The house of all volunteers

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The other day I was talking with another volunteer about how strange is to feel more like “at home” in a friend’s house where you spend one or two nights than in your own place. For different reasons we both agreed that our places are far from this “feeling”. In my case, I won´t definitely miss my dormitory. May be some people I met here or the amazing park which is close to it but not the different rooms where I had to spend so many nights this year.

Fortunately, in some sense it encouraged me to be always outside, to enjoy the “city life” when I am here in Plzeň and to travel whenever it is possible. For the first time in my life I feel like a nomad, and I love it. Meanwhile, this old dormitory, ugly, harsh and unpleasant, is just the necessary place where I sleep.

Amara –the other volunteer- and I were talking about it because we have already been in a very different place. A warm, comfortable and friendly house where you can feel “at home”. It is a flat in an old grey fourth-floors building in Kafkova ulice (Prague 6), not so far from main Prague spots like the Castle and Letenské sady but far enough to feel that you are in a common Czech neighborhood and not in the middle of this tourist massive attraction which is the center of Prague.

It is actually the flat of Adna and Nora, two volunteers from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Spain who are doing their EVS in the Association for Voluntary Activities INEX-SDA. I don´t know if it is because of the comfortable rooms, their decoration, their close and open-minded character or their relaxing way of life, but I am sure Amara and I are not the only ones who feel it. Many EVS, workcampers, coachsurfers, friends and friends of friends from all over the world have had the opportunity to stay there and enjoy a quiet, friendly and free stay before the rush which can be visiting Prague.

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Last week I was there again because I wanted to see Adna´s presentation about her country, where I could spend some days this summer in an unforgettable trip. She is from a small town called Visoko but studied Psychology in the capital, Sarajevo. After volunteering for some years in an NGO there, she decided to have some experience abroad and came to Czech Republic.

Adna is working now in the educational department of INEX. One of her main projects has been “Football for development”, a one-month campaign about global education which tries to raise awareness about racism and discrimination connecting Czechs and Kenyans through football. She spent one month in different regions in Czech Republic giving workshops, drama performances and organizing football tournaments with people from Kenya and Czech Republic. What is interesting about these competitions is that the final winner is not the team with the highest score but the one that all mediators agree that has been playing the fairest football.

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During this year Adna and Nora have been always in contact with people from all over the world. As INEX is the organization in charge of coordinating all the international summer workcamps in Czech Republic, they have had the opportunity to become leaders and deal with some of them. For example, Adna was recently in Chříč, a very small village near Plzeň, restoring an ancient brewery; while Nora was cleaning in an organic farm which had been highly damaged after June floods – but in the end they managed to plant some tomatoes and cucumbers-.

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The aim of INEX is to carry out, support and promote international voluntary work and intercultural education. They are not only focused on bringing foreigners to Czech Republic but also arrange voluntary placements abroad for Czech volunteers in workcamps, EVS organizations and other specific projects (for instance, there are some people working in India right now). Nora leads the campaign “Your Experience Counts”, in which they ask for some feedback to all the Czechs who are currently abroad. As she is working in the volunteering department of INEX, she is monitoring all of them and also writing the evaluation of the foreigners who came here for the summer workcamps (statistics, motivations, things to improve…).

Nora is 24 years old and comes from Zaragoza, a big city in the north of Spain between Madrid and Barcelona. After finishing her studies in Law, she wanted to live abroad for some time. She spent already some months in Ireland and chose this project in Czech Republic because she wanted to see how an NGO works from inside as she pictures herself in the future working for non-profit projects.

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Both Nora and Adna miss a little bit the warmth and good cheer of their hometowns but, although the adaptation was difficult, they are glad they are living here. They think their EVS has changed them somehow, they have now more experience, more knowledge and have met many people from different cultures and backgrounds. They enjoy more the relaxing times and how close they are to nature here, but also the opportunities of living in a big city like Prague (exhibitions, concerts, cinema, hanging out with friends to different places everyday…).

Now, they are working in their personal project, a sharing guide for EVS where you can find ideas and support for workshops and other activities. For me, they are already the support I need every time I go to Prague. Their kindness, their consideration, their generosity… As I see, the house of Adna and Nora is the perfect metaphor for INEX. A place where everybody is more than welcome…

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