This year the European Commission’s Erasmus programme turned 30. Since 1987 some 9 million people have had opportunity to take part in European-funded exchanges: 600,000 of them from the UK. To celebrate, members of the UNA Exchange team joined cross-sector colleagues and volunteers at the Senedd on 13th November 2017.
UNA Exchange has been facilitating international volunteering opportunities to and from Wales for over 40 years and European-funded exchanges are a significant part of our offer. Working in partnership with a range of public and third-sector organisations, each year we welcome some 15 young people from Europe to complete long-term European Voluntary Service placements here in Wales. At the same time we support a similar number of young people from Wales to volunteer abroad for up to a year, in EU as well as in neighbouring countries – including, this year, Moldova and Russia.
Erasmus+ long-term volunteering is for us embedded in a broader programme of international volunteering: we offer opportunities ranging from a few weeks to several months up to a full year, for individuals and for peer groups. And, through the generous support of Welsh Government, we are able to provide fully funded placements each year: enabling those young people with fewer opportunities to participate in life-changing international volunteering projects.
One theme connects all of our programmes, whether short- or long-term, abroad or here in Wales and that is the impact on participants and on the communities with which they volunteer. To showcase the impact of our work, UNA Exchange Director, Tara-Jane Sutcliffe, was joined at the Erasmus celebratory event by two volunteers, Georgia Quinn and Kes Stevenson, to talk about the transformative effect of their experiences abroad.
“Volunteering in another country was the scariest but most amazing thing that I’ve ever done. It was a great sense of achievement and I would recommend it to everyone, because you do only live once” (Georgia Quinn).
To find out how you can take part in a life-changing volunteering abroad experience, please get in touch with our EVS Coordinator, Michi Rohmann: firstname.lastname@example.org.