EVS project description
The European Voluntary Service programme is open to anyone aged 18 to 30 from Europe, the CIS, or the Mediterranean region.
Accreditation: Host organisation
For Mother Earth, founded in 1991, is a member of the Friends of the Earth international network- the world's largest grassroots environmental federation. It is a regional environmental organisation, covering Brussels and Flanders, and pays specific attention to the issue of war and peace, human rights, and how these relate to the environment. It uses research, education and awareness raising, lobbying and nonviolent direct action as ways to reach its goals. We are actively developing a network of local groups across Flanders and Brussels, and recruiting new members, to ensure we can become an active and more influential organisation.
We have an office in Gent where around 15-20 volunteers work on campaigns and administrative tasks for the organisation. The team in the office is international, with volunteers from Flanders and other parts of Europe.
The restaurant "Lekker GEC" began life as a project of For Mother Earth, but is now run as a separate non-profit organisation (Sogo Bia O'yond). It also now runs an organ gardening project "Lekker Gecke Spruit"
The restaurant and office of For Mother Earth are located in the Gents Ecologisch Centrum (Gent Ecological Centre). The ecological centre demonstrates the application of energy savings and renewable energies (ie solar, wind, water, heat exchange). This is a unique project within Belgium, and was initiated by For Mother Earth.
Gent is an ancient and very beautiful city, located in the province of East Flanders. It is a student town, with one of Belgium's main universities. The large student population contributes to the lively and varied cultural activities available in the city. It has approximately 250,000 inhabitants, the majority of whom are Dutch speaking. It is located about 30 minutes from Brussels by train.
For Mother Earth has been hosting EVS volunteers for the past 8 years. The experience has been very rewarding for the volunteers, and for the organisation. We have also organised a number of "Youth for Europe" youth exchanges, around the issue of nuclear weapons.
EVS Volunteers will be accommodated in host families, who also have volunteers who work with For Mother Earth or our partner organisations. This gives volunteers an opportunity to get to know the city, as increases the chance of them integrating into the community. Our EVS volunteers are currently hosted in two different houses, both about 20 minutes cycle ride from the Gent Ecological Centre.
Food is provided each day (except Monday) for volunteers in the vegetarian organic restaurant Lekker GEC. Extra pocket money is given to volunteers for them to buy their own food on Monday and for breakfasts.
In the past, EVS volunteers have worked with either the nuclear disarmament campaign, or the energy campaign. However, there may be a possibility for the volunteer to work with one of the other working groups.
Work will include general campaigning work including research, lobbying, networking, preparation of campaign materials and preparation for, and participation in, demonstrations or nonviolent direct action. The volunteers will receive training in any tasks with which they are not familiar. This training may either be in the form of structured training sessions, or by working on a project with an experienced team member. They will also receive a thorough introduction to each of the issues that they will be working on. This may involve discussion with experienced campaigners in the field (both within For Mother Earth and other NGOs that we work with), or watching videos or research on the internet.
Volunteers will continue to receive support from experienced team members in each of the tasks that they undertake, for as long as it is needed. We try to encourage a cooperative working environment, where each team member can support and be supported.
Day to day work in the disarmament and environmental campaigns involves-
media and communication, such as press-work for events,
use of electronic media for information and communication,
participation in meetings and conferences,
research for the production of information brochures (published on the internet and in paper version)
promotion of events, at public meetings or information events, or spreading leaflets or posters
information stalls at festivals or other events
organise logistics for events such as peace camp or information event,
make a scenario for nonviolent direct action, and implement it. This may involve creating visuals and other necessary materials, and finding activists.
volunteers may also contribute articles for our magazine "Bulletin Voor Moeder Aarde" and the "MagEzine"
There are also a variety of small building and maintenance projects (painting, plastering, carpentry) that need to be done within the ecological centre. This is an excellent introduction to the use of ecological building materials and sustainable lifestyle.
In all of these tasks, we expect the volunteer to use their experience, knowledge, and contacts that they bring with them. This might involve contacting and networking with groups in their home country, translating information into their native language, or initiating campaigns in Belgium based on issues of particular concern in their home country. Recent examples of this have included the building of a network of NGOs around Europe opposed to the US nuclear weapons in their country, and the spreading of information about international anti-war action days to several countries across Europe.
Information and outreach.
Action material and activist network
Electronic communication and archives
Gent Ecological Centre
ORGANIC RESTAURANT LEKKER GEC
The restaurant was originally launched as a project of For Mother Earth to promote organic food and sustainable energy solutions as well as having a wide collection of Belgian and international magazines in the information corner of the saloon. Today, the restaurant is run by a separate non-profit organisation Sogo Bia O'Yond (For Mother Earth in the Shoshone language).
The restaurant has a strong social function, which means that as well as working with volunteers, we also offer work and support to people who are socially disadvantaged. There are a large number of people working with us who come from psychiatric institutions or drug rehabilitation centres, as well as people who are working as an alternative to a prison sentence, or are being guided in their reintegration into the labour market by either the city's social services ("article 60"), or the social security fund. In practice, this means that the EVS volunteers will come into contact with a very diverse group of people with a range of nationalities, characters, beliefs and ages.
As well as the restaurant, where volunteers can work in the kitchen, the saloon or in administration tasks, Sogo Bia has also started an organic gardening project: Lekker Gecke Spruit. The garden, about 2 kilometers from the Gent Ecological Centre, grows vegetables and edible flowers for use in the restaurant. We plan to expand this project, to allow local schools to visit the garden, for example. A third project is a cooperation with Green Energy Creations, an exhibition space for ecological products, which also has a filling stations for cars that run on plant oil.
EVS volunteers are asked to work in total 16 hours per week in the restaurant or the gardening project. This amount will be reduced if they are taking a language course.
The EVS volunteers will always have somebody to teach them, and guide their work, and to give personal support (a cook, or someone experienced in the gardening project). In addition the EVS volunteers have their own support person appointed by the council of the restaurant. The person responsible for EVS volunteers is available for the volunteers to turn to, if they have problems in the restaurant or gardening project.
TYPICAL WEEKLY SCHEDULE
Monday (typically used for team meetings, and training, as well as the regular EVS evaluation sessions with mentors):
We aim to enable volunteers to take 2 full days off each week. However, there are times when this can be difficult. This aspect of a volunteer's timetable should be discussed each week with the coach. Once a month this should be a real weekend (Friday evening-Sunday evening).
To allow good coaching and support, we encourage volunteers to fix at least 12 of the 20 hours that they work with For Mother Earth in the same weekly schedule. The weekly team meeting, on Monday afternoon 14.00-16.00, is included in this. The other 10 hours are planned in agreement with the coach during the weekly talks. There are four different shifts during the day: 9-13h; 13-17h; 17-20h and 20h-22h.
We try to avoid night work in the office in order to respect the rest of the neighbours, although, it can happen when it is necessary for a certain action or campaign. Changes to this schedule can be made in consultation with the coach.
Extra hours worked can be compensated by taking time off. This should be discussed in advance with the coach and mentor. The volunteer will call to the office and/ or the coach about absences, coming later to the office, illness, unexpected changes before their shift starts.
Volunteers have the right to have 2 days off per EVS month in addition to public holidays. The timing of these holidays should be discussed with their coach and mentor.
Note: during the festival "Gentse Feesten" (normally the 3rd week of July) volunteers will be expected to work full time in the stall that is run by For Mother Earth and the restaurant, in the city centre. Volunteers will be able to take 2 days off in the week following the Gentse Feesten.
Our office is located on the 4th floor of a building with no lift access. As such, the project may be unsuitable for some volunteers with limited mobility.
Friends of the Earth