International Event in Latvia - August 2021

The Latvian NGO Solis Tuvak, hosted the second international meeting of 13 European cities involved in the European Alliance for Volunteer Support. 

The event »Voluntarism in crisis« was held in Latvia between 18 and 20 August 2021. Solis Tuvak hosted representatives from partner organisations from Slovenia, Serbia, Hungary, Lithuania and North Macedonia as well as many participants from Latvian NGOs that attended the event in person or remotely via Zoom to discuss possibilities and importance of voluntary work during crisis situations.  

After arrival to Latvia, project participants had a meeting to get to know each other and also visited the mayor of Kekava municipality Mr Juris Žilko, who personally has experience in voluntary work. He discussed with the participants his ideas about the importance and support of voluntary work in Kekava municipality. He believes that volunteering gives self-confidence, gives experience and is a great way of making connections and develop friendships. As a volunteer, mayor Žilko supports and encourages voluntary activities of municipal officials as well as citizens.

On the second day, participants visited Kuldiga city. There the event and debate, which was partly held online, was opened by Mrs Inese Vaivare, Director of the Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation - LAPAS. Mrs Inese Vaivare is a co-founder of the voluntary initiative ''Stay home'' which now has grown into a volunteer movement ''Easy to help'' with volunteers all throughout Latvia. The initiative was created as a response to the needs of citizens during the Covid restrictions. We had the opportunity to meet live with Mrs Ilze Jankovska, one of the important actors in the “Stay home” initiative. We talked with her about the experience of volunteering in crisis situations in partner countries and came to a common conclusion that the feeling of crisis has aroused a greater desire in people to volunteer and thus contribute to the end of the crisis as soon as possible. Now, a year and a half after the onset of the crisis, the sense of crisis is lost and many organisations in partner countries are facing a decline in interest in volunteering.  

We were impressed with the program run by the Children and Youth Center in Kuldiga, presented by Mr Toms Girvaitis. Many leisure activities that young people between the ages of 5 and 25 can take part in, are free of charge, co-financed from national funds and run throughout the school year. We also visited the Democracy Quarter, a space in Kuldiga, where the first Festival of Democracy took place. There we got acquainted with the vision of the festival organizers, Mrs Maija Jakovska and Mr Girts Jankovskis, to create a centre where discussions, debates, art exhibitions and performances that connect both individuals and organizations could take place. The space would also provide residential and workspace for writers, philosophers and artists. The festival was also well-received in the media, as funds were raised for its implementation through an auction of books donated for this purpose by a number of important Latvian politicians.

On the last day, event activities were moved to Riga where participants visited ''Gardens of Sporta Pils (Sporta pils dārzi)'' a community garden designed in a deserted area of the former sports hall at the initiative of the residents and cared for by volunteers. Mrs Sabīne Skudra, explained that residents of Riga can get their own square meter of the garden in the middle of the city, where they can grow flowers and vegetables as well as socialize with their friends. If not interested in urban gardening, residents of Riga can simply enjoy the garden as visitors. With meadows replacing degraded surfaces and different events for the public, this quickly became a place where the community comes together.

Participants left Latvia full of pleasant impressions and with a bunch of good practices that they want to share with others and transfer some of them to their local environment. This is also the purpose of the Europe for Citizens program, to learn about the practices of other European cities and to connect in common themes. Follow the Facebook page of the ERAS project, where we will share with you volunteer stories and good practices from other European countries.

The ERAS project is co-financed by Europe for Citizens program of the European Union.



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