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AFS: Intercultural learning experience for life: volunteer work at a local project and integration into a host family
Start date: Jan 1, 2015, End date: Dec 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

This project “AFS: Intercultural learning experience for life: volunteer work at a local project and integration into a host family” aims to develop solidarity and promote tolerance among people with different cultural backgrounds. This is achieved by providing opportunities for intercultural dialogue, intercultural learning and integration in the local community. We do this by offering the volunteers the combination of working in a local community service project and living with a Belgian Dutch speaking host family, during 6 months. Because we have quite an amount of Flemish organizations with whom we cooperated in recent history in a very good way we want to continue this cooperation and we want to give 25 participants (between 17 and 30 years young) the chance to participate in this project. In order to select the right participants we want to be very clear to our sending partners: AFS always makes an activity agreement with the different sending partners, so we make sure what we expect from them and what they can expect from us. One of the things we expect from the sending partner is that the volunteer should be mature, flexible, open minded and willing to learn, to work and to live in a different culture. You can call it a 360° intercultural learning experience! AFS strongly believes in the intercultural learning aspect of an EVS-experience. Therefore, the volunteer will be living with a volunteer host family, as we believe this is the best introduction to Flemish culture and a great opportunity to integrate in the local community. Candidates are informed that for this project, they need to be motivated to share in the host family's daily life (spend some free time with them, occasionally join the family on activities outside the house, eat together, give a helping hand in the household... ) and to be motivated to live with and learn about Flemish people of different ages and opinions. AFS is known all over the world for this concept and also in Flanders we have experienced volunteers to select the right host family for the participants. We don't just take every candidate as a host family, AFS wants a good fit between the EVS volunteer and the host family. By living in a host family, the participant will see the differences in habits, personalities and opinions and it will make him / her think about his / her own habits, personality and opinions. But the participant will confront the family itself with their own personalities, habits and culture, which maybe they did not really question before. In this way the benefits are on both sides: the family where he / she is living, but also for the participant: there shall be - on both sides - an ever growing awareness of how a society has an impact on our daily life. With this knowledge competences to confront issues raised by persons coming from different starting situations is greatly improved. Because of the so-called 360° intercultural learning experience the impact in the life of the young volunteer and to a great extend also to the host family mean that we can expect having created a life changing experience. The gain in understanding and awareness of different cultural, sociological, linguistic and economic situations will make the volunteer more enthousiast about Europe and its values. It will empower him / her in terms of self-esteem and probably will boost his / her engagement towards a more open and democratic society. It is in the mission of AFS to build a more peaceful world and we strongly believe in the improvement of these competences by working as a volunteer and by living in a host family. In order to create an even bigger impact we selected some organizations from the borders of the EU (Partner countries): because these countries cannot apply themselves for a grant, they are dependent from organizations in the program countries willing to cooperate with them. In these countries there are not a lot of organizations working with EVS, but like always there have to be pioneers. These pioneering organizations can show their people what Europe is about and that there are great initiatives. Enthousiastic volunteers from these countries can learn that these projects can lead to an enhanced sense of intercultural awareness, better language skills, enforced job opportunities and as a result of these an ever growing self esteem. These quite new organizations from the partner countries and the young persons coming over to Flanders will broaden their perspective in a great way and will as a result be more oriented to democratic values and share our belief in an open society and a participative political system, in a region where autocratic tendencies are still strong. We believe this project can support these qualifications.
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