This month Kamil Goungor – an ENIL intern and supporter – shares the story of his EVS experience.
About six months ago I took a plane and left Athens, Greece, to land three hours later in Brussels, Belgium. My final destination was Gent, the most special city of this wonderful country. Why did I do it? Not for tourism, but because I decided to live the EVS (European Voluntary Service – it’s under the Erasmus+ umbrella) experience. It was probably the biggest bet in my life.
A bet because for the first time in my life I was leaving my family for more than two weeks and I was going to leave with a personal assistant (PA). A foreign country, unknown environment and weather conditions and many differences from the life I was used to. I was unsure for many things: about the cooperation with my PAs in long term, about my everyday needs, about the weather, about the work I’d have to do, about the people I would meet and work with, about the Belgian life and many more. But I was sure about one thing: that I wanted to do this. On the one hand, it was a lifetime opportunity to fulfill one of my dreams: to live abroad for a longer period and experience a new culture. And on the other hand, it was a great opportunity to work in the field of Independent Living, for two of the top organizations of their kind in Europe (Onafhankelijk Leven and ENIL). I am also one of the co-founders and currently a president of “i-living”, the first Independent Living organization in Greece.
From the first moment I arrived in Gent and saw my new living and working environment, and of course my new colleagues, I had a very positive feeling. The place was great, everything was well organized and everyone was very friendly. Definitely the best beginning I could imagine. And day by day it was becoming better and better. Being able to have an EVS like this, was a true privilege and a great learning experience. I am really grateful and I will never forget it.
During these six months I learned a lot (about Independent Living and not only), I gained skills and I evolved as a person. I visited many places, I met some really interesting people, I tried new tastes and in general I had many new experiences.
I am a disabled person (wheelchair user), so for a project like this I have some additional needs than a non-disabled EVS-er. I require a personal assistant for my everyday needs (help with eating, dressing, toilet and many more), accessible living and working environment, accessible transport, etc. And the EVS provided all these! So, with the assistance of my PAs and the support of my colleagues from OL and ENIL (and especially from my EVS’ mentor Peter Lambreghts), I was able to have an absolutely successful Erasmus!
An EVS is definitely something that everyone should do if he/she has the opportunity. And it’s inclusive and accessible for disabled people too, as you read! You experience new country and culture, you gain working knowledge in a field of your interest and in the end you become a better person. Keep also in mind that an EVS is not only about working. You have a lot of opportunities to do “touristic staff”, meet locals and much more. It’s a full-package lifetime experience! So, if you can, DO IT!
Kamil Goungor, journalist and Independent Living activist
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @kamiloulis