Finding a home in Europe is not a foregone conclusion, considering how many countries make up this great continent. An IVY volunteer experience changes your point of view and makes you feel part of a large community where it doesn't matter how many languages you speak.
IVY gave Clémence (France) and Sara (Italy) the opportunity to work together with Impact Hub Syracuse, an international network present all over the world, which makes social innovation a priority, a philosophy of life and work. It is also a co-working space, a business incubator and a start-up accelerator. As such, the cooperative contributes to supporting projects and companies that want to have a positive and sustainable impact in economic, environmental and social terms. Impact Hub Syracuse is a partner of ENISIE, a cross-border cooperation project, conceived by some of the main actors of innovation practices in Malta and Sicily, to contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth in the region, supporting a new generation of social enterprises.
ENISIE encourages the creation and development of enterprises in the fields of digital health, food technology and sustainable tourism, with a particular approach: the so-called “capacity building”, that is to say a way of working that tries to analyse/understand the obstacles and enhance abilities to reach our development goals moving towards the domain of social business and corporate social responsibility.
As part of the project, Clémence and Sara could make several experiences, including participating in the European Day of Cooperation, which was held in Palermo on 18 October 2018, where they talked about accessibility and transmission of cultural heritage, starting with the case studies of Palermo, Italian Capital of Culture 2018, and Valletta, European Capital of Culture 2018.
They also contributed to the organisation and management of the FIL Fest (Festival of Gross Domestic Happiness), which took place in Catania from 29 November to 2 December 2018 and involved guests from Italy, Scotland, Brazil and Belgium. Within the FIL Fest, ENISIE has promoted two meetings: one on the future of touristic cities and an interactive meeting with local social enterprises.
"It was incredible," says Sara after 4 months of IVY volunteering, "to feel part of Europe while continuing to work in Italy. Thanks to this experience, I could get involved in an international work environment and maximize my professional skills in the field of communication and public relations. Until a few months ago, the concept of Europe was something of a chimera to me. Today, I can say that I have experienced the beauty of being part of a large community where different languages and cultures can coexist and be strong, together”.
For Clémence, the result of these months of IVY volunteering is more than positive. "When I was offered a six-month IVY volunteer position in Sicily as part of a European cross-border cooperation project, I did not hesitate for a second! At first I didn't know much about Interreg programmes and projects, but already after the first week, I found the work I was given to do exciting. Since I am a translator and our project involves Italian and English speaking people, I could handle translation and interpreting facing the challenge of translating from Italian to English without my mother tongue, French. Furthermore, thanks to these missions, I can follow the progress of the project and the exchanges between partners, so I'm in immersion and it's great. In addition, I had the chance to be invited to participate in the European Week of Regions and Cities, which took place in early October in Brussels. There I met other volunteers, discovered other projects and learned a lot about EU Cohesion Policy. We also participated in all the events, could attend conferences of our choice, hear Commissioners speaking and visit the Commission. In short, I have never felt EU so close to me!
The synergy with the other volunteers was so good that for many of us it was like living a week-long mini ERASMUS. I also had the honour of presenting the IVY initiative during a workshop on the concrete achievements of cohesion policy, organised by the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions and the Media Euractiv, a great occasion also to network and meet stakeholders from different countries". More information can be found at these links:
"With hindsight," Clémence concludes, " This experience has by far met all the expectations I could have had before I left because I have learned a lot over the course of these months. And one thing is certain: I have consolidated my knowledge of European cooperation and strengthened my sense of European citizenship, with the advantages and challenges it brings. A strong inspiration that I will express in the European elections of 26 May 2019”.