European Solidarity Corps: a new opportunity for sports organisations

The European Solidarity Corps is the EU’s flagship initiative that offers young people the chance to take part in projects on topics such as social inclusion, environment and sport. The second call for proposals was opened late 2018, and deadlines for submission of projects fall between 5 February and 1 October 2019 depending on the type of activity. Projects eligible for funding from the Solidarity Corps range from volunteering projects and partnerships to traineeships and jobs. Groups of young people registered in the European Solidarity Corps Portal, as well as public and private bodies established in EU Member States which have received the relevant quality label, may apply for funding. Our partner, the European University Sports Association (EUSA) is one of the front runners in the field of sport, engaging young people in their activities through the European Solidarity Corps. Their Communications and Projects Manager, Andrej Pišl took the time to answer our questions about this new opportunity.

ENGSO: Andrej, was it complicated to apply?

A.P.: New organisations to the process need to apply for Quality label first; it is an accreditation process that checks the capacity, aims and the plans of the organisation. Organisations that have hosted European Volunteer Service (EVS) volunteers in the past, are qualified for the new programme of the European Solidarity Corps. Depending on the country, a site-visit by the national youth agency might be required prior to getting the quality label. Afterwards, a project needs to be defined, and application sent in. An important aspect is supporting the learning process of the volunteers, and helping them reflect on it. For first-time applicants the process might be daunting a bit, but there are info days by national agencies and several resources freely available online, and experienced organisations are usually happy to share their experiences and tips.

ENGSO: What kind of tasks did your volunteers get involved with during their time with EUSA?

A.P.: The programme brings the solidarity aspects in its wider sense into the focus. Within EUSA, our volunteers have a chance to experience practical aspects of organisation of university sport events, supporting the organisers first throughout the preparation phase, as well as at the execution, by taking part in them. They are also engaged in our educational events, gaining experience in event and project management. Special focus is given to social responsibility projects and Erasmus+ projects where we are involved in, and the volunteers are also encouraged to explore the possibilities of creating own initiatives.

ENGSO: What were the most important benefits of your participation in the European Solidarity Corps for EUSA?

A.P.: As European organisation, we value very much active participation of the international volunteers. The intercultural element is important to help us grow and adapt, and we gain valuable experiences each time we are hosting the volunteers. On practical aspect, the programme covers the expenses of the accommodation, living expenses and travels to the volunteers, so the organisations do not have additional costs hosting them.

ENGSO: What would you like to tell sports organisations that are interested in using the European Solidarity Corps for engaging young people in their activities?

A.P.: Being a part of the European Solidarity Corps (and previously the European Voluntary Service) undoubtedly made a big difference in our organisation. It did require some internal adaptation and putting additional resources in supporting the volunteers, but it is definitely worth it! Surprisingly, sports organisations do not engage in the programme on a wider scale, and I would advise them to take this opportunity!

Already 90,000 young people have registered and are ready to help out communities and individuals, all the while gaining valuable experience for future working life and creating memories that last for a lifetime. Sport plays a great role in providing a platform for learning and acquiring skills transferable to different areas of working life. We are encouraging ENGSO members and other sports organisations to get involved in this interesting new European opportunity!