I have recently become a mentor in the centre of voluntary work “Lastochki”/Icye Russia. “Lastochki” has accepted volunteers from all over the world for a long dime. Volunteers are thrust into an unfamiliar environment, they do not always speak the language, know about the culture of their host country only from hearsay or personal interest and are hindered by stereotypes. And that’s where a mentor comes to their aid. What is a mentor and what are they needed for?
Primarily, a mentor is a local person who knows about the culture and customs of the host country. A mentor helps his/her volunteer with everything- sorting out a local sim card, teaching them how to use marshrutkas, showing them where to shop and what they can buy and so on. But mentors who are starting out cannot know everything that is expected of them. For that reason, within the framework of the Erasmus+ Programme training sessions and seminars for mentors are run regularly in different countries. I myself went to one of these train gins sessions thanks to the coordinator of Lastochki’s international projects Elena Gladun, who supported my application, and I was invited to a training session in Turkey.
Turkey at the end of Мay is wonderful! The event lasted 5 days.
These 5 days flew by very quickly. There was a full programme as well as excursions, swimming in the sea, delicious food and an excellent hotel- all of which we enjoyed to the full.
Representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Spain, Austria, Romania and Baltic countries came to the training session. For this reason the working language was english. The host, Turkey, selected excellent trainers, who worked with us every day and also looked after us.
I learnt many new things from this training session. Firstly, I received a more complete picture of the history of EVS’ creation, of what the Erasmus+ Programme is and of the reasons for working for this programme in different countries. Secondly, We studied in detail various tools for working with young people and various ways of motivating them. Besides this, we learnt in more detail about the functions of mentors and their tasks.
Our days were timetabled from the morning until evening. After a hearty breakfast, w went to the conference room, where are sessions took place. Since I was going to a conference, I had planned to wear office attire, stiff blouses and such. But even on the first day it became clear that all that was unnecessary. Our trainer worked barefoot and in shorts. We worked in groups exchanging ideas and it was conducted in a very informal setting: standing in a circle, sitting on sofas and even lying on the floor! Then we went for lunch, which lasted two hours and we even managed to have a swim in the sea. After lunch the work continued until dinner, but with a coffee break. After dinner we again met up with our new friends and the international evenings always ended at the disco. And at midnight, without fail, there was sup! And it was so delicious that it was impossible to turn down!
As a result of this programme everyone became friends and we would now be happy to welcome each other into our homes!
But the training session is not only about new acquaintances and friends, but also about the new product that each group created to help volunteers. It is about tools for informal learning, which are created during training and which fill the website of the Salto organisation, where you can find, learn and use all of this.
In conclusion I want to say that training sessions like these are very useful and necessary. I urge you to also apply for similar training sessions and to supplement your knowledge so that you can more effectively help our volunteers, who have dedicated part of their lives, without being paid, to helping people in need of assistance.
Mentor at “Lastochki”/ ICYE Russia