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Become a Volunteer

March 17, 2010

By Ieva Cielava

Latvia has one of the lowest participation rates in youth volunteering, according to “Jaunatnes Lietas”.

Liene Bigača, the project administrator of the EU program department in the agency of International Youth Program, affirms that in 2008 only 70 young people participated in  international voluntary projects, but there is a good chance for growth. In 2009 more than 140 people from Latvia went to an EU country to be volunteers.

“Jaunatne” offers volunteer work opportunities for those who are 18 – 30 years old. The next deadline for applying for a project is April. Projects offer a stay in a European country for 2 – 12 months to do  socially useful work. All living costs are paid. Volunteers receive pocket money every week and an amazing work experience for their whole life.

There might be some problems in intercultural communication or wrong expectations about the job possibilities or place, but in most of cases people come home happy because they have gained new experience, and they feel useful, says Bigača.

Volunteers are needed not only in other countries, but in Latvia too. The children support center “Dardedze” in Riga needs volunteers to help with baby sitting, organizing different events, and providing technical or cleaning-up help.

Baiba Krastiņa, a student of Sociology in the University of Latvia, spent almost a year in Kullu, India. She paid all her living and traveling costs by herself and didn’t get any salary. She says discussions, playing, and laughing with these children offered her a new view of the world.

“I am trying to understand people now, not to blame them for being different from me. I wasn’t trying to save the world, for sure” she says, “I just felt I needed to go, and so I went!”

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