Today’s temperature in Funchal is 25 degrees. In my home city, Kajaani, it is 5 degrees.
Here in Funchal, we have palm trees, sand, flowers, and an ocean. In Kajaani, we have grass, birch trees, and lakes.
By night streets of Funchal are full of people. By night in Kajaani, there are no people on the streets, and actually not necessarily in days.
My name is Anni Ruskela and I am from Kajaani, Finland. Currently, I live here in Funchal, Madeira. I am going to stay here for seven months. It already feels like I have been here many months. Funchal is already my second home; all these streets that I am walking through daily, supermarkets, the beach, students residence, and all these people.
When I start thinking about Funchal and Kajaani I can not help myself for laughing a bit and thinking that there is nothing similar to those two. They are so distant in many ways. Of course geographically but also in other ways. Landscapes are opposites of each other and so are the souls of the cities. My home city Kajaani is in a certain way really dead place but Funchal is truly alive.
But when I start thinking more and more, and deeper I am not laughing anymore because I realize that there are actually many similarities. My home city is full of forests, cold air and a huge amount of days in a year there is really dark. When I am walking through my hometown’s streets it is rare that I am able to see even two people walking there with me. But here, whatever the time is, there are always people in the streets, restaurants, beaches… Even though Kajaani and Funchal are so far away from each other there is some really important similarity. And that is the European Union.
There live over 700 million people in Europe and 500 million of them lives in the are of European Union. All of Unions member countries are detached and independent. The most important values in the European Union are dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, respect for human rights and State of laws principles. Naturally, also countries of the European Union have their own problems but membership if the obligation guarantees us that important basic things are in order. We can trust that we are safe. Our society will try to take care of us in any situation. We have trustworthy polices, doctors, the court of law and other services. It is clear that common sense is necessary but because of the European Union, I can feel that I am safe in my home and here. And that is a big similarity with these countries.
One noticeable similarity is symbols that countries in the European Union share. For instance flag, motto and a common money. Human rights are a big word in the European Union. Europan Union works with many important things. For example, it is constantly helping poor countries and an important part of being part of the European Union is to be ready and willing to help our neighbor countries. We have our freedom here in the European Union and we are free to go and come back, we are not connected in our birthplaces. The union is also making important work for combating climate change. In summary, the European Union is trying to guarantee our peace and is working for making the world a better place to live for its citizens.
The European Union really connects people and countries. I think that home is where your heart is. It is not dependent on geographic location. European Union makes it possible for all young people that they are allowed to try to find their own places. It is not sure that the place where people were born it is the place where their hearts are. European Union helps us to be safely lost. We have an opportunity to give a whole meaning for a word ”home”. Home is in the heart. And the heart can be anywhere. It can be in places where we have not even been or in places we have visited, or with people with whom we have been and lived. Part of my heart will always in my home city with my loved ones, with my family. But a big part of my heart is going to stay here in Madeira. With all these beautiful experiences and people, I have met.
While I am writing this I am laying on the beach and I can feel how the sun warms on my skin and waves are hitting on the rocks. In my home city, that same situation would be completely different. I would be sitting in front of my desk and on my window, I could see only spruces and birch trees, and not more than a few cars. But the main point is that the similarity of those situations is not in the environment but the thing what I am doing. And at one time it immediately connects me to the European Union. It is not directly understood how big role EU really has in our lives. European Union provides that I can be here in Funchal laying on the beach but EU also provide that I can be in Kajaani and sit in front of my desk. There is no other way than be very grateful for the European Union to giving me this chance to be here in Madeira learning about myself and about this big and wonderful world.
An experience like this really changes, help us to grow up and give us an incredibly lot of new useful skills and knowledge. European Union makes it easy to survive in a new environment on our own. And the reason for that is the fact that we have to survive alone but actually, we are not alone. We can always count on to someone. We have always someone with us, for support us and take care of our safety. It can be another volunteer, student, tutor or even police. And all of those people are here because of the European Union. EU creates us our basic security and makes it possible for us have new wonderful experiences without an extraordinary scare.
Anni Ruskela, a volunteer from Kajaani, Finland.
Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.
Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.
In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.
Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.
We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.
Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.