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International day of Volunteers - Hungary, Szeged

On the 5th of December, in occasion of the International Volunteer Day, the Voluteer Centre of Csongrad county, Talentum Foundation organized a „Living Library”, in cooperation with the Volunteer Point in Hódmezővásárhely.


The concept at the base of the Living Library is that the books are not made of paper and ink: the books are people, and the reading consists of a conversation with them. The rest of the process is the same as in an usual library: people can choose the books they would like to read from a catalogue and then they can sign and borrow it for a short time.

This method is often used to challenge prejudices and stereotypes, because it helps connecting people and it enhances the dialogue and the opportunity of sharing personal experiences.
All the Books that participated to the event were related with some specific stereotype or prejudice about the issue “Who can be a volunteer”. There were five Books representing four “controversial” kinds of volunteers: elderly, disabled, unemployed and foreign volunteers. The aim of the event was to show that anyone can be a volunteer and that some characteristics what can seem barriers (being a foreign without knowing the language of the country, being old, not having a job and so being in need of money, or having physical disabilities) actually do not prevent the possibility of volunteering. Moreover, they can enhance the experience of the volunteer giving them the chance to challenge themselves or enrich their personal baggage of knowledge. On the other side, these apparent barriers can also be an opportunity for the people who benefits from the volunteer action.
The event took place at the Hódmezővásárhelyj Library. The Readers were mostly high-school students and they could read and listen to a short presentation of each Book and then sign up for three readings, each for a maximum of 20 minutes. During these 20 minutes they could ask to the Book all the questions they had, but always in the respect of the volunteer mental wellness.
The event worked well and during the common discussion all the youngsters made positive comments. They said that they were thankful for the Books shared their personal experience with them and that they learned something new from everyone. It was particularly rewarding for the organizers to hear that many youngsters who came to accomplish their Community Service (40 hours of compulsory “social work” that has to be done during high-school) after the event were actually interested in volunteering and even said that perhaps they will start volunteering in future.
Another successful aspect has been the presence of a high-school teacher who was positively impressed by the method and the topic: in fact, she would like to propose the same Living Library to her students in future to sensitize them about volunteering.
The event made it possible to spread the idea of volunteering and gave the chance to link young and old people and to see that in the very end, they have similar points of view about volunteering.

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