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Former EVS volunteers from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia were brought together in Rustavi, Georgia between 18 and 20 October, for an event organized within the EU-programme European Voluntary Service (EVS) with support from SALTO EECA. The aim of the event was to evaluate and reflect upon EVS-experiences of former EVS-volunteers, and was dedicated to promote the EVS-programme among Georgian youth.
One of the participants was Gulnar Mammadova, who recently returned to Azerbaijan after having worked as an EVS-volunteer at the Åland Islands Peace Institute for one year. Below she has shared some experiences from the meeting.
“Although the experience of the participants differed regarding the duration of EVS-projects (which varied from one month till one year), and the working fields (such as working with kids, orphans, disabilities, immigrants, youth and etc.) ex-volunteers shared similar impressions, hardships and lessons learned.

Simple Picture Slideshow:
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In general, EVS played an important role and was a major step in life for many participants since living and working abroad has provided them with professional as well as life experience. Many participants expressed how they had been going out of their comfort zone and challenging themselves in a new and different environment. For numerous participants living abroad and taking the opportunity of travelling in Europe was important in breaking stereotypes about people of different cultures and thus acquiring intercultural experiences.
Now, after the end of their EVS-projects many participants felt more self-confident and not afraid of being different back home in their own society. Some also shared the idea they hade learned never to give up in pursuing their goals when facing challenges and to appreciate opportunities.
Overall, in my opinion, the event in itself began and finished in friendly and peaceful atmosphere. It was significant in breaking stereotypes and building trust between Azerbaijani and Armenian participants. In fact, one Armenian participant mentioned how this event changed her thoughts toward the better regarding Azerbaijanis.”
Gulnar Mammadova
Former EVS-volunteer at the Åland Islands Peace Institute