evs @ erfolg

A multilingual blog about the life as a volunteer in the Latvian organisation Erfolg


My way to Daugavpils – Sophie

After graduating from school, I was sure I wanted to go abroad. My favorite place to go was France. But after some applications for some projects there I recognized that it was not that easy to find a project in France. By hazard, I came in contact with the project of the society Erfolg in Daugavpils in Latvia. It sounded nice, I applied for it and now here I am. But it is not that simple. I have to describe how I came here. So I knew I would go to Latvia. I have never really thought about this country before and all the people I have told my plans asked me: Oh why Latvia? What will you do there? But I was happy and I was curious and excited.
As I arrived at the airport of Riga, there was a man waiting for me keeping up a sheet of paper with my name on it. I felt like in a film. The other volunteer, a French girl, arrived just ten minutes before me at the airport. The man had a kind of hotel where we were accommodated. He and his wife were very friendly. They narrated some aspects of the Latvian culture and history and suggested some places in Riga where we could go the next day.
So the next day, the French girl Amandine and I, we had a wonderful trip to Riga. First of all, we went to the sea in Jurmala which was the best thing we could have done because the weather was very warm and sunny. We also promenaded along the city canal in the park and we saw the old town. As we arrived at our lodging in the evening we were very tired but also very happy. And I had to discover that I got a sunburn. I did not expected that it is so hot in Latvia.
The next day we drove to Daugavpils by bus. About 80 km away from Daugavpils the bus broke down. In the first moment we did not know what was going on. The bus driver said something and mostly all of the passengers debarked. So we thought it was a normal break. But we sat there a little helplessly until I asked the bus driver what happened. He answered: Game over. In two hours to Daugavpils. Ok. We did not know what to do but we tried to phone somebody at the organization that they knew about our situation. At first we did not reach anybody and we were very worried. But after some tries it worked and we could inform them. So we had to wait there at the roadside and after about one and a half hour the next bus to Daugavpils arrived and all of the passengers could get in and found a seat. We could not believe it but finally we arrived in Daugavpils. We were picked up by my mentor and a German girl who is also a volunteer in Erfolg. She presented the city to us and narrated us her experiences in Latvia. Now I am really looking forward to my year in Latvia.



My arrival in Latvia – Amandine

After one year in the french administration, I wanted to leave my country because I dreamed travelling in Europa since four years. I wanted to quit France to evaluate my skills and my capacities to live in a foreigner country, without my family, my friends and my repairs. I have searched during two years a good project, I had contacts in Republic of Macedonia, in Italy and in Ukrainia. Finally, I had choosen the latvian’s project because it’s was the most interessing for me, it has all I like : meets with different and varied people, liberty and autonomy in work, a present responsable and a good environment. I didn’t know Latvia so I thought it was difficult to adapt myself.
So I’m arrived to Latvia four days ago and I was very surprised by the heat. In first time, I’d passed two days in Riga with Sophie, my future german roommate. We have climbed in a tower to admirate the view of Riga before going on the Jumala’s beach. In a second time, we have spent time in the old city and in many beautiful parks. Riga is a beautiful city where it seems to be good to live. Many entertainments in the center do this city the perfect Capital of Culture2014.
Sunday, we have tried to join Daugavpills in bus. After a problem with one wheel on the road and six hours later, we arrived in Daugavpills where two Erfolg’s persons waited us. It’s not funny when it’s too easy… My first impression has been : „It’s strange after Riga ! It’s very different : poor, not many people in the streets, not many shops”
After, we have visited the center, our (small) flat and our borough. For our first evening in Daugavpills, we have eated in a good restaurant and drank a local very good bier (with moderation, of course…). So my first impression of Daugavpills has changed.
Monday, we have spent time to discover the city and its forteress after have discovered our placework : people are nice and it seems to be a good place for working and exchanges. The place is beautiful and really good to evoluate. Now, I think Daugavpills is a good place for me because there are some activities to doing and a mix of cultures with many EVS of different countries.
It’s still a little difficult for me because it’s very different of France and I have any repairs here, I’m feeling a little lost because I’m shy and I must speaking english or german ; but it’s just the beginning…



Mid-term training :)))))))) Like a dream

Mid-term training :))))))))

IMG_1214Like a dream

This March was memorable because of the unforgettable Mid-term training that took place in Kegums, in Umuri House.

Every day I realize that EVS is like a beautiful dream and this training was another proof of that.

