I thought I already knew everything about Czech trains until I wanted to arrive to Ivančice, a small town of 10.000 inhabitants, close to Brno, in the region of South Moravia. It seemed easy at first: one train, final destination… But there I discovered that although this year I have taken a lot of trains around the whole country, I can still get lost. The truth is that I arrived on time at Brno main station to make the change and I went directly to the correct platform. But there, there were two trains, one with the name of Ivančice written on it, and other one with the name of other village I can’t remember now. What I didn’t know was that this other train was going also to Ivančice and, what is more important, at the time I was supposed to take it, while the other one was not departing until more than one hour later…
So I arrived later than expected to Ivančice, the town where Mario, from my on arrival, and other five volunteers are doing their EVS. As he was in the middle of his Czech classes, Daniela came to pick me up. She is from Ravensburg, Germany –a famous city for its puzzles-and was spending her last week in the town after one long year as a volunteer. She is only 18 years old and soon she will start to study Physics in her hometown, a big change from the social work she’s been doing here.
In our way to the “Středisko Volného Času Ivančice” (centre for leisure time activities), she started to tell me about the organization and their work there. One of the most interesting things is that they are not just a youth centre to visit but also they are everywhere in the town promoting an active life: schools, squares, parks… every space is suitable. Every week they are in two or three different places with children of all ages playing a wide range of sports or games such as football, tennis, basket, jumpers or floorball, a type of hockey really popular here.
During the summer, they have been moving to a new big building in the surroundings, 10 minutes walking from the city center. It has been a hard work and there are still some things to do (moving more furniture, some painting…) but the center is perfectly working. Now the volunteers can live in the same building they work. They have a spacious and luminous room for each one and share the showers and the kitchen in one whole aisle in the third floor, separated from the working offices.
The second floor is designed for the accommodation and meeting rooms for all the big events that take place here. When we arrived, many people were coming from their bedrooms or just lying in some sofas in front of the main meeting room. The floor was completely full as it was the last day of a one-week Youth Exchange. It was organized by Nadiya, one worker from Ukraine (she was EVS some years ago), and Tigranuhi, a 24 years old Armenian EVS. 36 young people from six different countries took part in it: Ukraine, Latvia, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and Czech Republic. They have been showing their culture and their way of life through different games and activities made under the topic: Do sport-be active. I had the opportunity to assist to the very last activity (before the final party), the evaluation meeting, where they shared all the ideas, stories and experiences that had achieved during this short but intense period of time.
There I could also meet the other EVS: Ana, from Portugal; and Davide, from Italy, have just arrived during the last weeks; while Giorgi, from Georgia, is actually finishing his volunteering this weekend. He has been working the whole year in the sports department, the same one which Mario joined when he arrived last May.
Before the party, I have some time with him to see all parts of the new building. Downstairs we can find the Youth Club. The youngers from Ivančice can come there and spend their free time: there is a computers room, a tv room, places for listening to music, reading books, magazines… and a big games room with board games, pools, table football and Ping-Pong.
“Středisko Volného Času Ivančice” works in a regional environment and has for different sections: the already mentioned Youth club; the familiar centre, where they organize activities for children and take care of them; the creative activities, where they give cultural workshops for youth such as ceramics, painting or dancing; and the sporting activities, where Mario has been working since his arrival together with the other volunteer, Giorgi, and two young Czech friendly employees, Ondra and Irka.
Given the lack of opportunities in Spain, Mario decided to start a new experience far from home. He is from Cádiz, a coast city of 130.000 inhabitants in the south of Spain, where the young unemployment has reached the 70 %. Despite the difficulties, it is still a very lively city. Coming from that youthful and friendly atmosphere to a small town in an unknown country with an unknown language could certainly be a big shock but all the worries Mario had before the arrival turned out to be wrong.
Although in the town, many people can’t speak English, almost everyone in his organization does so the adaptation was really quick. When he just arrived, he met some young Czech friends of other volunteer and started to play football in the team of Budkovice, a village close to Ivančice. The language of sports is universal so when someone can’t speak English there is no problem at all. That works both with children at his job and with his team mates in his free time. So now, he is also practicing in the Ivančice football team, in a five a side team and in a volleyball one. During weekends, as a good Spanish, he usually goes out at night –normally finishing in the disco of a closing village- and when he finds time between one sport and another he just watches a film or talks with his friends.
Floorball and handball are now the main sports in which he is working. He assists in the trainings three days a week, he also organizes the ‘sports zones’ around the town and help in the “school trips” : they go with some school class to a small village or the countryside close to Ivančice and spend there some days to improve the relations between the children by playing games, sports and other outdoor activities.
Undoubtedly, there is always something to do in Ivančice but it was the summer when there was no day to rest. They organized many summer camps for children and youth outside the town (about sports, cultural ones, for the whole family…). Mario had the opportunity to participate in three: one with a children handball team, one more general about outdoor sports with strategy games, tournaments, bicycle routes, swimming… and the most special: not about sports but about The Lord of the Rings. During 10 days, 50 children from eight until 17 took part in many different activities around this well-known literary and movie trilogy. Among other things they could enjoy Mario and Giorgi skills for theater, dressed as some of the famous characters. May be was not much true to the original books but was surely more funny…
After five months living here Mario is clear about how he feels “It is being a wonderful experience. I never feel the need of coming back”. Now he is waiting for some new EVS to come: one girl from Russia and another one from Armenia. I can imagine how worry they are at home now, as Mario was, thinking why they are so crazy to come to this small town so far from home. But there is always something to do, something to enjoy here. For example, the last party of a Youth Exchange. The night will be long and we don´t even have to go out from home…