Apr 21, 2017

Experiences and memories as an EVS volunteer with JCV Braga

Having spent twelve months with JCV, to reflect on and write about it all and the impact it has had on me after just two weeks back in the UK seems a bit imbalanced, but I’m going to give it a go.

When I arrived on a rainy day at the end of March 2016, a rain so incessantly hard that it completely captured my attention with its force, I had no idea what I really had in store. At that point I barely knew or understand what EVS was, just that I would be participating in this programme for twelve months with the Youth Red Cross in Braga, Portugal and that I would be carrying out some tasks for them. As I settled into the role and time passed, I quickly began to understand what EVS is and what it has to offer. I am sure it is different for every individual and varies between organisations, but to me, EVS is the opportunity to contribute towards society, whilst also embarking on your own path of learning and discovery. It is the opportunity to help others, meet new people and broaden your horizons. The chance to experience another culture and learn another language, all while enforcing positive change through your role as a volunteer. You don’t necessarily know what direction your EVS will take, or how it will turn out when you arrive, but opening yourself up to all these changes, trying new things, and always being willing to get involved in whatever may be thrown at you will certainly set you on the right path.

Spending a year with JCV as a volunteer was a hugely rewarding one. It gave me the space to grow and develop with lots of people there always willing to help me on the way. I developed new skills and strengthened current ones in ways that I found both rewarding and interesting. It was a safe environment where I could express my ideas and emotions without fear of ridicule. Everyone was welcoming and enthusiastic about hearing how we could all make a positive impact on the organisation. To be presented with so many opportunities to grow and experience new things was something I could not have anticipated and certainly has helped me to become a better person. In turn, I hope through my work I made a positive contribution to JCV, enriching the work done there. JCV was a place where I could paint the canvas of my EVS as I saw fit and how I wanted; I can’t imagine many other organisations giving their volunteers the freedom and trust that was placed in us.
The right person on an EVS with JCV, will of course want to succeed and do well, but it is a safe environment to try things that may take time or may not work at all. As a result, I tried a couple of things that didn’t work out, but I was also able to achieve a lot of great things over the course of my EVS, and not all of those achievements were things I already knew how to do. I think if I had to list three things I was particularly proud of achieving during my EVS, I would firstly have to start with the youth exchange application. A lot of effort went into it, so to complete the application and for it to score well and be approved was a really satisfying moment for me and everyone else involved and I look forward to hearing how the implementation goes later this year. Secondly, I think I would have to say the book accompanying the #equê?! campaign because this has involved me learning how to use lots of new bits of software. Finally, my third achievement would be how well I have done learning the Portuguese language. JCV was really supportive of our efforts to grasp a difficult language and having never learnt another before, to come away with formal qualifications was hugely rewarding.

Of course, as well as my volunteer role, moving to Portugal allowed me to experience another country intimately, immerse myself in another culture, another way of life, learn another language. I have said it on a couple of occasions before, but it is still very apt to say, that despite having many friends who had moved to other countries to do different things, never did I expect I would end up doing something similar. That’s why, to this day, I still surprise myself and can’t quite believe it when I say I lived in Portugal for a year. Everything the country had to offer was astounding, from the big grand events such as São João, to smaller things such as the scenery and plenty of sunshine. The food was also something else. It was mentioned to me a few times that Portugal doesn’t seem to realise sometimes just how good some of it food is; I’m certainly going to miss francesinhas and natas. Portugal as a country was incredible and I look forward to returning in the future.

I would like to say a few public thank-yous before I bring my final blog to a close. Firstly, to Alifya, Deni, and Carlotta, my fellow EVS volunteers. I am grateful to you all for being part of my experience and, at the end of the day, for putting up with me for a whole year. We had no control over being put together but we seemed to find a really good balance and cohesion, and I think that helped make everything a bit easier and enabled us all to complete the things we wanted to get done. Also to everyone I worked with at JCV, both full-time employees and volunteers, for helping to enrich my EVS and providing support and ideas throughout the course of my year. Finally, I would like to thank Cintia, our coordinator. To start with, it goes without saying, thanks for picking me! If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t have even been there! Moreover, in all seriousness, thanks for helping us every step of the way, from picking me up from the bus station to dropping me off again one year later. You were patient with me and I think that really helped me to find my feet.

