Wed, Aug 19th, 2015
The European Voluntary Service, part of Erasmus+ Key Action 1, enables young people aged 17-30 to be full-time volunteers in another country. In this post, Santi Agra, an environmental journalist from Spain, brings us through his experience as an EVS volunteer as Press Officer and Social Media Manager with Good Energies Alliance Ireland.
Three volunteers from various parts of Europe surrounded by one hundred Irish locals may read like something from a comedy sketch, but this was exactly the situation during the “Renewable Energies – Prosperous Communities” event, that the EVS volunteers of Good Energies Alliance helped to organise in June 2015. It was the highlight of an incredible year in Ireland.
Irina, Olga and myself arrived in Leitrim in September 2014 as EVS volunteers. We did not realise the challenges that lay ahead. The three of us come from very different backgrounds. Olga is an architect and graphic designer from Ukraine, Irina is an urban planner from Romania and I am an environmental journalist from Galicia in the north of Spain. During our year with Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI), Irina produced the GEAI position paper on Wind Energy, Olga redesigned the website and created wonderful posters and I helped GEAI grow and develop their social media presence.
However, our main task was helping to organise a major event called “Renewable Energies – Prosperous Communities”, which was the crowning moment of our twelve months in Ireland. It was the culmination of many hours of hard work that had a very successful outcome. For somebody coming from an online communications background like myself, promoting a conference in Leitrim was more or less like stepping back in time. Live streaming an event from rural Ireland on the internet is not the easiest thing to do but like everyone else, I overcame these difficulties and we were able to see our event promoted in every pub and supermarket in the local area, in the local paper and on local radio.
As challenging as my task was, it wasn’t the hardest of all. I was simply the messenger for the work of the other EVS volunteers. Olga and Irina did incredible work researching biomass and wind energy, gave workshops at the conference and also carried out an energy audit of Manorhamilton, the local town, beforehand. Here you can watch both of them presenting the main results during our event:
This energy audit was the first of its kind done in Northwest Ireland. “The aim was to estimate how much Manorhamilton spends on energy,” said Irina. “We discovered that in the course of one year, including transport, electricity and other fuels used for heating and hot water, 563 households spend around €2.2 million.” Olga focused her research for the conference on biomass. “It is one of the most promising renewable energies that could be used in Ireland. As well as substituting for fossil fuels, research shows that growing willow in Manorhamilton could increase local employment.” Olga also used her graphic design skills to produce the flashiest workshops of the day!
This combination of nationalities in a rural area attracted local media attention and we were given a full page spread in the local paper. The three of us had a great experience in Leitrim this year, and we want to wish the new volunteers a year as great and rewarding as ours has been.
Images courtesy of Santi Agra. We welcome contributions and ideas for ‘Insights’ at firstname.lastname@example.org