From Bergamo to Brescia

Youth organization’s association OPENS along with the Novi Sad voluntary service (NVS) invited me to tag along with two of their representatives to the north of Italy to join in on a Erasmus + project called „Volunteers4Europe“ happening from the 26th of September to the 2nd of October.

Its aim was to foster capacity building in partner organisations, increase awareness on the role of volunteering in building soft skills and to create an European network on activation of local short term volunteering. It took place in the cities of Bergamo and Brescia, equally divided between the recently hatched burying cities.
After an early morning flight and bus ride we met up with our colleagues, representatives of different volunteer/youth organisations.
From them we learned how their organisations functioned. Our Spanish colleagues (Ayuntamiento Logroño) explained to us how their youth centers worked, their approach albeit similar to OPENS, yearned to be examined more to see how applicable it is to Novi Sad. 

The Lithuanian team (Savanorių asociacija "Kultūristai"), showed us their work with volunteers and how they motivate them to return for different events.
Germany (PARITÄTISCHE Projekte gemeinnützige Gesellschaft mbH) showed their event planning skills and university student focused organisations that give their members options to grow and learn in an enviroment closely representing an international corporation. 
We showed the ins and outs of NVS, how it functions and the approach to volunteer management it uses even before Novi Sad was the European youth capital 2019 and European Capital of culture in 2022. 

The Italian team was split into 3 different groups by cities they came from, Matera, Bergamo and Brescia. The Matera team opened strong with their tender approach to volunteers and how to reward them, used since Matera was the European Capital of Culture in 2019. The Bergamo team, part of the Italian capital of culture Bergamo and Brescia 2023, showed off all the different youth organisations that exist in their city, none of them poaching on each others goals. They all seemed to live harmoniously, making way for a brighter future for everyone living in Bergamo. Last but not least, Brescia showed off their organisations aswell, most notable being Volunteers for Brescia, with its offices in “Mo.Ca” - the center for new culture, an old court facility renovated to serve for different workshops and artist studios. 

All in all we learned a lot of things, how volunteer management should look, how the volunteers should be rewarded, how they should be approached to joining your organisation, how they should be enticed to keep coming back to volunteer, what their rights and obligations are, what the volunteer organiser rights and obligations are, how much is communication important and should look, new ideas for organisations that could exist in our cities and much much more.

But as we all know all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so we used some of our time to get to know each other and the intricacies of the cities we were in, both so close to one another but so different. 
Trying italian coffee and brioche for breakfast was an interesting expirience, coming from a country that bases a lot of its tradition on eating a hefty first meal. 
Going for a walk in the old part of Bergamo through the tight streets with shops and caffees strewn everywhere, talking about how your trip went and how you even ended up there is something you dont imagine happening to you before you live it. 

Once you descend from the old town into the other parts of the city with wider streets and more modern buildings, you still feel the Italian charm in the people and their outfits, staying true to the notion of northen Italy being one of the capitals of fashion. Using the evening hours for relaxing and unwinding was when the friendships started to form. Brescia had a tough comparison to beat and it held strong. 

Its more friendly demeanor with a seemingly more lively night life made you feel welcome on the first step from the train onto the platform. Its appeal stayed in the air from the moment we arrived, to the moment we left. The already formed friendships set roots there in the evening hours, inundated with laughs and shared stories of who we were and what formed us to be what we are now. Strangers standing around us were open to conversing and learning more about our goals.
Learning about the volunteer opportunities in Italy and the rest of Europe is a big motivator to continue to strive for bigger and better things, since most people in that world I can say have the same goal: To make the world a better place.

Nemanja Marković Necko