Participating in EVS and working as an international youth volunteer with JCV, has provided an added dimension to my education, something I don’t think everyone will get to experience, and for that I am extremely grateful. My year in Portugal has resulted in me becoming more confident, patient, and aware, a more well-rounded individual with a greater perspective on life, what it has to offer, and what we as people can take from it. I am excited and eager to begin future challenges, whatever they may be, and to implement everything I have learned, gained and cherish as a result of my EVS experience, in them as it will all help me to succeed and flourish.

Mar 11, 2017

JCV Braga now has its very own Instagram!

If you weren’t already aware, JCV Braga now has its very own Instagram account! If you have Instagram and haven’t already done so, please give it a follow and help spread the work that we carry out here. The username for the account is jcv_braga.

Why are we doing this? Well it is another tool that we can use to disseminate the work undertaken at JCV, spreading our message and demonstrating the value of humanitarian work. It will also be another way to further connect with our volunteers and partners, to show we value their support and participation in all the activities we implement. Furthermore, we also hope that demonstrating our work on such a widely used social media platform will also allow people to come into contact with our work who haven’t done so before, and may even provide them with the motivation to join us as a volunteer!

The aim of the Instagram account is to show JCV Braga ‘in action’, providing regular updates about what is happening as it happens. Not only that, we will utilise this tool to spread important messages about our work, facilitating a greater understanding of what it is JCV Braga does as well as the wider work of the Red Cross. We hope everyone who encounters our account will learn something new, even if you have been volunteering with us for many years!

We have a whole heap of ideas regarding how to implement this new tool and to present our outstanding organisation by showing the amazing work it does and the opportunities it provides. For example, we plan on introducing all the projects that we are currently implementing as well as featuring some of our volunteers so that they can present first-hand the value and worthwhile experience it is to participate in implementing the work of JCV Braga. Not only this, we will use the account to present new possibilities, in particular those related to the project ‘JCV in Action’ and the many international opportunities it provides to young people. However, the account is still at a very early stage of its growth and we are still exploring all possibilities regarding its use so if you have, or ever have any ideas about what we can do, please do not hesitate to contact us; your collaboration with this will be gratefully welcomed.

In the three weeks during which we have already had the account, we have already shared a lot, some of which I will include in this article. We began by participating in the campaign ‘We are #NotaTarget’ in support to the members of the Red Cross who were killed in Syria and Afghanistant recently. It has also included pictures of a recent Youth Exchange to Poland as well as images from our #equê?! campaign and Ponto Vermelho.

As I said, I will show some of the images here but the best thing really for you to do would be to check out the page itself in order to get a feel for what we are trying to do. It really is a great tool for us to have and the more of you who are able to interact with it the better and the greater the impact it will have!

If you don’t have Instagram, don’t worry, you can still check out the page here:

Feb 13, 2017

Discover there is more to people than meets the eye through the ‘EQuê?!’ Campaign

For those of you who follow the Juventude Cruz Vermelha Braga page on Facebook, you will have hopefully been aware of the weekly pictures being posted for our ‘EQuê?!’ campaign over the course of the last couple of months.

The ‘EQuê?!’ campaign focuses on stereotypes. Preconceived ideas and beliefs we inherit socially, stereotypes can be placed on specific groups of individuals or certain ways of doing things. They are notions that exist and are omnipresent in our day to day life, and can have a strong influence on how we both think and act. Stereotypes have developed over the course of time, whilst new ones continue to develop, becoming part of an individual’s psyche through the influence of family, literature, internet and media, among other mediums.

Some argue stereotypes are a natural way for us to categorise, understand, and give meaning to the world around us, though I would contest how naturally these develop. We may develop these beliefs through natural assimilation but the agendas of certain people and organisations mean they impose certain immoral ideas on us that we then take on, either consciously or subconsciously. A current and highly topical example is the stereotyping of 1.7 billion Muslims as terrorists and a threat to Western ideals – like these ideals are superior to all others - by certain individuals and sections of the media in order to fit their agenda, a ghastly case of ignorance and racism. Therefore, to say stereotypes are dangerous is an understatement, they are extremely threatening. Generalisations like this can lead to discrimination of various degrees and undermine people’s understanding of one another. As a result, it is a feasible to argue that stereotypes actually hold us back and that we should do our utmost to counteract them, instead spreading a positive message.

