Every year Volunteers’ Week takes place 1-7 June in the UK. Run by NCVO (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations), it is an opportunity to celebrate volunteering in all its diversity. At the Erasmus+ UK National Agency, we are proud to have funded many outstanding volunteering projects throughout the years.
With the European Solidarity Corps launching soon, we are joining the celebration to promote the power of volunteering.
This new initiative creates opportunities for young people aged between 18-30 to volunteer or work in projects in their own country or abroad that benefit communities and people around Europe. It builds upon, and has been piloted in, the European Voluntary Service (EVS) element of Erasmus+. UK organisations of all types will be able to apply for funding.
In a series of three blog posts, we look at how the power of volunteering has transformed individuals, communities and organisations.
A force for change
In a two-week volunteering project in Belgium, Clarice Barber joined a community organisation called Grimm, building dry-rock walls, repairing a fountain, constructing a disabled toilet and removing Japanese knotweed.
The 19 year-old from Prestatyn, Denbighshire, volunteered with a group of 11 other young people from different parts of the world near Marche-en-Famenne. Her experience was part of a project by the Cardiff-based organisation UNA Exchange who support young people with fewer opportunities to join volunteering activities in other countries.
Clarice has Asperger’s syndrome and, although an active young person, had never participated in any activity far from home for more than a few nights. The experience improved her self-confidence and independence, while she developed positive relationships with people from different backgrounds and cultures.
Sheila Smith from UNA Exchange says:
"We believe international volunteering is a powerful force for change in the world. It is an amazing way for people to learn new skills and gain new perspectives."
Making a difference
Munro Moffat spent one year on a volunteering placement with the Reykjavik Red Cross, supporting 24 refugees to resettle in Iceland.
“Being a volunteer presented a unique opportunity for me to make a difference in a way a paid member of staff could not. Limited resources means that it is not possible to get a paid member of staff to take the time to sand and varnish an old worn coffee table for one of the refugee’s houses, but having an on-hand and willing volunteer meant that I could add those finishing touches to turn the would-be houses into more of a would-be home for the refugees.”
He would take refugees on day trips into the countryside, helping them to discover more about their new home and ease the lack of familiarity.
Munro left Iceland confident that not only had he enjoyed a fantastic year, but that he had also made an impact in his area of work.
Bryson Charitable Group, based in Belfast, has supported over 300 EVS volunteers since 1997, including volunteers with disabilities and fewer opportunities on long-term placements. The funding has enabled the organisation to enhance their programme with international volunteers.
From assisting older people with sight loss, to bringing the arts to marginalised groups and improving wildlife habitats in urban and rural areas – the volunteers get involved in a wide range of projects.
Mary Hegarty, volunteer officer at Bryson Charitable Group, says:
"The volunteers bring so much energy, such a new perspective to the organisation, that is wonderful."
Social action powered by Solidarity Corps
Clarice, Munro and Mary’s experiences are just three examples of what could be developed with support from the new initiative.
The European Commission proposes that Erasmus+ National Agencies will manage the European Solidarity Corps in each country. A separate Call for Proposals and Programme Guide will be released later in the year.