PILnet aims at building a global network for public interest law, succeeding public interest and strenghtening the ability of civil society to influence law and provide access to justice for the individuals in need by developing and encouraging legal practice on voluntary basis around the world (Europe, Russia, China, United States). Building a global network primarily means inspiring lawyers to advance public interest and equipping them with the neccessary knowledge, capabilities and opportunities to do so; enhancing legal education to be more sensitive and responsive to social needs; furthermore establishing contact between the lawyers and the different NGOs reached by PILnet.
EVS: volunteer service at PILnet
PILnet has hosted EVS volunteers since 2008; they already have had volunteers from Belgium, Italy and Romania. This is the second time that they are applying for being accepted as an accredited hosting institution within the EVS program. Usually they host volunteers for six to twelve months; the length of the volunteer service is subjected to negotiation with PILnet according to the volunteers need and expectations.
As far as volunteers profiles are concerned volunteers are fully expected to show deep interest in law. Although the relevant educational background is appreciated, it is not a must. It is more important that the volunteer should be strongly motivated in dealing with legal issues. Note also that since the language of work is English the higher the level at which you can speak the language the more welcomed your appliance is. Besides, volunteers are required to be a matured, self-confident and independent personality who may have some experinece in living abroad and be willing to take the responsibility for his/her private issues and dealing with them on his/her own. As a hosting institution PILnet places a heavy emphasis on the work itself, providing volunteers with the chance to obtain considerable exoperience within the field, go into practice and enjoy the opportunities of a fully international community (note that besides EVS, PILnet also has a fellowship program, which basically means that they host fellow colleagues from abroad). For this very reason PILnet focuses its mentorship to the problems and concerns occuring in work. As far as private issues are concerned such as finding accomodation, learning the language, building realationships PILnet expects great self-reliance from its volunteers. In practice this means that PILnet prefers to deliver the whole hosting cost (around 530 euro changed on the official exchange rate) to the volunteer to manage his/her things. What it does not mean is that PILnet is unwilling to provide any assistance required by the volunteer. However, keep it in mind that PILnet considers volunteership rather as a possibility to learn and gain work experinece than as a possibility to travel, make friends and spend a long-lasting holiday abroad - they select their volunteers and "take care of them" according to this "principle".
As far as the work itself is concerned, besides minor administrative tasks, the volunteer s primary duty is to assist PILnet in building its global network for public interest law. Basically, it means establishing relations between PILnet and other civil institutions mainly in the volunteer s mother country and introucing them PILnet s activity; furthermore finding and motivating more and more (prospective) lawyers to commit themselves to taking part in providing pro bono service.
Below you can find a letter from the present volunteer at PILnet. She has given you more precise information on her duties and shared some of her experience of volunteering in Budapest as well.
First hand volunteer experience
Dear prospective volunteers,
My experience in Budapest has been great so far. There are many activities which I enjoy here . While they may or may not be equally exciting for other volunteers, I will list a few of things that I like very much and which I find worth trying out:
· Thermal baths (they are very relaxing and can also be enjoyed during the night). There is plenty of information about them online and in tourist guides.
· Traditional Hungarian cakes, particularly Dobos and Eszterhazi cake (many pictures and info online). In addition to these traditional cakes there are many others worth trying in the cake shops (cukrászda) around the city. (I can recommend some good ones if you’re interested)
· Parks, ideal for spending a summer day, there are at least two big one that I know of: one on Margaret Island and one in the city center.
· Clubs – there is quite a lively nightlife in Budapest and many clubs open their gardens in the warm season which adds to the experience. There is not much dancing taking place from what I have seen but there are exceptions.
· The opera house is a remarkable building with a great architecture and it is definitely worth visiting, either on a guided tour or for a show. Tickets can be quite affordable also.
· Movies (with English subtitles) can be found in some of the big malls in Budapest. Furthermore, a great deal of movies are not synchronized, so you can enjoy them without speaking Hungarian.
· For those interested in fashion, there are many international stores which can be found mainly on Vaci St. and in the malls. I did not find too many local shops.
· There are plenty of restaurants with traditional Hungarian food (chicken paprikas and goulash soup) although some may not be very affordable for students/ volunteers. Yet, I think the food is definitely worth trying.
· Books in English are not very common but can be found in a few book stores in the city center. There are also some universities which allow access to their well selected book collection of their library.
· If you are interested in museums, there are many to be visited, but I would first recommend the House of terror (Terror haz) and the museum of the Holocaust. I’ve found them very impressive.
· Last but not least I would recommend tasting the white Hungarian sweet wine, and as you will probably observe in the parks and on the streets, note the beautiful Hungarian dog: the vishla breed (for those who love dogs, like me :)
In addition to those things mentioned above, I like the architecture very much, especially the interior courtyards of most buildings in the city center. I also like walking around the Danube and visiting the small cities close to Budapest, in the warm season.
What I do not quite like so much is the relatively early sunset, especially in the winter and fall.
I would not say that I have faced significant country specific issues. However, if I am to point out something which is different here, as opposed to my country, and which has taken me some time to accommodate with is the early closing time for cafes, shops and supermarkets. Moreover, on any public holiday the same rule applies: everything is closed. This may be the same in other European countries, but not in others; anyway it’s something worth noting.
I like my current activity very much and I enjoy working with my colleagues from PILnet. One of my main projects at PILnet is organizing the PILnet Human Rights Movie Night Series. The screenings have started in March 2011 and will last for a total of 10 months, until December 2011. 5 movies have already been screened and 3 movies. All movies have are documentaries, and have English subtitles. They representing various regions of the world (Europe, the Middle East, Africa), covering various human rights themes such as: armed conflicts, authoritarian regimes, children’s rights, women’s rights; gay rights; Roma rights.
Other projects on which I have been working involve contacting and keeping in contact with NGOs from various European countries, including my own and assisting in the process of providing legal assistance to them. So far, I have learned many things during my EVS experience at PILnet and I would recommend this NGO to future volunteers.
It is hard to provide general advice as people’s expectations and experiences vary a lot. But my main advice would be to keep in mind that one of the key aspects ensuring a good experience in this program is a good match between them and the host NGO. Otherwise said, it is best to make sure that your expectations march those of the NGO’s as much as possible.
If you have any questions about the information provided on the site, please do not hesitate and write me an email to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that the site is under construction. Repeat your visit at the beginning of December. I hope that time you will find what you are looking for.