European Voluntary Service

This is Pekarna's blog for EVS volunteers. Pekarna is a sending and hosting/receiving organisation for EVS volunteers and their volunteers (send and hosted ones) will keep you up to date about their work.

Evropska prostovoljska služba

Pekarna Magdalenske mreže Maribor te vabi, da se tudi ti pridružiš množici prostovljcev/-k Evropske prostovoljne službe (EVS) in odpotuješ v organizacijo po svoji izbiri v drugo državo EU. Smo pošiljajoča in gostiteljska organizacija EVS, ki mladim od 17. in do 30. leta za obdobje največ enega leta uredi vse podrobnosti za brezskrbno in povsem brezplačno delovanje v tujini.
Evropska prostovoljna služba je del programa ERASMUS + Mladi v akciji.

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Thursday, 17 November 2016

Moving pictures and opened windows

It’s the end of October as I’m writing this, which means there’s one month of my EVS left. I vaguely remember having nine months to go and how different the feeling was, being on the opposite end of the scale. It makes it very easy to start wondering how short life really is. Well, I won’t make the most out of it by thinking about it, that’s for sure! This month was a bit like how a lot of stuff in life happens – nothing at all and then everything all at once.

Close to the end of September, during an evaluation visit from Movit, I was asked if I could volunteer as a photographer on an event that was about to take place in Maribor, and after I heard there would be a number of youth workers from multiple countries and an interesting topic to talk about, I told myself „Why not?“ That’s how I got a peek at the Volunteering forum. And it was exactly that – a multi-day discussion about where volunteering work in the EU (and partner countries) is now and where to take it in the future. It was fascinating to get a much bigger and more abstract scope of things that happen in the field of voluntary work, and while it made me feel very small as an individual EVS, it also made me think that my work and giving the community is all the more important, because in the end, all volunteering starts with small, everyday things.

Right after that, I had to deal with preparations for my first ever photography exhibition! It was different from how I imagined it, but the fact that it gave me neither a hard time nor any bombastic feelings is a nice sign of balance. I’m still in disbelief over how so many people wanted to be a part of what I love to make, and I left the prints in Infopeka after the exhibition for models to pick up and keep.

Just as the exhibition ended, there was another thing to focus on, and quite a big one – StopTrik, the biggest festival of stop-motion around! I agreed to photograph the whole festival (and help work on video interviews with a few organizers and participants) because I’ve never been to an event about such a specific topic, and I was sure there was some interesting stuff to be seen and made and that there were people to discover. We had the most visitors so far this year, the whole selection of films was great to watch and even though it was stressful and demanding and it hit my energy levels hard, it was well worth it and it will stay in my memory for quite some time. If you’re curious what it was like, take a look at StopTrik’s website, YouTube channel or Facebook page. 

The next blog entry may be my last one from Slovenia. November will most likely be cold, calm and „business as usual“ for me – doing graphic and photography work, helping out with workshops, meeting with volunteer groups. I’m not feeling sad that the end of this project is so close, and I’m already getting excited about how I’m going to deal with new challenges home. As the quote says: „The trouble with coming back home is that you’ve changed, but the place remains the same.“ Bring it on then!


Friday, 4 November 2016

Volunteering forum report

On the days of 10.-14. October 2016 in Maribor, an event organized by SALTO-Youth Resource centre named Volunteering forum took place, and me with Ioana were a part of it as well. The event was intended to focus on discussing and reflecting on transnational volunteering in Europe and its partner volunteering countries, inviting coordinators, youth workers and various officials from organizations dealing with transnational volunteers to take part and share their experience. During the four days, I volunteered at the event as a photographer, and on the first afternoon me and Ioana together with local volunteers from Stopinje mesta planned a walk through the city with landmarks that would be interesting for the participants (the walk was unfortunately cut very short because of bad weather, turning into a lively evening with getting-to-know conversations over coffee). Ioana also participated in a debate with people holding different positions in the volunteering field of work, which took place at the Maribor municipality, and other EVS volunteers from Maribor were invited as well to become a part of the audience during the event.

To reflect on the experience, I didn’t think it would shift my view of the volunteering experience, but it did – I realized my part in the „system“ that was bigger than I imagined, and seeing various people working in different positions in many organizations made me think how much goes into organizing and executing all the contracts and paperwork that turns into opportunities and actual output from the volunteers themselves. There were some good ideas on the table and after taking part, I now think about volunteering as a whole a bit differently and more complexely.


Exhibition report

Today is the last day of the output of my personal EVS project, an exhibition of photographs titled Odprto okno (An open window), which lasted for a week in the K18 gallery in Maribor. As I’m writing this, I have a strange feeling, which is not so strange after all (and that makes it strange). To explain the confusion, I didn’t expect my very first exhibition to happen abroad, to be a part of a different project that I enjoyed just as much, or to have it go as smoothly and non-bombastically as it did – but then again, with knowing how things in my life usually go, how did I expect anything else?

