European Volunteers in VOC Oostende | VOC Oostende

WILD DIER IN NOOD

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17 februari 2021 19.30 uur

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European Volunteers in VOC Oostende

Our main goal is the rehabilitation of wildlife to release them back into nature with the best chances of survival. By doing this we also try to educate the public. For a lot of people a bird they find is their first contact with nature and we try to make that a starting point for more interest. The centre organizes public activities about nature and bird protection to inform local people about the current problems that nature is facing and how they can help them. We also support scientific research of different institutes in providing data about our patients. We work closely together with both Belgian and foreign rescue centres, and also with the University of Ghent.The Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend is an independent non-profit organization that is part of a national chain of hospitals under Bird protection Flanders. We have been founded in 1984, at first to take care of the many oiled birds that came ashore. Through the years more animal species were treated in the rescue centre with a broader variety of problems. VOC Oostende with surroundings © Aino Turkina

In 2020 we received over 6000 patients and this year we’re looking at even higher numbers of animals in need, most of them because of human activities (e.g. oil, traffic, birds taken by a cat, birds that flew against a window…). In our centre, we work with 8 staff members (7 full time and 1 part time) and have about 150 volunteers, for tasks such as administration, transport of wounded animals, animal care and organizing events. Our organisation counts more than 1000 members. Since we participated in the ESC projects (former EVS) in 1999 we received over 80 international volunteers, mostly long terms that stay for a year but also volunteers that help for a couple of months.

This project is a good opportunity for volunteers to experience how an actual wildlife rescue centre operates. The work is very diverse. Each season brings different types of patients, so it always stays exciting to see which animal is brought in next. The volunteers get the possibility to work closely with wildlife which brings a lot of satisfaction. In this way, as an organization, we can offer very valuable and useful work, which benefits both the animals and humans. The ultimate reward is when an animal can be fully recovered and is released back into nature.  Furthermore apart from the specific techniques and skills related to animal care that the centre offers,  the Opvangcentrum voor Vogels en Wilde Dieren Oostende tries to facilitate social interaction, reflection and learning to enable the volunteers to contribute actively to a growing non-profit organisation in which they operate. For all the international volunteers it is an active choice to spend a year at Opvangcentrum voor Vogels en Wilde Dieren Oostende, which means that they are highly motivated to learn, to live and take part in the social setting of the organisation. This integration is facilitated by the opportunity to follow Dutch classes in evening school. Just like the volunteers get to know each other really well when helping at the centre, the staff and our mentor are also a small and well-functioning group. All staff play a vital role for the wellbeing of our volunteers.

 

Projects

Every year, we coordinate and host 3 long term and 2 short term ESC volunteers.

Long term:

  • 15th of January – 14th of January
  • 15th of February – 14th of February
  • 15th of March – 14th of March

Short term:

  • 1st of June – 30th of September

 

Tasks 

Every ESC will take his part in the daily work at the Wildlife Rescue Centre. This contains animal care such as feeding, cleaning cages, raising orphaned wildlife, and assisting the veterinarian. Of course, in some cases, there will be other tasks to fulfill.

The working hours are from 8:45-12:30 and from 13:00-17:30. Sometimes, there can be evening shifts, depending on the season. This is a fulltime project, so every ESC works 5 days a week.

 

Accommodation & practical arrangements

Every ESC volunteer receives each month food and pocket money. The amount will be paid by bank transfer.

The long-term ESC live in a small studio with kitchenette in a student house. The 3 long-term ESC stay in the same house, situated in Mariakerke. The bathroom and toilets are shared. Every ESC also receives a bike which can be used to go to the Wildlife Rescue Centre that is situated 10 minutes from the ESC house.

The short-term ESC share a room with bunk beds. This room is situated in the Wildlife Rescue Centre. Kitchen, toilets and bathrooms are shared with the local volunteers, but are divided in a separate women and men section. The short-term EVS also receive a bike free to use.

Both accommodations are situated close to public transport, shops, the seaside and only 10 minutes by bike away from the city center of Ostend.

  

           Beach of Oostende © Aino Turkina                                  City of Oostende © Aino Turkina

How to apply?

Open projects are displayed on the European Youth Portal, usually around 4 months up to the start of the project. Find all projects HERE. Applying for a project can only be done by registering on this portal.

If you have any questions, you can contact our ESC coordinator Laure Desmet via . Full cover letters (in English) can also be sent to this address.

