How volunteering leads to win-win opportunities

Volunteers together celebrating

What do you gain by volunteering? How does it provide solutions? European Solidarity Corps and Erasmus+ participants in the UK shared their views during the final seminar of a Strategic European Voluntary Service (EVS) project.

The project, called Young People for Europe of Inclusion, Solidarity and Social Justice, was carried out by Volunteering Matters (UK), Volonteurope and partners across Europe since February 2018. The final seminar took place in Brussels in November 2019. The British organisation also carries out European Solidarity Corps projects.

“The difference that young people make to communities is important, and we, as organisations, need to nurture it”, said Piotr Sadowski, former head of international affairs of Volunteering Matters, during the opening speech.

Check out these volunteers’ stories and views on the benefits of volunteering:

“It's so worth it”

Elsa Nieto Gonzalez from Spain was a European Solidarity Corps volunteer in Ipswich, East Anglia. On her placement, the 24-year-old supported migrants, people with mental health problems, people suffering from homelessness, and worked on a project against sexual exploitation. 

“It's different from other routes; during all my academic and internship years, I've never learnt as much as in the last months. They give me many opportunities to go to different events and to present the project, and it’s a really good feeling”, she said.

“Our young people say volunteers help them gain more confidence, a sense of purpose and social skills. I delivered a class; English is a second language (for me), so it's nice to see a smile on their faces as they see I am not a native speaker and it makes me feel included.”

"It's nice to see a smile on their faces as they see I am not a native speaker and it makes me feel included."

One of her best moment was being trusted with the responsibility to showcase their main project during an event.  

“They gave me space to do it all – I used to just help with this at first. The event was at a historical home and I invited the community to go", Elsa told us. 

The placement has made her feel professional and given her a lot. Although the first couple of months were hard to adapt, she added: “afterwards, it's so worth it”.

Elsa recommended volunteering for young people, however, she added that the experience also depends on how valued the role of a volunteer is in the host organisation, and if volunteers are treated as part of the team.

An incredible experience 

Sara El Rhazi Moreno was also a European Solidarity Corps volunteer in East Anglia. After finishing her masters in Spain in September 2019, she found the opportunity online and decided to apply for the placement. 

“The process was very fast, and I came to Ipswich”, she told us. 

"I feel the experience opens many doors in life – personally, professionally, and you learn about other ways of life."

Sara enjoyed her placement overall, where she felt like a professional, particularly thanks to participating at the organisation’s events. Although attending the seminar in Brussels was a highlight, the 23-year-old could not choose only one event as a favourite moment.

“For me, it's been an incredible experience and in two months I have learnt so much”, Sara shared.

“I would recommend European Solidarity Corps. I feel the experience opens many doors in life – personally, professionally, and you learn about other ways of life. It is a great opportunity for everybody”, she said. 

Helping people with fun

EVS participant Alfredo Serrano de Haro Sanchez is a 24-year-old from Spain who volunteered in Motherwell, Scotland. He took part in a befriending project, which involved supporting young people aged 8-18 years old in the community, taking them out to do activities together and have fun.

“The young people are amazing (whom he worked with in the community as a volunteer) when you give them some of your time. For example, one child writes about all the days and outings with me. I'm so happy to have these opportunities”, he said. 

“It is a big opportunity to grow as a person, be independent and know a new culture and a big opportunity to help people.”

His most memorable moment was when he heard a question from a nine-year-old at the end of an outing:

“I would always ask if they had fun, but this time he asked me If I had a fun time.”

Alfredo would recommend volunteering to other young people, adding that taking up an opportunity to volunteer may depend on the moment you are in your life. He took this chance during a gap year and will work after the placement. 

“It is a big opportunity to grow as a person, be independent and know a new culture and a big opportunity to help people.”

A great learning experience 

Born in Colombia, Ariadna Grigaliunas Nicolás is 18 years old and took part in the same EVS project as Alfredo in Motherwell. The participant plans to study social work, so volunteering was a great opportunity to learn.

“It is a way for young people to have the opportunity to learn how to manage their own money and to learn a little bit.”

Beyond work experience and helping others, however, the placement helped her to grow as a person. 

“It is a way for young people to have the opportunity to learn how to manage their own money and to learn a little bit”, she explained. 

Managing life without her parents and a home on her own were also all new for her. 

“It's a great learning experience. I had to open a bank account in the UK, which was a new experience”, she recalled.

Check more successful stories about volunteering on Our Stories webpage.

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