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Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:08

Interview with Frank Burgdörfer

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Frank Burgdörfer is the chairman of Citizens of Europe, a politically independent, non-governmental and non-profit oriented network of people who realise projects that go beyond national boundaries. Their aim is to create an active civil society across Europe and raise awareness of common European concerns. As part of this year's cycle of projects they have organised the Open Forum on volunteering in Budapest.

E&M: Hello Frank, where are you and what can you see?

FB: I'm at the European Youth Centre on a hill in Buda, looking over the Danube to the parliament.

E&M: How is the conference going?

FB: I already know how to do it better next time.

E&M: Wow. I thought it was good! Already? How?

Sunday, 20 February 2011 13:19

The coffee is indescribable....

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"The coffee is indescribable.... but it gets you through the day."

Sitting here on a balcony blogging in the morning, I look out to the river Danube, and want to claim that I've invented a new term for our growing 'European' English dictionary. (If such a thing exists, Chris...)

My new term - 'Conference mentality' - is the 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' attitude to conferences - when you experience the night life with young Europeans till the early hours, (have YOU ever seen Hungarian Karaoke....?) but are still the first person up for breakfast so you can talk about EU policy with the older, more mature participants. My gravelly voice and empty coffee cup suggests that I have the 'mentality' in abundance...

Last night we went into Budapest. Through a small gate and old courtyard near the main train station there is what seems to be an old wine cellar. It was in fact a vibrant local bar with live music of swirling melodies and heavy rhythm. The Dav Trio, a local band from Budapest, were playing and if I wrote their email address down correctly, they should be making an appearance on our new music blog soon...

Today we're focussing on the promises for the Landau convention in May. High ambitions are in the air and people have come up with many innovative ideas to involve the local population in the week's proceedings. Just one example is a 'living library' where people are the books and volunteer to tell their stories and discuss in groups. I make a short speech on E&M's role as media partner, perhaps its just my tiredness, but it all suddenly seems to be a lot of responsibility for the team we send out there...

Never mind, of more pressing concern is to venture out of the European centre and enter Europe proper... I'm heading into the centre of town, capturing some photos for the Sixth Sense, and meeting Tina from EUSTORY to share a coffee in the Heroes Square.

Which reminds me: the coffee is still indescribable, but it's getting me through the day.

Sunday, 20 February 2011 09:22

No need to travel, the world is here!

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And why do you volunteer? The question reverberates around the conference room, like a challenge to those of us who still wonder why we're lucky enough to be sat in Budapest. For me I wonder, do I volunteer? Do I do enough? Was it for altruistic purposes or something more self centred? And if I did what was it that kept me going?

Frank, head of Citizens of Europe, is sat next to me and assures me that E&M counts as volunteering (no, we don't get paid!) and I suggest then that it was a central principle, core aims and questions we hold, that motivates the editors and many authors to spend their free hours producing the magazine. And of course the fact that we like each other! It seems to go down well with the volunteers and NGO representatives here, and the principle of association and belonging, if not personally, then through common ideas through the end of an internet cable is added to the list of reasons people keep volunteering.

In smaller groups we designed an advert for a local intercultural fair and focussed on how to deal with identity for participants – do you emphasise it in the hope of fostering understanding, or refuse to define people by these labels. It's a serious issue for cultural intergration in wider Europe, if not just for our imaginary event. We settled on both approaches, the first to be used for adults to tell their own cultural stories and the latter for children to focus on the similarities that their age brought them.

I was 'volunteered' (a term often used here...) for the task of presenting and selling the intercultural event under the catchy slogan of 'no need to travel, the world is here!' to passing participants who may want to volunteer. 

It was interesting to see that their questions to me focussed on two main concerns.-

  • How will they know whether their work is having an impact? 

  • Can I promise that they wont be sucked into working much more than originally wanted!?

Can you think of any more?

Photo: Matt sells volunteering to participants.

Matt, Sixth Sense Editor, is reporting live at the Open Forum weekend in Budapest, organised by Citizens of Europe.

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