Ok, let’s try to describe our lovely Mid-term 🙂

First of all, I will remind you that we had our On-arrival in the same place in Umuri. After the On-arrival we thought that we would never get back to that wonderful place and we were all like ‘if only we could come back here’ and ‘if only we could stay longer’. However, surprise, surprise! Our Mid-term took place in that wonderful guest house again.IMG_1173

I went to the training together with my flatmate Pia. We took the first train in the morning and arrived in Kegums at around 10 o’clock. Umuri house was all in snow and very, very beautiful of course. Needless to say how happy we were to see our friends and also some new EVS volunteers all very nice 🙂

Our first day started with a coffee break (lovely coffee breaks 🙂 ) and getting to know people we had not met before, including our wonderful trainers Ieva and Stas J We realized that this Mid-term was a completely Georgian Mid-term with Giorgi, Zura, Beka and me. We were four Georgians -the biggest team out there, something that does not happen every day here.  To begin with, we passed the first half of the day with very good activities and really cool games like crossing the river and table game, which was really interesting although I did not try to accomplish the task- as it was physically very challenging. As for the evening, we played a very cool game called „psychologist” and Mafia and of course got to bed really late, even though we were tired.IMG_1134

The second day was similarly cool. We talked about the Youthpass, how to complete it, describing every competence, something I found very useful.  Moreover, we again had interesting games and many energizes. In the evening we enjoyed a lot as our hosts had a nice surprise for us. The crazy night was completed (already in the morning) with the coolest game in the world ‘Animals’ – we were so taken by the game that nobody wanted to sleep.


The third day was the day of departure and we were all very sad and did not want to go at all. We had some games and activities in the first half of the day and then made plans for the rest of our EVS. Before we left, we had another tasty lunch (by the way, food at these trainings is amazing) and got ready to go, leaving our hearts behind 🙂

In the end, I want to say that these three days were really like a dream and when we got back home Pia and I were asking each other “Was it a dream and have we just woken up?”. Once more I want to say that EVS is unforgettable and days like these make it even more amazing 🙂 Yes, yes, this is EVS 🙂IMG_1218

See you soon,


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Some days last longer than others

The most challenging time of my life is just about to finish, and nearly a year after it’s only fair to say: my life will never be the same again. 

Like many of the wonderful people I was lucky to meet here, so did I decide to be an EVS to escape. It doesn’t even matter what from – a boring job, a broken heart, the fear of choosing what to study, a small city… The list is endless and impossible to finish.

I was told four days before that I was selected to participate in a project in Latvia, in the second biggest city… For someone from so far away and with very bad geographical skills, this didn’t say much! But I had postponed this dream for too long and I was willing to go to the first place where I was selected.

After the initial shock, many tears and fears, the time came to fly and start a new life – and until today, I have no regrets.

I will not annoy you with details about work even though, with some difficulties, there was much to be done, learned and enjoyed. I will just write from the heart.

Even with the pain of leaving a country I grew to love so much and so quickly; even knowing that I am leaving for a very unhappy reason; even though I miss Daugavpils, Latvia, and so many people already, even before leaving; even knowing that I will cry much more after going away that before coming here – and I cried a lot!; even if I am writing with a heavy heart – I have no doubts when I say that this was, so far, the best decision of my life.

Some things are better left unsaid, especially because there are not words enough in all dictionaries to explain what I saw, learned, felt, grew, experienced.

I could have never expected a country so extraordinary. Latvia is a small country, with around 2 million inhabitants, and countless green, amazing, perfection-touching landscapes. In the summer, it looks so beautiful that you can physically feel the wonder. The lakes, the sea, the countryside, the sunsets, the sunrises… The beauty is beyond words.

The people are not the warmest in the world, when you first meet them. But after the initial icebreaking, trust me: they will try to help you even if they don’t know how. Language barriers rose every day, even more in a city where much more than half of the citizens are Russian speakers, you live surrounded by two languages, and you speak none. But somehow my fellow volunteers and me manage, and part of it is due to people’s will to help.

And the sound of Latvian… I was always fond of learning new languages, but if a year ago someone told me that I would feel so delighted listening to something (and even speaking a bit!) that I understand so little, I could have never believed. Maybe I was incredibly lucky with my teacher Agnese, who became a real friend, who loves her country and language so much that it made me impossible not to love it too. Maybe the love that Latvian people have for music and dancing puts such a special sound in the language that you cannot avoid enjoying. Maybe maybe… I can’t give a scientific answer, and I don’t think that there is one.

