Darren: Keeping busy and have work to do to avoid troubles

Volunteering abroad helped our volunteer Darren to deal with homelessness. Read more about his journey through our Step by Step supported volunteering program!


Darren’s first involvement with UNA Exchange was in 2010 when he joined a three-week volunteering project in Austria. Since then he has spent more than two years living abroad, in Moldova and France as well as Austria. Now back in Wales, he is a valued part of UNA Exchange, supporting residential events, trainings and other volunteering activities.


I was just fed up seeing the same things
When I decided to go for my first project abroad in 2010, I just wanted to be out of Wales. I am from Wales and I love Wales, but I was just fed up to see the same things over and over again. I started to do projects with UNA Exchange when I was homeless and I was in the homeless centre, where I met social worker who took people to volunteering. He knew UNA Exchange, so he took me to meet them.

There was a few projects going on at the time. Sheila Smith from Step by Step program asked me if I wanted to go to Austria and this was in 2010, so I said yes. I just wanted to go somewhere else and see the different culture, I have never been to Austria and I thought it will be different culture. I wanted to see how Austrian people live, because everywhere you go, it is always different to Wales. 

I went to this project for three weeks and I enjoyed it so much that I stayed for one year. I ended up being paid by people who worked in the office. I just enjoyed it. I lived in house in Austria, and it was a bit of construction work to do, and there was horses and pigs there and children came from Vienna to see how a farm works. During the project I learned how to be more responsible and I started to grow up and be more confident. I started to speak more, say my opinions, because before I wouldn’t say anything like that.


I kept helping people
After Austria I went to Moldova for two months in 2012 to work with disabled children and then to France for one year to work in an international youth meeting centre in the Alps. When I came back from these things, I kept helping people around. For example if I see old lady with bags, some people would just pass, but I would stop and help. Before I wouldn’t have done it, but because I have been abroad and helped people and I came back with the same attitude.

I think before I went abroad I was always get in the trouble all the time. I changed the scenery I changed my life. Probably I would have been in troubles if didn’t meet UNA Exchange. I have changed now: I made lot of projects I have acted older. It was important for me to stay busy and not being so bored, I simply needed to do something.



  • Would you like to know more about our Step by Step programme? Find out more about supported volunteering here
  • Are you a local organisation and would like to support your young people with fewer opportunities to volunteer abroad or in Wales? Become our partner!