It was August 2015 when thanks to Associazione Culturale LINK, Altamura, Italy, I had the chance to start my EVS in A.C.T.O.R. and after 12 months become EVS coordinator and currently also primary school educator/animator in visual communication. After almost three years then, between 19th and 25th of March 2018, I came back to LINK – with a new role – for a week thanks to ME+NTOR, a Job Shadowing project that we in A.C.T.O.R. are coordinating. During these days I had the chance to understand how mentorship is managed in LINK and how volunteers access to their activities by visiting them while they were implementing them. I had the possibility to discover and understand better the organisation which was my Sending Organisation from another perspective.
LINK works mostly with short term EVS project and just parts of them sees them coordinating and hosting. The latter is the first difference between them and us. The projects where LINK is just coordinating are about volunteers working in socio-animation with disables, the projects where is also hosting are about volunteering promotion, youth work and non-formal education in schools. More or less the activities and the know-how they have is similar to A.C.T.O.R.’s one. Generally, I have got inspired by the atmosphere in LINK that is influenced by Altamura’s one. The approach they have to their activities and beneficiaries allow them to integrate a kind of familiar relationships with volunteers that after few weeks of project are able also to speak just Italian as communication language, this highlights the high inclusion level they achieved for their volunteers.
Stefanita – my company in this J.S. and Manager in A.C.T.O.R. – and me followed a red line that could narrate the LINK story, the good practices, past experiences, management of the volunteers and the hosting organisations partners, the interaction with the community, the visibility through one of the activity of the volunteers, the radio channel, etc. By the way, being guest at the radio activity to Radio Regio Koop from Altamura was a nice and exiting moment for me personally because I had to speak for the first time in a radio and also I had to answer to questions made by Gabin and two EVS volunteers in LINK, Sebastian from Nederland and Amine from Turkey, whose topics allowed me to describe – probably for the first time – abroad A.C.T.O.R. and its initiatives, the Romanian culture and ME+NTOR project goal and impact that it had till now.
Discovering the different reality between Altamura and Matera, so LINK and B-LINK during the coordination sharing sessions was also another interesting activity in our agenda as the visit ANFFAS and AUXILIUM centres and to Masseria Jesse, with its old story and future possibilities for LINK activities.
Lucia, Ilaria and Gabin from LINK where mostly present for the various moments shared. All of them where open to every kind of questions, doubts and curiosities regarding their EVS management and mentorship methodology. I do not know if I did wrong or not, I always tried during this J.S. to compare the working methods that were described with those used in A.C.T.O.R. Even though the comparison is not the most appropriate operation to do since the two organisations have really different management conditions and contexts. LINK’s mentorship methodology seems to me more sustainable and efficient in terms of balance between Staff efforts and Volunteers learning objectives. They run project that do not need a day by day coordination of the volunteers activities even though the volunteers can freely work and plan, run and implement their tasks also in the office close to the LINK staff, this allows the volunteers and the LINK staff to have a very constant contact that helps both sides to feel close to each other and creating feelings of trust and transparency and most of all spirit of identity and belonging to LINK as organisation.
Altamura culinary tradition plus the Italian cuisine itself never disappoint expectations, of course. We mostly ate with LINK member staff, every meal time was still a way to share and interact under many aspects of the JS goal and the partnership. The calm rhythm of the town and the close and familiar atmosphere created by the staff in LINK, that as a clear task division influence positively the whole environment, indeed volunteers are able to have their own flow and to make personal projects. Also the support of the local volunteers has its positive impact since LINK decided to dedicate one day per week, 2 hours of activity in office with local teenagers interacting with the EVS volunteers in the LINK CLUB.
About mentoring EVS volunteers in LINK, instead, is not at all similar to our way in A.C.T.O.R. Their mentoring is kind of natural flow and trust between EVS volunteers and LINK staff or local volunteers. This J.S. in LINK made me to realise that building mentorship is like building a friendship — it develops over time like a good friendship and both people must equally invest in the relationship. But you cannot prevent if the mentor – that the organisation is going to provide to the volunteer – will allow this mentorship construction-process. So Erasmus + mentorship concept to me is not a “natural” one and any methodology cannot guarantee 100% a successful mentor support beside a “natural” friendship.
Finally the opinion I built during this experience is to have a mentorship less overviewed by strict procedures has Erasmus + and some National Agencies do. About activities management, in the end, I would say that there is no road without holes or obstacles who has trained an expert pilot.