Jure, a new EVS volunteer for Peers to Peace

Our second EVS for Peers to Peace arrived at SCI Malaysia! Jure from SCI Slovenia. He will be supporting organization of local activities (among others the famous Penang Peace run in August), Learning seminar on knowledge management and fundraising, and implementation of the Peers to Peace online platform. We hope Jure will have a fruitful and unforgettable memory during his 6 months volunteering with us. Read the interview.


Hello Jure! You are the 2nd EVS volunteer in the Peers to Peace project, tell us about you! Your story, what do you like and what is volunteering for you!

I’m Jure and I come from a small Slovenian town near our capital Ljubljana. I’ve studied political science and have been working for the past couple of years in my local youth centre Kotlovnica and a company organising corporate events.

I’ve been volunteering in my spare time for different NGOs for quite some time now, I think about 10 years. To be honest I don’t know exactly how long because I never took my work in these organisations as volunteering, for me it was always more about simply helping out and contributing to the community. Also, I’ve always kind of resented the term because of the fact that everyone that does help out in this way is treated like their work is somehow worth less (and less demanding) as opposed to the work done in order to get paid, which is far from the truth. The fact of the matter is that the only work worth less is the work poorly done. But, until people start valuing the work one does for the good of others equally or more than the work that one does for personal gain that won’t change. But, that isn’t to say that volunteers don’t get anything out of it. The experiences, connections, the feeling of satisfaction and a plethora of other things you get out of it, large and small, that effect you and shape your path down your life’s road. And also some quite material and specific stuff – I am, after all, writing this on a tropical island, waiting for the afternoon rain to stop so I can go up to my apartment’s rooftop garden to enjoy the sun and the view of the sea and skyline.

What brought you to apply for this EVS Volunteer project?

This particular project caught my eye because of its theme and its location. While working in the youth centre a part of my work was to coordinate international projects and connectivity, mainly through the Erasmus+ programme. This included hosting EVS volunteers at the centre and sending our youth for their own experiences. I had it in the back of my mind that I’d like to go on a project abroad myself, but always wanted to give the chance to our youngsters first as I thought (and still do) that younger people can get more out of these exchanges. So I continued to do this for others, all the while everyone that did take part in EVS was convincing me to do it “cause it’s awesome”. But, when I saw this project I knew that I wanted to go as the theme and work were something I’d be interested in and because it was outside of Europe. Not that I don’t like Europe – I love it – but, come on, who’d pass on the chance to go live in Asia for half a year?

Is it your first time in an Asian country? Tell us about your feelings here, your favourite dishes, first words you learned, your life in Malaysia.

Yes, it’s my first time in Asia! And it’s great! I didn’t have much time to prepare before I came here as I was accepted to the project about a month before I left. That meant that I had to prepare for leaving while I was finishing two jobs and turning over my positions in three NGOs (and finding replacements). I was actually still doing some work while I was on the plane here! But in the end, thanks to everyone here, the transition went as smoothly as it could. The people here are genuinely nice and being halfway around the world every day something happens that’s different. I had kind of expected a bigger culture shock, but have since come to realise that in most things we’re completely the same, but it’s the small things that make the difference. Teenagers are still annoying, old people are laid back and everyone hates the politicians. The small things are too numerous to count, especially as I’m surrounded by three different cultures – Chinese, Indian and Malay. Each one has its special traits that make them unique and also to always keep you on your toes with the dos and don’ts. You meet so many different people, and each of which you, as an outsider, see completely differently to the way that they see themselves – in a good way. And they, of course, see you differently as well. But as such they’re all so nice about everything and understanding about your strange foreign ways like forgetting to take your shoes off before you enter the house. I’d been here for about a week when somebody pointed out to me that I’m a lot taller than everyone else, which I honestly didn’t notice on my own. Sometimes I don’t know any more if I’m always this dumb or if I’m just still confused because of all the changes.

I live in an apartment which is slowly being converted into a hostel. That means that I not only have my flatmates but also new people coming in all the time. It’s every hipster’s dream as it’s smack dab in a neighbourhood that’s next to the most expensive sky rises in the country. It’s at the top floor of an office building and it was converted from one. The most amazing thing about it is the rooftop terrace with a garden and the second best is the fact that part of it doesn’t have a roof, so it rains straight into our flat! I’d be satisfied with the apartment alone, but it’s also in the centre of a bunch of restaurants, food stalls and food markets with all kinds of food – Chinese, Indian, Malay, Thai, Indonesian, “western”, ... And Penang being the foodie capital of Malaysia coupled with the fact that the people here eat all the time, and eat a lot while they’re at it I’m really lucky. Oh, and they have this thing here that older people always pay for the food. Which can be frustrating as you’re not used to it, but then you realise you’re a volunteer and don’t have a lot of money and, with a heavy heart agree…

As I’m only three weeks into my half year project there’s still a lot I don’t know about this place and the surrounding lands which I intend to visit. The initial feeling where everything is completely new and so different is slowly subsiding, which I find kind of sad, but I still have a long way to go, a lot of things to see and a lot of things to feel to keep me busy for the rest of my stay.

Did you already know SCI? Did you join any workcamps in the previous years?

I did know SCI from before. I’ve actually helped coordinate two workcamps back home. Every year our youth centre co-produces a cultural festival Kamfest in our town which is kind of a big deal for us – about 40.000 people attend it annually. This takes a lot of manpower, so each year we arrange a workcamp for its duration in which people help out, learn about organising and technical stuff, and also attend the events. I’ve been helping with the prep work for the camp, did some workshops for them, did the post departure things, but haven’t been able to be there during as I had the youth venue to manage with other Slovenian volunteers, so that took most of my time. But, I attended one as soon as I came here in the Cameroon highlands and it was great.

What do you think of the SCI Malaysia office? Tell us about your first day in the office!

Working here is great. Although we have an office we seldom use it as it’s quite small, out of the way and the nature of our work doesn’t really call for it. A lot of the work I’m doing right now is promoting the Peace run, which is the biggest event they hold each year, and getting donations. That means going around a lot, meeting people and just talking to them. The other part is more office work, but I don’t have to be in the office for that – I can do it wherever I like – on the beach, in my bed, in a restaurant… It doesn’t really matter, as long as the work is done. The people I work with are also really nice and everyone’s got their own thing, because they’re all volunteers they all have jobs besides that. Vaira, for instance, is a martial arts master and has his own restaurant, Athi and Veronica are a retired couple, … So the work is different every day, I couldn’t say what the typical day looks like because there are none.

What are your expectations during your 6-months volunteering with SCI Malaysia? (both from yourself and hosting organisation)

The strangest question for everyone that’s going on an experience like this. I tried to go here with as little obvious expectations as I could because I wanted to be able to adapt to any situation and not get bummed out if the reality didn’t meet my expectations, which can be exaggerated and “romanticized” in a lot of cases. But, I have to say, this place seems to be made just for me, so far I haven’t really found anything that I thoroughly disliked. As far as anyone that goes on an adventure like this, really, I imagine I’ll be getting to know the three cultures here, visiting a lot of places in Malaysia and nearby countries, getting to know a lot of people, how life goes on here and how the organisations here work (SCI and others). I want to get to know more about the history of this place and the situation that they’re in now (which is not ideal). All the while I also expect to have time for myself, for my personal development and to clear my mind about what I want for myself when I get back.


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