When I first wanted to volunteer, there was no way I had the confidence to do it alone. I just wasn’t that sort of person. Instead, I applied for a group project and went to Malawi in 2007. We worked together as a team to fundraise for our activities, which was a brilliant way of developing new skills and getting to know each other. By the time we reached Malawi, we already knew each other. Volunteering as a group is a great way to do volunteer work. For me, having that group support was the reassurance I needed to challenge myself to do what I really wanted.
I managed group projects for Xchange for 2 years, and my own personal experience in volunteering came from this style of project. I volunteered with Student Volunteers Abroad at Glasgow University first, in 2007, when we travelled as a group to Malawi. I stayed involved in this organisation and returned to Malawi as a leader the following year. For me, group projects are an excellent way of ensuring that volunteering projects are open to everyone. Many potential volunteers don’t have the confidence to volunteer abroad alone, so going as part of a team can really increase access. Having a formed group before the project begins helps the settling in process go much smoother. It can be hard spending a long period of time away from home in a different country; I find that the group is a great support for those times when you struggle. The experience of working together to achieve a goal is invaluable, and often leads to a more successful volunteer project which has a bigger impact
JULIA - [Make Sectarianism a History Lesson]
When the Make Sectarianism a History Lesson’ project started, we (and I as coordinator) worked from the premise that the potential for change already exists within communities (in the shape of grass-roots groups, established organisations or caring individuals and activists). That’s why for us, in order to be successful, tackling sectarianism needs to be linked with other work existing in communities fostering respect, collaborations and fairness.
The challenge for us is how to move away from the existing destructive patterns of interacting (blaming, scapegoating, peer pressure….) to constructive ways of engaging, in a way that change will be truly experienced and genuine.
We are who we are partly because of the individuals, communities and networks we have interacted with. This highlights the fact that we all can influence in one way or another those destructive patterns of interacting. In our opinion, our choices and behaviours make a difference and the potential to challenge sectarianism already exists within individuals and communities: up to us to make it happen!
The main learning from the project is the importance of going deeper, beyond the discussion. In the last part of the project we’ve tried to work with participants, team members and partners towards achieving a real change (in our attitudes and ways of thinking, feeling and being: it does not need to be big, it just need to happen to get the ball rolling).
After volunteering I grow a lot personally and professionally. I feel more confident developing my own projects. I gained skills in time management, coordinating volunteers, organising new activities with skate holders and improve a lot my knowledge about active citizenship and history. I improved my English and open opportunities for new professional pathways that wouldn’t be able to access without the EVS experience within Xchange Scotland.
VOLUNTEERING IN FRANCE
“I think the work and project itself were both really very meaningful to me. Before, I did not know how to go abroad and do new things there, but now I feel much more comfortable and confident about doing it and I will do it again,”, says Kevin, one of the volunteers who is already thinking about becoming a long-term volunteering experience abroad.
Another of the volunteers, Kerry, adds “I feel like I could have stayed another week! We all enjoyed the project as it was something very different and new to us!”
The world is too round to sit silently in the corner”. So Loesje once said. International training courses give participants the chance to break out of their corner of the world and get connected and inspired with other youth or community workers from across Europe. I have been involved, first as a participant, and then as a facilitator on international training courses since 2007. From topics as diverse as European Citizenship and global education, through to how to run a Youth Exchange, I have seen many life-changing learning experiences over the years. The connections you build in just a handful of days together can last for years. International training courses give people the chance to go deep into a topic that matters to their community. They also provide different perspectives and connections with people from across Europe with similar interests to you. Participants come back from these courses with innovative methods, fresh energy, new partnerships and project ideas to share and develop in the communities they are a part of. Because ideas have no borders.