European Year for Innovation and Creativity

Of one's free will



Everyone who is doing or has done a European Voluntary Service must have come in touch with the various demands of this status.

You have to meet certain formal non-formal requirements if you want to be admitted for a project. Those are terms and values also repeated many times on pre-departure and on-arrival trainings: A volunteer is, obviously, supposed to do a certain work voluntarily, for the benefit of disadvantaged people and the local community where he or she fulfils his or her mission. At the same time, the volunteer has to do this with a positive attitude, happily and enthusiastically striving towards a better world for everyone. And the ideal volunteer is, of course, open towards the culture in the host country, eager to get in touch with the locals and to experience the new surroundings to the fullest. After all, the EVS should be a ‘learning service’.


With these images and expectations, EVS volunteers start their stage. Depending on their character and personal situation, they are more or less idealistic about the outcome and the significance of their volunteering. No matter if they feel like the next Mother Therese or if they enjoy how much free time they suddenly have, every volunteer sooner or later has to face reality: ‘What change can I actually bring about? How much of my energy do I want to invest in this work? Who cares about what I do?’

And when faced with difficulties, be they of personal or formal character, people in general tend to lose courage and motivation. Especially as a volunteer, however, you are supposed to see them as challenges, unique opportunities to develop yourself and to grow. But this needs more than the formal involvement in a project: Also depending on the scale of the problems faced, now genuine idealism is required – or not? You have to ask yourself what you want, and why you want it. While this is something necessary throughout your whole life, as a volunteer, you need to at least display a humanist attitude to be able to do the work you are supposed to do. And of course, everyone has to work a certain amount of hours per week in order not to get kicked out of the project. However, how you actually do what you are supposed to do often makes all the difference. The question is: What use is it to me to help others?


The adjective ‘voluntary’ derives from the Latin word ‘voluntarius’, which means ‘of one’s free will’. And this matches the EVS. At the end of the day, everyone in this program chose to do this. And no matter how unstructured a project may be, you are now part of it. No matter how small you think the difference is you can make in the lives of disadvantaged people, it is already a good thing to make any positive difference at all. You can call yourself a volunteer because you are doing an EVS, or you can do so because it means for you to share with and to invest in others, because you are convinced that this is the right thing to do. If you are in a position to help, why not doing it with all your heart?