Photo by Pascal Vaissier
I am François from Liege (Belgium), volunteer for the French-German cross-border project RARENET. I was first contacted about that project by IVY in July while taking a holiday in Freiburg (Germany). My friend and I had travelled to Freiburg by bike and on the way we had stopped for one night in Strasbourg. This was not the first time I was in Strasbourg and once again I couldn’t help but think that this would be a great city to live in, with its car-free city center, the cordiality of the locals, the proximity to Germany and the beautiful European parliament. So when I learned that I could work for a European project in Strasbourg, I directly knew I was interested.
Of course, the city of Strasbourg is not the only reason why I took IVY’s placement offer. I had decided that after the end of my bachelor’s degree I wanted to invest some time in a project with a social mission, preferably in another European country than Belgium. I had also always found cooperation between European countries extremely important, so when I applied to the European Solidarity Corps I thought that it would be very interesting to work for such a project. Finally, I was hoping to find a project that had something to do with science and that would allow me to practice my German and develop new skills. And RARENET was offering all of this!
RARENET is an Interreg V medical and scientific cooperation project that promotes education and research around rare diseases and is funded by the ERDF of the European Union. The project’s partners are universities, hospitals, patient support groups and groups of health professionals in the whole Upper Rhine Region (France, Germany and Switzerland). It is a very ambitious project with multiple actions and objectives. My role there is to raise awareness about the project and rare diseases. I help with the project’s communication on the internet and with the organization of physical events. My main task is the organization of an event for Rare Disease Day 2018, on the 28th of December.
Media communication and organizing events: This sounds pretty vague… So, in practice, what have I been doing in the last two months? Actually many things: Meeting the project partners at events or in their workplace, posting about the project on Facebook and Tweeter, making some updates on RARENET’s website, taking pictures at events, etc. I have also helped organize the participation of RARENET to the Science Days in Europa-Park in Germany. The Science Days are a big event where children and adults learn about science and scientific projects through fun activities. RARENET had a stand there, where we proposed games to make visitors learn about rare diseases. It was a lot of work, but also very rewarding!
Also, I had only arrived in Strasbourg since three weeks that I already was back in Belgium! And not just to see my family, although I did not miss the opportunity to pay them a short visit. As many other IVY volunteers, I was there to participate to the European Week of Region and Cities (EWRC), where I shared my experience as a volunteer at a workshop on cooperation in health in border regions. It was a bit intimidating to talk after so many experts, but I think I made a compelling case for the usefulness of young European volunteers in border cooperation! Also, I had the opportunity to meet other IVY volunteers and stakeholders at the IVY Get Together. It was so interesting to learn about other volunteers’ experiences!
My volunteering project is just starting! I will be at the University of Strasbourg for four more months. So what’s next? I am working on several exciting projects, like writing portraits of key members and partners of the project or editing videos related to RARENET’s actions. And of course I will be working on organizing an event for Rare Disease Day 2018. I have already started making plans and contacting people: It doesn’t look like it, but February is already coming soon! I will keep you updated of how things evolve in the coming months…