09.02.22

How to become a European Solidarity Corps volunteer

The European Solidarity Corps (often shortened to ESC) is a funding programme of the European Union that brings together young people in order to build a more inclusive society and respond to societal challenges. It creates opportunities for young people aged 18 to 30 to volunteer and run their own solidarity projects that benefit communities around Europe. If you like to travel, learn new languages, discover new cultures and are interested in helping the wider community in Europe and beyond, the European Solidarity Corps is for you! In this blog, Galway Community Circus ESC volunteer Ines explains how you can start the process and find a project in your own country or abroad.
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It is amazing to travel, live abroad, learn another language and discover another country and another culture. But would you believe me if I told you that you could do those things, while also gaining skills and developing competencies, for free?!

Have you ever thought about how we are here in Galway? By we, I mean the ESC (European solidary corps) volunteers! There are four of us here this year at Galway Community Circus – Laura, Nastja, Lau and myself, Ines. We’ve come to Ireland from different parts of Europe (Spain, Italy and Slovenia) to volunteer. We are here thanks to Galway Community Circus, but also thanks to the Erasmus+ funding, that any European citizen under the age of 30 can apply for.

The European Union has allocated a budget of €1.009 billion for 2021-2027 (yes, billion!) for the new European Solidarity Corps project to help young Europeans gain experience in different fields. The European Solidarity Corps was first set up by mobilising available EU funding from different programmes, including Erasmus+. The regulation that established the European Solidarity Corps (adopted 2 October 2018) made it a as a stand-alone programme that now benefits from its own budget.

The European Solidarity Corps helps young people take part in projects that benefit communities either abroad or in their own country, and involves projects in a wide range of fields including education and training, citizenship and democratic participation, environment and natural protection, migration, culture, and many others.

I am often surprised how many young people around me don`t know about the European Solidarity Corps. It helps broaden your horizons while allowing you to gain incredible experience with all expenses covered by the EU! Throughout this blog, I will explain what the European Solidarity Corps is and how you can look for opportunities abroad.

Who can join the European Solidarity Corps?


Every young European citizen aged between 18 and 30 years old. They do not require any previous studies or experiences in the field you apply for. Sometimes it is desired or appreciated, but it is not a requirement.

How long does it last?


A European Solidarity Corps project can last between one month and one year.

Where can I go?


You can find European Solidarity Corps projects in each EU country and occasionally outside the European Union. You can see what countries are covered here.

How much does it cost?

The European Solidarity Corps is entirely funded by the EU, which makes everything easier. With Galway Community Circus, we arrived in Galway with our accommodation and a bicycle already arranged for us. This helps a lot, believe me! The following things are included:

  • Travel – return travel costs from participants’ homes to the location where the project takes place
  • Transport inside the city – either monthly public transportation tickets or a bicycle, to allow you to move around the place
  • Pocket money – a contribution to additional personal expenses for participants
  • Online language learning support

Which kind of projects you can apply for?

There are many different projects and you can find them in fields such as art, sports, culture, conflict management, democracy/active citizenship, conflict resolution, solidarity and cooperation, human dignity, youth policy, sustainable development and more. There is a variety of fields to choose from in which you can gain experience. You can find really interesting projects, from a permaculture farm in the countryside to a circus in Galway!

How?


Register on the European Solidarity Corps portal. The portal is a place for young people and organizations to find each other. When you are registered, an organization can contact you and ask you to take part in a project, and through this website you can also search and contact organizations that may interest you.

Why?


There are many reasons to participate in the European Solidarity Corps. Some of them include:

  • You want to live in another country and experience life abroad! You want to meet new people, and discover another culture, language, and country.
  • You have finished your studies and are unsure of what you want to do next, but also want to continue learning and gaining experience.
  • You are trying to find a job, but you haven’t found one yet and you want to do something productive.
  • You want to discover another field that you have an interest in, or develop another skill.

In any case, the European Solidarity Corps can provide a new and different direction – a new place, new friends, and/or a new language. It’s a great opportunity to grow personally, academically and professionally. To give you an idea, some volunteers describe their experiences as freeing, inspiring, inclusive, fun, adventurous, and educational.

Note that at the end of your project you receive a document called YOUTHPASS that reflects all the activities, skills and competences acquired during your European Solidarity Corps project. It is a nice addition to your CV, especially if you want to continue traveling and working around the world.

Who is behind all this?


That is a good question, because there are several people and associations involved. We can say that there are 5 ESC main groups involved in a European Solidarity Corps project, including:

  • Volunteer: European citizens aged between 18 and 30 years old, as we said before, no further requirements. Anyone who is open to a new experience can do it.
  • Sending organization: The organization in your home country (in my case XERACION VALENCIA in Gandia, Spain) that helps you fill in the pre-volunteering documents and assists in other things like searching for cheap flights, contacting the hosting organization and more.
  • Hosting organization: The organization in your destination country (in my case Galway Community Circus in Galway, Ireland) who manages the project, provides a schedule with weekly activities, supervises and ensures you fulfil your obligations.
  • Mentor: A person who is part of the local community in your destination country. They are your ‘new best friend’, there for anything you need, like going to the doctor, to listen if you need support, to help with YOUTHPASS, etc.
  • National agency: This is ‘the eye that sees everything’. It is the highest authority of the European Solidarity Corps. If you have any problems with your hosting organization or there is something they cannot solve, the national agency can help. They also organize two trainings for volunteers, the first one when you arrive and the second one during the middle of the project. These trainings, (which have now been online due to the Covid-19) are a nice opportunity to meet other volunteers like you around the country!

Who can help me?

Your national agency and the local organizations in your country active in European Solidarity Corps projects. In Ireland, it is Léargas, who manage national and international programmes in youth work, education and training including Erasmus+, European Solidarity Corps and eTwinning. You first have to create your European Solidarity Corps profile to access the European Solidarity Corps portal, and go from there. I wish you good luck in your research and hope you have a great international experience!

Thanks to Galway Community Circus for having us here, for giving us support, for helping me realize my dream of working in the circus and for sharing knowledge every day!

**If you want to keep on reading about my lifestyle and my trips, you can follow me on my website Siendosenda (it is in Spanish but thanks to Google Translate, life is easier!), or on Instagram and Facebook.

European Solidarity Corps helpful links:

European Solidarity Corps Website
European Solidarity Corps Frequently Asked Questions
European Solidarity Corps with Galway Community Circus