Last year, I was lucky enough to spend five weeks working on an Erasmus+ funded project with a group of five French-speaking volunteers. While they were all from different parts of the world, from the suburbs of Paris to Alsace to Mali, the group relocated to the department of Seine-Saint- Denis in France before beginning their seven month volunteering project as part of Solidarités Jeunesses.
This would see them working together on different projects across several countries. Indeed, during April and May of 2016, the group visited Scotland for the first time as part of a community project called KATIMAVIK, which they explained means “meeting place” in Inuktitut.
KATIMAVIK’s main mission is to help young people who have struggled with difficulties at home, school or the workplace and support their reintroduction into the working world. This became the most important aspect of the project for the volunteers as they were constantly busy from the start to the end of their time in Glasgow. They spent five weeks working on community projects in the local area, seeing the sights of their new host city and of course, getting to know other local volunteers and community groups.
The reason I became involved in the project was because I am studying French at Glasgow University and received an email from Xchange Scotland, who worked in partnership with Solidarités Jeunesses to organise and support the group’s stay in Glasgow. Calling on local volunteers who had knowledge of French, Xchange was looking for as many people as possible to join in with the volunteering and help with the community projects. Having just finished uni for the year and with an extremely long summer ahead of me, it seemed like an ideal project to get involved in. Not only would I have the chance to improve my French but I would also be able to give back to my community and meet people from all over the world.
While I was excited to meet the volunteers and get involved in showing them around my home town, admittedly, I was extremely nervous about the concept of meeting new people and possibly struggling to make myself understood. However, we all got on incredibly well and are even still in touch now. Taking advantage of several days of rare sunny weather, one of our main tasks was to assist with local community gardening projects, helping to tidy and revitalise the green spaces of several churches.
In fact, one of the most impressive things about this group was their work ethic, as despite spending so many months completing intense manual labour such as building and heavy lifting, they would get straight on with their work until it was completed. In the end, their hard work was rewarded with activities like trips to Edinburgh or the highly requested fish suppers. We also made sure they got to do things like take the tour bus on a trip around the city centre and west end. We even managed to enjoy a night out all together on the final night before they headed back to their respective home countries for some rest before starting their next project.
Looking back on my time with the volunteers, I feel very fortunate to have been able to get involved with both KATIMAVIK and Xchange Scotland as both groups have been incredibly welcoming. This has sparked my interest in volunteering and persuaded me to continue helping with projects in the area and I am now even in the process of completing my Community Achievement Award.
I am very grateful to KATIMAVIK and Xchange Scotland for allowing me to be a part of such an important project and I hope this will inspire others to look into volunteering and help the local community.