And the food, oh yes, the food. There is no one I know here that doesn’t like this flavours. And how not to like it? It’s tasty, so tasty. The vegetables and fruits are so colourful, the meat and fish are so delicious, the bread and pastry… Oh lord, I have no words! It’s a common feeling over here… Latvia makes us chubbier but happier!

Something worth mentioning is, of course, how easy it is to travel here. The Baltics are not lengthy, so it’s quite easy to spend a weekend in Tallinn, go for lunch in Vilnius, take a bus to Saint Petersburg, or even enjoy a ferry trip to Stockholm. Not to mention how simple it is to travel inside Latvia itself – there are trains and buses to mostly anywhere, quite affordable, which provides a great opportunity to see new and wonderful places, but also to visit our many EVS fellows, spread all around the country.

I am happy to realise that, during this year, I visited three countries other than Latvia and Portugal, and so many Latvian cities that I can’t even count them by heart. Many pictures were made; but unfortunately or maybe not, there is still no mechanical device that can keep forever the feelings that these wonderful landscapes gave me – only in oneself there is the matter that can absorb so much. If there was a sense of wanderlust before I came here – and it existed already, no doubts – now it’s for sure a bigger part of who I am. Having travelled and seen so much, I realise how vast the world is – but also how close anything can get and how badly I want to see more and more.

Regarding my work, even though it was not my dream project, even though I had many difficulties, some of them avoidable – I am still thankful that I had this opportunity. I met incredible people, smart, caring, thoughtful, helpful. People I will forever keep in my heart and in my happiest memories, who took their own role in making this year an unforgettable one.

Even the difficulties were a plus. Today, I feel more capable, more flexible, more mature, with many more professional skills than a year ago. I see myself more able to overcome obstacles than before, to adapt more easily to new and challenging atmospheres. My English improved as well, I deepened my knowledge about my  own mother tongue by teaching basic Portuguese in open classes, I am now able to speak, in a very basic level, a language that only around two millions people in the whole world can speak. My sense of initiative, team work, responsibility, increased significantly. There is no possible way in which I could regret this experience.


But most of all, what makes this experience so incredible are the people that I was lucky to meet.

It’s hard to enumerate each and every one I met. Some people you just can’t resume into a few words, and there is always the risk of forgetting someone or not expressing your feelings properly.

There is this common feeling that we state half as a joke, half as very seriously, that everyone who decides to be a volunteer should be a really cool guy. The reality is, of course, less charming than this, but the truth is that there must be something at least interesting in someone who decides to live abroad for a while, in a country where almost for sure there is no one already acquainted, for an amount of money only enough to survive and a bit more.

There is no glamour in being a volunteer. We don’t wear fancy clothes, attend exclusive parties, stay in good hotels when we travel. But there is passion, there is sense of adventure, there is a constant need of ‘more’, more stories, more experiences, more places. There is a will to make our job better and better every time, to contribute to the community in which we are living, to reach more and more people with our activities. There is pleasure in sharing our knowledge about our own countries, teaching words, explaining habits, showing pictures. We are eager to embrace and explore the new, at the same time that we gladly give a piece of ourselves.

With this, also come the bonds that inevitably we create with extraordinary creatures placed in our live for whatever reason – by a coincidence, by working circumstances, though common friends.

There is some sadness in knowing that eventually we will move in different paths. There are people with whom we share so much, to whom we connect so instantly, or that we grow to love in such a deep way, that it is hard to imagine that in a short time we will live with many countries between us.

I still remember how hard it was to see Nikolas and Jeanne leave, with only a 10 day space, and realising that our perfect little family was changing and getting apart. Or how weird it felt to go to Riga after Mateja left, knowing that for the first time we wouldn’t meet in Hélia’s place and have endless-dreamy-hopeful-andalsosilly conversations. Or how Therese took a piece of my heart when she went back home, never to be replaced again. I was touched to see Pia’s face when we said goodbye yesterday, and how warm was hers and Corinna’s adorable hug (oh, how I’ll miss our stand-up comedy shows!). And then I was surprised, when I spontaneously said “See you tomorrow!” just before leaving, not even thinking about what I was saying.

 I was surprised to realise that I didn’t cry in my goodbye party, last Friday – on the contrary, it was an amazingly happy simple moment. I was surrounded by loving friends, and instead of feeling sad to leave them, I just felt the luckiest girl in the world for having met them. I felt this goodbye as a great celebration of the amazing time I had here – and that paid for all the unavoidable sadness and anticipated nostalgia for its end.

There were some tears today at the airport – well, many, to be honest. This only shows me how much I received this year. I am grateful for the opportunity I was granted, and I can only wish each one of my friends to someday experience a fulfilment as big as the one I feel as I am returning home.

