For you personally, what does the Erasmus+ volunteering service stand for and why did you decide to do this type of volunteering?
Alexandra Pediakova: For me, European Voluntary Service (EVS) is an opportunity to live in a different country, to be involved in activities I wouldn’t be otherwise, and to get to know great people. In addition, it’s a chance to interact with new cultural and ideological bubbles (and learn how to say bubble in different languages, like Romanian). I worked as a volunteer before in different organizations, so the idea of volunteering was nothing new to me.
Nikola Simcuvova: EVS is an opportunity for young people to come into contact with different cultures and languages while acquiring new skills and valuable international experience. It’s also a great experience to be able to work on meaningful projects supporting the development of local communities. I decided to relocate to Vienna and do the EVS at Impact Hub Vienna because I was eager to try something new and curious to get to know the social business and startup scenes.
Why did you choose Impact Hub Vienna and what were your tasks as a volunteer?
Alexandra: I knew Impact Hub already from their location in Brno, Czech Republic and thought it was a cool place to spend my time. I wanted something meaningful, and somewhere I could practice my German language skills, so I decided to apply for the EVS in Impact Hub Vienna.
At the beginning, I started as a host. It was the right job to get to know what Impact Hub is and meet different members of the community. Later during the program, I became involved as an Event Coordinator. This position helped me to be part of many diverse events.
Nikola: I was pretty familiar with the global network of Impact Hubs, but I have never been a part of one before. I found it fascinating how business and social spheres could be combined and how Impact Hubs support startups via different accelerator programs, workshops, mentoring, community connections, etc. As a volunteer, I was a part of the Community team and had multiple roles which enabled me to try basically anything I wanted to. I organized community events, coordinated volunteers, administered social media and other online marketing platforms, facilitated connections between members and co-organized CEE Impact Day 2018 which is the largest social impact conference in Central & Eastern Europe.
Looking back at the last year, what was your personal highlight of your European Voluntary Service?
Alexandra: My personal highlights were the people I met and the atmosphere of Impact Hub. For me, it was important to meet people who care about the earth, other people spread a positive attitude and good vibes.
Nikola: My biggest highlight of the whole EVS experience was the community. I met plenty of like-minded people and was constantly inspired by their personalities, stories, and accomplishments. The community is very unique in the way everyone supports each other, shares the same values and works hard towards the same goal is. It is, in my opinion, the core of the whole organization. From my personal perspective, I enjoying experiencing a significant amount of personal growth. I realized that I can basically do anything, even though things might have seemed impossible at the first, I always managed to navigate my way through difficult projects and tasks. I trust my skills and abilities much more now than ever before.
What societal challenges in Slovakia do you think social entrepreneurship can help to address?
Alexandra: There are big gaps in the educational system in Slovakia that social entrepreneurship can help (and has already started to help) address. In particular, I am referring to the Roma minority, challenges around integration and social inclusion. Of course, there are many other societal challenges that we have in Slovakia, such as health and well-being.
Nikola: Compared to Austria or other EU countries, Slovakia has a low awareness and understanding of the concept of social entrepreneurship, and the infrastructure supporting social enterprises is very limited. In spite of that, I see plenty of opportunities to address societal challenges through social entrepreneurship. For example, challenges like the aging of the population, high unemployment in many regions of the country, as well as significant Roma community, are things that can be improved upon by the creation of social businesses.
How would you finish the sentence “For me Impact is…”
Alexandra: …thinking about the world I am living in and acting as a part of a community.
Nikola: Making a positive difference, spreading good, leaving a mark.
If you could recommend one thing to the next volunteer who comes to Impact Hub Vienna what would it be?
Alexandra: Just do what gives you joy and don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help :-)
Nikola: Challenge yourself!
Learn more about Erasmus+ here.