  

Past experiences

Beatrice (Italy), long term EVS 2020

My name is Beatrice, I’m 27 and I come from Italy. I’m a veterinarian and although I’ve been working with dogs and cats, I’ve always been interested in wild animals and would love to work with them. Last year I experienced many changes in my life and wanted to try something new and different. Moreover, I had never been to an Erasmus project before and I wanted to spend some time abroad. When I saw the EVS project in VOC, I thought that it would have been perfect for me. I was not wrong and despite Corona I had a wonderful experience there. I found the centre bigger than expected and well organized. My tasks were mostly feeding and cleaning the animals, but I could also assist the staff members during the intakes, the identification of birds with rings and the release. Despite my studies, I didn’t have much experience with birds and working in the centre gave me the chance to know and get confidence with them and to learn how to keep and handle them properly. Especially during summer the centre hosts a lot of different kind of birds, varying from sparrows and pigeons to owls and gannets. It was really wonderful to see so many species and every day I was surprised and amazed of the great variety of shapes, feathers, colours and behaviours. My experience could not be so satisfying without all the people I worked with. I found a great team and friends, both from the staff members and the volunteers. I especially appreciated my coordinators Laure, Sabine and Diane who were always really kind, friendly and available for any doubt and question. I was also very lucky to meet the other EVS volunteers, my flatmates Sarah and Sylvia, who soon became good friends. I really got along with them. I loved the funny moments spent together and  the atmosphere of harmony, complicity and acceptance that I felt from the very first beginning. After the first lockdown, I was not so sure of leaving my country and was a bit hesitating. I’m really happy for having decided to start the project anyway. I learned a lot, both for my job and interest and from the human point of view. I highly recommend the experience to anyone who loves animals and who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty if he can have some fun.

Marta (Spain), long term EVS 2019-2020

Hola a todos! Dag!! Ik ben Marta. Ik woon in België.
I am Marta and I was an European volunteer for one year at the Opvangcentrum voorVogels en Wilde Dieren Oostende. This experience was hard at first, as all drastic changes tend to be, but I stuck to my volunteering caring for the animals, which is what brought me here, and my two fellow volunteers with whom I have enjoyed, fought and lived this experience in capital letters. Apart from specific aspects related to my work, such as catching a swan or tubing a seagull to feed it, I have learned to value my own work and thinking in English and to cope in a difficult environment at times. Besides being in the animal recovery center, I have travelled, I have eaten the typical Belgian dish, the frietjes, and learned some Dutch. I have found new friends who have been very supportive and I have survived the cold! When the border closure due to the corona crisis began, I had a long month to go to return to Spain, but I chose to stay because I highly valued the fact of finishing the project. I am very happy to have done an European volunteering project! I encourage everyone to try it, it is a very interesting opportunity in the framework of volunteering and European mobility. Un saludo! Groetjes! Tot ziens!

Laura (Spain), long term EVS 2019-2020

Aino (Russia), long term EVS 2019-2020

“As a child, I fell into a pond twice upside down” - these words began my motivation letter. The one that changed everything. I knew almost nothing about the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) program. Everywhere there was mention of a busy life abroad, interesting work, a monthly scholarship, new foreign friends and constant travel. It seemed that you had to be at least a genius - smart, persistent, lucky - with an excellent level of English to become a participant in the program. The competition looked impressive: I read how people send out motivation letters for years and often don't even get an answer. Projects with animals are rare and are taken apart like hotcakes. In general, the idea looked so hopeless that I decided to treat it as a language practice and nothing more. So I wrote the first letter of motivation in my life and sent it along with my resume to Sphere, the sending organization in Russia. Two and a half months later, I was informed that I was on the shortlist of candidates for an interview. And a month later they sent an invitation to the project. Looking like a personal hell for my inner esthete on Google maps, Ostend turned out to be a city with a soul. Its streets are full of interesting details, from tiny graffiti men to old Dutch-style houses. Since I lived on the outskirts, each trip to the center was small, but still an event. But the sea was very close - five minutes at a calm pace, and you are looking at the abyss of beauty.

But country, language, city and sea were just nice bonuses to the main goal - an all-consuming employment in a rehabilitation center for wild animals. I arrived in the midst of the season: there were so many patients in the center that the first days I just freaked out from what was happening. Two buildings, a long corridor, a bunch of rooms, impressive scents. If you turn it the wrong way, you'll end up in a hell of sorted towels. If you open the wrong curtain, the cormorant will devour you. If you do one thing, you forget the other ten that you were just assigned.

