the people I know to understand that life is one and we can do what we like best.

So why not take the opportunity to look at the past, reach old age, and smile?