This is where JCV – Braga’s ‘EQuê?!’ campaign comes in. Most appropriately translated as ‘SoWhat?!’, ‘EQuê?!’ is a campaign looking to challenge common stereotypes that have developed, dispelling the idea that people can be forced into certain categories or characterised in particular ways. With all of us at some point or another in our lives being judged or labelled, we want to show that stereotypes do not in fact reflect our reality and that there is more to people than simply meets the eye.

An online photographic project, each week a new image is shared on the Juventude Cruz Vermelha Braga page on Facebook, where we encourage everyone to like and share the image so that we can have as far-reaching an impact as possible. The participants are those who we encounter regularly in our daily lives and we want to show, that despite seemingly appearing to fit in to certain categories or groups, that they are unique people who challenge stereotypes due to their individual characteristics, qualities and experiences. They remind us, that despite differences, they are equal to us and each of us is our own individual being with our own identity; we cannot be shoehorned into categories. At the end of the article I will share with you the link to the relevant Facebook page as well as including all the photos that have been published thus far.

The ‘EQuê?!’ campaign is actually really simple in its premise. All it requires is some willing participants to have their photographs taken, holding a placard demystifying a common stereotype that if often levelled against them but is completely erroneous. Then after a little photo editing to include all the campaign images they are ready to be shared online. Following this it is a case of getting the word out and working hard to make sure the campaign reaches as many people as possible. Clearly a lot of this is done through social media but other efforts, including this blog, can help spread the message. Last week, Tania and Luis also conducted an interview with RUM, the University of Minho’s radio station in order to help disseminate the message further.

The link for the corresponding article on RUM’s website can be found here:

The phrase ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is very applicable here. We hope this campaign will show there is more to people than meets the eye. I believe that this campaign contains a very important message and each and every one of us can take something from it. You may learn something new or realise that, for example, you had a preconceived idea about a particular group, whether intentional or not, and a relevant image discredits that belief.

Additionally, if you want to be more involved, you could be one of our participants! Take a look at the photos below and consult the Facebook page, and if you feel that you dispel a stereotype you can take a photo demonstrating just that. Just write your message on a white card and make sure you include the campaign name, ‘EQuê?!’ Then you can email your photo to us at dbraga.juventude@cruzvermelha.org.pt. It really is simple and does not take long and in doing so you will be helping to disseminate the message that stereotypes are misleading.

So, take the time to understand our motivations and objectives by having a look at the campaign and help spread our work to create a Juventude sem Rótulos! (Youth without Labels!)

This is a link to the Facebook page of Juventude Cruz Vermelha Braga:

You can also go directly to the campaign photos by using this link:

Here are the campaign photos thus far:

"I am blind but, I am independent, I work, I walk,
I take care of myself - E Quê?!"

"I am Muslim. I am not a terrorist. I stand for peace - E Quê?!"

"I have Down syndrome and I have a shop! - E Quê?!"

"Rasta does not always equal drugs! - E Quê?!"

"When I get emotional I cry! - E Quê?!"

"I am a woman and I don't need help parking the car"
"But I do - E Quê?!"

"I am Catholic and I go to mass every Sunday - E Quê"

"I am the coach tor for the national futsal team, and I dedicate my
free time to children with special educational needs - E Quê?!"

"I finished my bachelor's degree at 36 years old - E Quê?!"

"I am Muslim and I choose to wear a Hijab."
"I am also Muslim and I choose not to wear - E Quê?!"

"I was born, I grew up and I lived in a problematic neighbourhood
and I am not a delinquent - E Quê?!"

"I am a boy and my favourite colour is pink - E Quê?!

"I am Roma, I study, I work and I am single! - E Quê?!"

"Getting married? I choose not to do- E Quê?!"

"I am Roma and I promote the empowering of women - E Quê?!"