But the weeks followed one another, and soon the chaos lined up in an understandable and well-structured system. The hospital has two buildings: the first (and main) houses an office, a visitor's shop and a small educational museum exhibition. Anyone can go up there and watch the volunteers work through the glass roof. Here begins the "red zone" - an animal reception center, inpatient treatment wards, an intensive care unit, a veterinary operating room, a kitchen and other rooms, for example, for washing and drying animals. You can see all these rooms from the inside only as part of a guided tour. Next to the main building is the second one. It almost entirely consists of open-air cages of various sizes, which are needed for the adaptation of animals ready for release.

The working day starts at 9:00. The journey from home to work takes about fifteen minutes by bike. With a tailwind, one could get there in twelve, and fighting against it increases the travel time in proportion to the wind speed. And yes, in Flanders the wind always blows, and always strong. But, in spite of everything, I quickly got used to and forever fell in love with everyday two-wheeled adventures. At the morning meeting, the leading specialist (not always a veterinarian, often it was someone from the staff) distributes us to the wards and, if necessary, clarifies the condition of individual patients. For convenience, the wards are named by color: for example, small mammals live in "Brown" - hedgehogs, hares and rabbits, in "Gray" - waterfowl and seabirds, in the intensive care room - "Green" - the most difficult patients are nursed, and so on...

For lunch or a coffee break, everyone gathers in the human kitchen (yes, there is also an animal kitchen, it is forbidden to eat and drink there, and it is better for unprepared people not to breath at all). There, volunteers and employees in several languages ​​immediately discuss patients and all sorts of news, congratulate them on the holidays, joke and additionally distribute tasks. Like most of the volunteers, I took lunch and snacks from home with me. The organization bought coffee, tea and cookies for everyone. The breaks were very desirable, they saved from overload and disruptions, and also helped to keep track of the time that rushed with the speed of local winds.

It is important to say here that the main goal of the center in which I worked is the rehabilitation and subsequent release of animals into the wild. This means that simply being viable is not enough for the patient; he must be able to survive without supervision and assistance.

Every day, half asleep wading to work through the wind, rain, and sometimes sleet, I grumbled about the weather and was absolutely happy. I knew that a cormorant, five gulls and a coot were waiting for me in a gray room. And if I hit brown, I will weigh the little hedgehogs that are growing at an incredible rate. Or here are pigeons in purple, which I got used to feeding through a tube quickly and easily, despite the fact that there are already more than fifty of them. I knew that they were waiting for me there, in these gray rooms, where in every cage, in every box - the most real, living treasures. 

Have you ever seen a barn owl feather? This is a work of art! And the tongue of the green woodpecker? It's amazing how such a tongue fits into a small bird. The beak of the most ferocious patient - the great cormorant -, if desired (and it is permanent), will crush your fingers like nuts. And hedgehogs generally have their own character and habits! And when you meet their gaze, during the procedure or during the examination, you understand that you have no right to make a mistake. That you are here for this, and on this very earth, to do what you do.

There were many wonderful moments at work. For example, when you discover that a hedgehog has begun to gain weight after a week of disappointing weight loss. Or that the buzzard began to eat feed chickens on its own, without help. Or that the blood composition of the gannets has changed for the better. Or that a pigeon, at least half of which had been stitched the previous day, can walk and even grumble gruffly. Or that the sea gull began to bite very painfully and now easily bites through a towel and thin gloves. All these moments are wonderful because they give hope. Every bruise, every scratch, every abrasion on my body is a gift. After all, this means that they are alive, that they have the strength to defend themselves, they have the strength to survive. Live. But the moments are especially beautiful when, after days, weeks, and sometimes months of rehabilitation, each unique treasure is released home. And that's when you realize that it's not in vain. That every bruise, scratch and abrasion is not in vain. That Belgium is not in vain. That study, all efforts, defeats and victories are also not in vain. All for the sake of the moment when you are you, and the world around you smiles.

Rebecca (Germany), short term EVS 2019

In summer 2019 I spent two months at the VOC and it was an amazing experience. It was my first time living abroad and away from home, but I never felt alone because everybody welcomed me very warmly. My daily tasks were feeding animals, preparing food, cleaning cages and checking the animals. I learned a lot about animal care and the working practice at the VOC. Very special moments were when I got the chance to take part in releasing hedgehogs or birds. I had a great time with the other international and local volunteers and workers and was able to visit many beautiful cities and places around Belgium. I strongly recommend volunteering at the VOC! It’s a perfect opportunity to make lots of great experiences.

