A Short EVS in Holland

Last month, Caroline and I spent 4 weeks in Holland, 3 weeks of which were volunteering with the kids of Don Bosco at Vakantiebos. During our stay, we got the opportunity to live in a community with volunteers from all around Europe; Moldova, Slovakia, Iceland, Hungary, Sweden, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Germany, Georgia, Macedonia as well as Bosnia! The first week of our stay was jam packed with information sessions, training and team building exercises, where we not only got to know the European volunteers, but also the Dutch ones (the almost 50km bike ride on tandem still feels like it happened yesterday - it is definitely something neither of us will ever forget). This was only the beginning of what was to be an unforgettable journey, but we had already started to discover much more about ourselves and other cultures through living together as an intercultural family.

All the volunteers were then split up into different age groups, as kids from the age of 4 to 15/16 could attend Vakantiebos. I worked in the 13-15 age group, we called ourselves ‘Los Amigos,' and it was one of the best experiences of my life! There was never a dull moment, one day we'd play trust and team building games, and the next day we'd walk around town collecting food for the ‘food bank'. It was such an enlightening experience, and you can really see how a little bit goes a long way! I also saw this coming to life when we played the ‘fair trade' game, where the teens were split up into different groups and each team was given a small candle. Their task was to go around the town, exchange the candle for another item and further exchange that item for other items and so on, to see what they would end up with. It was so funny seeing all the different things that came back to our room that day! One group came back with a flower pot with flowers while another came back with a bull statue! Then there was the camp! It was a 4 night 5 day camp with the teenagers, where we organised a bike tour, a day at the Water Park, as well as forest games!

At the same time, Caroline was having a very messy - but also carefree and fun - time as part of the 9-10 group, who spent each day organising and participating in adventures on the green grounds of the centre, inside the theatre, in the forest, and even at the swimming pool! It was a challenging and learning experience for everyone since, in spite of language difficulties, we always found new ways to communicate; most unforgettably by having English-Dutch lessons with some of the children during breaks! Meanwhile, living together at the house with the other volunteers became a welcoming routine at the end of every morning and week, during which we would share our often tiring but funny experiences of the day and go out on excursions or relaxed evenings out.

As can be seen from the above, there are too many memories from our experience in Rijswijk to tell it all - it was a once in a lifetime experience where we got to meet some truly amazing people, and we don't regret it one bit! 

Written by Louisa Borg Costanzi

click here for more photos