The UK National Agency has hosted its first annual volunteering event for the European Solidarity Corps. Delegates from 25 accredited organisations from across the UK travelled to Birmingham to find out more, take part in creative workshops and celebrate success stories in volunteering.
Building on over 20 years of experience with the European Voluntary Service (EVS), the European Solidarity Corps is a new EU initiative for young people to volunteer or work on projects in their own country or abroad, benefitting communities and people around Europe.
Revisiting Project Success
Kicking off the event, participants asked themselves, ‘What makes a success story in volunteering?’. Lively discussion allowed organisations to share experiences and debate the different ways in which success can be measured for themselves, volunteers and the management of a project. Testimonies from the day showcased the countless elements that make a successful volunteering story:
“Success is about having an impact on all stakeholders, whether it be volunteers, organisations or the local community itself.” Vanessa Richardson, Go Digital All
“A successful project is based upon shared responsibility.” Amar Abbas, Youth Action
Core values of European Solidarity Corps
Next up, the delegates explored some of the core values of the European Solidarity Corps: solidarity, European cooperation, strengthening of local communities and social inclusion. During this interactive workshop, organisation were able to express their opinions on what it means to them and how their projects can address the barriers to social inclusion.
“What’s important is the distance travelled from starting as a volunteer to finding future employment.” Sinead Frith, YMCA Sutton Coldfield
A key suggestion was to engage communities and raise awareness of volunteering to break the cycle of negativity that some young people might deal with. Many agreed that coming together, sharing responsibility, working in unity and synergy are the main aspects of volunteering.
Impact of projects on local communities
For the final workshop, all delegates came together to evaluate a project case study. Participants shared their experiences on the final reports of their projects and groups agreed that strong dissemination of results can have a much greater impact on their local communities.
“Our youngsters were involved in internships with local companies… these businesses are always impressed by the skills and enthusiasm that they can bring to the workplace.” Mike Tan, Language Academy Wales
Groups took the time to share best practices such as creating a local newsletter, resource websites and online training platforms for both young people and organisations.
To gain a greater insight into what volunteering is really about, the afternoon session featured two personal accounts of volunteering.
Belén Albor, who is coming to the end of a long-term placement with the Bryson Charitable Group in Belfast, gave an inspiring presentation on the power of volunteering and the ways it can transform all those involved.
“I have been given so many opportunities that I can’t keep track of them! That is really EVS for me, an opportunity to learn and grow.” Belén Albor, Volunteer Now (Bryson Charity Group)
Our second volunteer, Amber Okpa-Stother, found her placement through Leonard Cheshire. Spending two weeks in Spain, Amber got to experience living abroad for the first time, exploring a new culture and even trying her hand out in a biscuit factory!
“Volunteering abroad really built up my confidence in being able to manage far away from home.” Amber Okpa-Stother, Leonard Cheshire
As the first networking event for European Solidarity Corps, organisations were able to forge important new links with organisations up and down the country. Participants came away with a greater insight into the core values, the application process and shared experiences of the excellent work that organisations are doing in their local communities and beyond.
We were delighted to showcase EVS and Erasmus+ volunteering activities in the UK.
You too can be part of the world of opportunities available under the European Solidarity Corps. Funding opportunities are available in 2019! Come along to one of our Breakfast sessions across the UK to find out how you and your organisation can be part of the Solidarity Corps.