Leo (Germany), short term EVS 2018

In 2018, I spent two very memorable months at the VOC. I arrived in August in Oostende at the train station and was quickly introduced to my Estonian roommate Laura. We received a very warm welcome from the other international volunteers and the team at the VOC. We were given a tour of the entire centre and started assisting the other volunteers already on our first day. I’ve never seen so many wild animals in one place. The thought of being able to work here for the next two months was very exciting to me. We were progressively given more responsibilities and more autonomy. I felt like I was being treated as an equal and as a valuable part of the team. Soon we started tube-feeding the animals or  helped treating injuries and giving medicine. The most exciting parts of my voluntary service were always when we were able to release animals back into the wild, especially the foxes. We also released an insane amount of seagulls, which is normal at that time of the year as I was told. The open-doors-day was also a highlight. It was great seeing so many people being excited by what we were doing. I really look back with nostalgia at the time I spent at the VOC. Those two months weren’t only transformative for me and gave me confidence, but also felt very meaningful. I think caring for sick wild animals is a very valuable and fulfilling task. I‘m incredibly thankful that I was given the opportunity to have that experience.

Johanna (Germany), long term EVS 2013-2014

“I spent a wonderful year at the VOC Oostende. While it certainly helped me in shaping a clearer image of what I want to do with my future, for me the most important part was the people I met and the friendships that formed. I have never met anybody who follows their job with quite as much passion, and can inspire that kind of passion in others. I look at nature differently now, and have made wildlife rehabilitation a career goal of mine.”

Linnéa Gräns Samuelsson (Sweden), short term EVS summer 2012

“I came to the VOC for two months in the summer of 2012, which in hindsight was way too short. I had a year off between high school and university, and I wanted to do something that felt meaningful. I assumed I would get nice memories, make new friends and get new experiences (all of which turned out to be true), but I hadn't expected how much these two months would change me as a person. Being in a new country with new people forced me out of my comfort zone. I became more open around new people, more relaxed, and I've heard from friends and family that the change was noticeable when I came home. The atmosphere at the VOC was really friendly, which of course made it easier for me to come out of my shell. To have this experience directly before leaving my hometown for university was perfect, since it made it a lot easier for me to make new friends in a city where I knew almost no one. This has been very important to me since being more outgoing and confident has led to many opportunities at my university - this autumn, for example, I will work part time for three different departments (physics, mathematics, computer science). Volunteering at the VOC was a great experience and I recommend it strongly!”

Laura (Spain), long term EVS 2010-2011

“I spent one year as EVS in the Opvangcentrum voor Vogels en Wilde Dieren in Oostende. I had big expectations before going there, but it was definitely more than I thought. I  can hardly express with words what that year meant to me. I have not only learned a lot about birds and wildlife but about myself too. I lived so many weird but, at the same time, funny situations in the centre...get lost with our bikes while releasing hedgehogs in the middle of the forest at night, clean walls while singing opera, eating ice cream in winter on our way to release seabirds, help to build cages, coffee time with sweets in the middle of a busy day, feed baby bats...but above all of this, I have nothing but admiration and love for the volunteers and staff who works there. I met wonderful people from other countries and local volunteers who made that year so special and fun! Wish I could back in time and live those moments again!”

Inga (Latvia), long-term EVS 2013-2014

“I was a long-term EVS’er in „VOC Oostende” for a year (2013-2014). It was a unique experience for several reasons: I was lucky to be a part of a devoted wildlife care team and work along both professionals and fellow volunteers in a well-organized project. I got a chance to take care of many wild animals, see them closely and learn more about them. I met many local and international people, each of them with their own story and character, in that way broadening my vision of how different and at the same time similar most cultures of the world are. I still keep in touch with the people I met here. The workload was different depending on the season, there was more work in the summer than the winter, but all the effort was totally worth it! The free days that the EVS volunteers got during the year were more than enough to discover Belgium and the surrounding countries. And finally, my EVS year gave me a chance to discover my own country and culture from a different point of view!”

 

Marta, Laura, Aino

 

WILD DIER IN NOOD

 Breng het bij ons binnen!

9u-17u30

Bel +32 59 80 67 66

WINKEL

9u-12u30 en

13u30-17u30

Word nu lid!

Lid worden


Steun onze dieren!

Online Doneren

Vanaf 40€ fiscaal aftrekbaar.


Overschrijving naar

BE12 9791 6853 6592
BIC: ARSPBE22


Raad van Bestuur:

17 februari 2021 19.30 uur

Een overzicht van alle nieuwsberichten kan je hier vinden