Liels paldies Latvija, un uz redzezanos!

Ar milestibu, sava Maria


 P.s. – I finished this article already flying from Riga to Frankfurt. As we were leaving Riga, I looked down and felt something tremendous inside my chest: the sadness of leaving was replaced by the happiness of having lived such an amazing, unforgettable, irreplaceable year. Thank you my dear A., for showing me how to see the world in its brightest, purest colours. 


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Four countries, one Christmas evening – Maria

On the 20th of December, German Society ERFOLG organized Christmas evening. The purpose was to gather Daugavpils community with our foreign volunteers, and allow them to show the traditions and tastes from their own countries.


The event had a good participation from the citizens of our city, and the environment was friendly and cosy as Christmas should be.

Our volunteers – Pia and Therese from Germany, Ana from Georgia and Maria from Portugal – shared homemade food, typical of Christmas. There

se and Pia also presented a quiz about German traditions during these holiday, in which they questioned things such as how many Christmas markets are there in Germany, in which day do they exchange the gifts…

We had Khachapuri, a delicious bread with cheese from Georgia, a carrot cake and caramel apples from Portugal, and Gewürzkuchen, a tasty

 spices cake from Germany – all homemade!

The lottery for the Christmas basket also took part in this evening; there were plenty of tickets sold, and it was

 a great moment when we announced the winner and realised that the family was all there. The Christmas basket is a very popular habit in Portugal, in which we gather several useful and traditional items of Christmas, sell something similar to a lottery ticket for a symbolic price, and then announce the winner during an event. The idea is to provide something special to families for a small amount.

We also distributed the prizes to the winners of several contests organised by ERFOLG, all related to German culture. These contests happened in the range of the activity “Culture Marathon”, in which during the whole year of 2013 several activities took place – contests, quizzes, trips… It had the support of the Minister of Internal affairs from Germany. We would like to take the opportunity to thank all our participants, which made this activity so successful.

We would also like to take this opportunity to announce their names:

  • Contest “ Gingerbread holiday houses”: Anastasija Makarova
  • Contest “Flavors of Germany”: Vladislavs Ivanovs; Kristine Grigorjeva
  • Photo contest “German Lens”: 1st place – Svetlana Smirnova; 2nd place – Irina Apeina; 3rd place – Arturs Apeins
  • Quiz “German music”: Anete Vagale
  • Doll contest “My favorite German fairy-tale hero”: Kristiāna ZvirbuleImage

Now, on the 21st of January, all the participants are invited to a trip to Riga with ERFOLG.


In this evening, we also counted with the presence of Saint Nicholas and Servant Rupert, both figures from the German Christmas imaginary. Saint Nicholas was a bishop with a good heart, who would present the children with gifts in their sh

oes if they behaved well during the year, on the night of 5th of December. On the other hand, Servant Rupert hits naughty children with his bag of ashes to punish them.

They greeted our participants, and there was also the opportunity of explaining their meaning.

After the quiz and the lottery everyone could enjoy the tasty food and exchange experiences among all the participants.

Thanks to the participation of the citizens of our city, it was a lovely and amusing evening. 


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Icelandic adventure – Marks Badalans

erfolg logo                                                                            logo jaunatne dep1                                           

During 7 months our Volunteer – Marks Badalans participated in EVS project in Iceland, which was financially supported by Program “Youth in Action”. The European Voluntary Service enables young people to carry out voluntary service for up to 12 months in a country other than their country of residence. It fosters solidarity among young people and is a true “learning service”. Beyond benefiting local communities, volunteers learn new skills and languages, and discover other cultures. Non-formal learning principles and practice are reflected throughout the project.

Returning back to Latvia Mark is sharing his impressions and experience after his EVS in Iceland.

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Iceland is the land where fire meets ice, country where you can find hot springs, volcanoes, geysers and glaciers. Place where people pacifically live side by side with elves and trolls. I chose Iceland exactly because of that and after 7 months of my EVS I experienced it all.

I was working with “SEEDS”, it is a volunteer organization designed to promote intercultural understanding, environmental protection and awareness through work on environmental, social and cultural projects. My position was named “work camp leader” and the main tasks were:

– Leading international workcamps: coordinating the group of volunteers in the organization of the work and the free time activities as well as managing the group dynamics.