When it was first mentioned by my coordinator, Nataša, sometime in late spring, I didn’t really think much of it, going with the notion that I would first see if I can get the material I would need for an exhibition, and the whole concept somehow seemed unreal to me, which was my mixed creative self-esteem and naturally doubtful personality speaking together. But now that I look back, I’m pleasantly surprised at how many people were interested and open with contributing to what became a selection of portraits hanging in the gallery (and more photoshoots still keep happening). It feels like an accomplisment to be able to gain a certain trust from people and return it with a result that they enjoy so much they allow me to display it publicly. The material part of it – that the gallery isn’t world-famous, that the prints aren’t as big as living room carpets, that what I create doesn’t attract masses and doesn’t inspire dozens of people – it’s all relevant and I wish it was more successful in that way, of course, but what took place and made a difference is the connection I made with young people here, showed them that I appreciate them and their vulnerability with which they stepped in front of my camera, and that, even just a little bit, changed their perception of themselves. Recently I read a thought that I’ve seen come true over and over again: „The more I’m photographed, the more photogenic I feel.“ Truly, the big thing everyone dreams about, whatever it is, doesn’t happen all at once – and it’s a good thing, because we could probably not handle it if it did – but instead it comes in small bits of effort and lessons learned daily. It proved itself to me over and over both at home and now even abroad. It was an unsual experience of giving back to the community – nothing greatly important was built, no grand act of charity organized, nobody had their life turned around – I do little pieces of each at work helping the local volunteers, and I don’t think it’s up to me to do that for people in the first place, they should make the big change themselves. Instead I merely wish to show what I see and appreciate in people, the simplicity, ordinarity and similarity that makes us both identical and different and worthy of importance. Going abroad and continuing with my craft only proved to me that this notion to create portraits for people stays the same regardless of where I am.


Summer time (and the livin’ is easy)

The summer passed and the autumn is mid-way now. When I think back, I can’t believe how fast the time has passed.

Maribor is quite a quiet place during the summer. After the Lent festival, when there’s music all over, people crowd the streets and color the nights, a quiet and deserted-like atmosphere starts to settle in. I was just walking down the street from my house to the center, and there was no car on the road and almost no person on the street. I’ve heard about this ‘phenomenon’ from people here before, they even have a name for it – polenta, which both means the carb-mushy food, and a word game that would translate to something like ‘after Lent’.

Since people are mostly gone vacationing, there are not so many activities at my organization either. So the summer was mostly a time to travel, read, watch films and see friends. I’ve visited Brno (Czech Republic) and I’ve stayed there for a while, with my sister that lives there. It is a lively, beautiful city, with an impressive number of activities for the summer. They say the city is kind of empty since the students leave, but far from it. There’s people everywhere, and they seem to really enjoy watching films in both their outside, summer cinemas, and their inside ones, spend time on the sidewalks drinking beer, go to the parks, concerts, pools, and above all, to the many colorful terraces.

Two friends of mine then visited me in Maribor, and I took them to the places I thought to be relevant, or at least that were relevant to me during my stay here so far: Pekarna, Postna street, the little wine terrace on the river side in The Water Tower, the Jewish Square, GT22 and the Central Park. While being on the terrace drinking wine, we were lucky to have an event happen around us – a wine tasting, with poetry reading and live music. We got a little tipsy from the selection of wine that kept coming, so we went to my place to start on coffee.

After two and a half days in Maribor, we all went to the Croatian sea side, to Krk. We stayed in a huge camping place, which was actually really nice, clean and organized. It had the feel of a small town community to it.

In September we went, with some people from my organization, to a mobile-kitchen camp in Austria. We spent almost a week with workshops, vegan cooking and building a mobile kitchen that is going to travel around the spots where refugees are blocked, and cook for them. We got along great, we were equal, respectful and open, and I can say it was one of the best groups of activists I found myself among.

Now I’m back to work, and there is quite a bit to do: we’ve started a workshop/activities series with migrant children called Brezmeni Svet (World without Borders), the Theater of the Oppresses workshops are back, the zine meetings and activities have restarted, and some more projects are to follow.

Right now I’m attending and helping with the StopTrik film festival, and I hope to get some good material to do some writing about it.

I have a very poignant feeling of leaving, of this being the end of my stay here, but I guess I’ll come back with more on that next month.


A pallette

Autumn, a time of change. Weather’s getting colder, pupils and students are starting school, Pekarna Magdalenske mreže is resuming its main activities. It’s the time to get more serious – about dressing warmer, about having more responsibilities again, about preparing for tougher times. I don’t wish to be gloomy – it’s still a lot of fun doing what I do, and the change in scenery after a hot bright summer is also welcome – it’s just that it wears on me a little every year, and this one was no exception.

At the start of the month a project we became interested in in summer was taking place in a village near Vienna – a mobile kitchen waiting to be put together by an enthusiastic group of activists. This kitchen loaded into two vans is supposed to drive around the borders in winter, providing free warm food for people fleeing and immigrating into Europe, using money earned by cooking at festivals and activist meetups in summer. We didn’t get to see it finished, but it was an interesting experience nevertheless.

The beginning of the month wasn’t very eventful at work after coming back just yet, so I filled it with excitement for our midterm training instead. It was set in a picturesque spa complex in Dobrna, a town close to Celje. As with the arrival training, it was a pleasant experience for me, this time even more so. Some of the volunteers I knew from before, the activities and excersises were more reflective and grounded, there was a lot of useful information, and since all of us had most of our EVS experiences done, there were plenty of stories and feelings to talk about. The only downside was a slight cold I brought back, but it was well worth it.

Later during the month a new project started – Brezmejni svet (Borderless world)! Every week we host twenty-something children from Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia who are still learning Slovene and we help them by playing games and doing exercises – and me and Ioana learn something as well! It has its difficulties and we’re not experts at it, so we’re solving things on the go, but at the end of the day, it’s rewarding and the children are slowly growing on me.

Just like that, September is over, and with it, I feel the end of my volunteering period approaching. Mixed feelings are starting to take place, some of them familiar, some new. Of course there are some regrets and last-minute panic as well – which I expected from myself – yet overall I don’t mind it coming to and end. But there are still a few months to go, and I’m planning to fill them to the edge, like a basket of autumn fruit!