– Writing a report and evaluating the projects

– Acting as a link between the international volunteers and the national project hosts

– Budgeting the food and other costs of the volunteers

Seems really serious and important tasks, which of course were not easy, but nonetheless it was a great chance to explore the country and spend a great time with so many different people, being in really spectacular places. I chose this EVS project because of just one line in the description: each SEEDS volunteer should bring a sleeping bag. So during the all project I was leading 10 work camps, which were placed in different places in all around the Iceland.


During all these time I met a lot of new people, imagine if every two weeks I had a new group and new hosts. After this EVS my Facebook account really grew up. The groups what I was working with were different, sometimes really small (like 4 people), sometimes quite big (like 20 people), one group can be really active and positive; another can be quiet, but nice. All groups were really multicultural, so sometimes was hard, but also interesting, to work and live with the people, where everyone comes from different countries and have totally different cultures. And there was one rule among all the leaders – in every group, for sure, there will be one strange volunteer!


Now a bit about the places where I have been and worked, that we have been done. So we worked in really different places like farms, gardens, festivals, national parks and nature zones. My first work camp was a Viking festival in Hafnafjordur, where we met a lot of Icelandic Vikings and I was helping with festival organizing. To be honest it was a really hard work camp for me, because of many reasons, but after that one I was ready for everything! In every work camp we had different tasks, which was depending of the place, so for example in the national parks we were building touristic trails, in the farms we were working with animals, building fences and making the construction works. When work was really hard and demanding, we were finding rest and motivation in the free time activities.


We can divide Iceland in 6 parts; it is East, West, South, North, Highlands and West fjords. Each place is a bit different so for example in the South part mostly are glaciers, black sand beaches, volcanoes and lava fields; in the North there are a lot of waterfalls, mountains and snow; West is the land of sagas; West fjords, a lot of people think, that it is the most beautiful place in Iceland; Highlands is a really dangerous area with a lot of hot springs; East, I never been there, but I know that here is the biggest forest in Iceland. All these places, we were discovering with volunteers during our free time using cars, boats and horses. Sometimes we went to whale watching, fishing or just hiking somewhere, to enjoy the beautiful nature which is really clean and natural.

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For sure EVS in Iceland was one of the greatest times in my life, I will never forget it, and of course I hope to visit it again, maybe even to lead one more work camp there. That what is written here is just a small shadow of that I really experienced and I hope that in future, I will have the chance to share my impressions in a more complete way.

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Marks Badalans

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To describe the last 5 days in words is really hard but I will try my best 🙂 After 2 months in Latvia I had my On-Arrival training last week. Together with Ana and our mentors Natalija and Inese we took the train on Friday really early in the morning. The train brought us to Kegums from where we drove to our shelter which was in the deep countryside. The building was really nice and near the Daugava river. Image      Image After arriving we met the other ten volunteers and their mentors. We came from 9 different countries which already showed us that this will be an interesting experience. During the day we had different activities and games which helped us to get to know the other participants. There was also lots of food and with lots of food I mean that I have never eaten more in my life than in these 5 days. The first evening was organised by the mentors because its topic was ‘’Latvia’’. I learned more about the country and the culture. They showed us some traditional dances and songs. Of course there was again typical Latvian food. They love dark bread and one mentor cooked bread soup for us. It was a surprise for me because it was really sweet and I think now I’m addicted to it. On the second day we had the international evening which was also great. I learned more about countries I just have known the name before. On Sunday the trainers told us more about the system of the EVS and the day was full of activities between volunteer and mentor. In the evening the mentors had to leave and at the beginning it was really calm without them. The last day we could decide the program and we planned some trips together for the future. In the last evening was the long expected sauna evening and no one wanted to leave at Tuesday. For me it was an amazing experience to meet so many new people here and I enjoyed every activity we did. Now I can’t wait for my mid–term training. Image      Image


Portuguese lessons – vamos lá!

Some weeks ago, my boss asked me to prepare a Portuguese evening, in which I could show my country through gastronomy, a presentation, music… As I was preparing it, I realized how pleasant it was and how much I would like to bring some more “Portugueseness” all across Europe.

Teaching was never my vocation, but I started wondering how challenging and funny could it be to teach my mother tongue in this new country of mine.
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My first week in Latvia – Ana

ImageMy first week in Daugavpils, Latvia is over now and the time flies so quickly! Being an EVS volunteer is such a wonderful and unique experience. I am absolutely sure that I will never forget this amazing period of my life 🙂 so, first of all, why did I decide to do an EVS? Because I am a traveler and just decided to take a little risk and go to other country for new adventure. Because I wanted to make new friends and I love discovering new countries and cities. So let’s see what happened so far. Although it was only one week it was really full of excitement (that’s EVS 🙂 ).
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