Volunteers’ stories – Volunteering as an essential part of being a responsible global citizen (Jack’s story)

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), Helene (European Solidarity Corps volunteer at WCIA/UNA Exchange for the year 2019/2020) selected seven inspiring volunteer stories.

Through UNA Exchange projects Jack saw the Northern Lights in Iceland, led a project in the Czech Republic on a biodynamic farm, rebuilt a river bank in Wales, attended international seminars, delivered trainings and much more. Jack now works for the National Trust in Ipswich.

From volunteering to leading
“I went on to volunteer for a weekend project in the Afan Forest with Nick Murfin, a brilliant Ranger. We spent two days reconstructing a river bank, and at the end of the project Nick and another member of staff suggested I should try the Leader’s Training programme at UNA Exchange – so I did. So, I ended up training to lead projects, and returned to Afan several times with different groups of volunteers. I also volunteered in Reykjavik in Iceland and saw the Northern Lights, led a project in Czech Republic on a biodynamic farm, and went on to train Leaders myself.

I have lots of great memories for my second work project, and first two week project in Wales, back in Afan Forest – it was a great group, with a challenging work project endorsed by the local council, working with Nick again. The work was very physical, as we had to resurrect a large new footpath that had become overgrown and also put in a lot of steps to link this footpath to existing well used ones. It was a project that was very labour intensive but would open up a whole new area of the forest to regular walkers, and it was easy to see a visible result at the end of it – we really felt as though we had left a legacy and got a lot done, and the group were better connected and closer as a result. I stayed in touch and formed friendships with a lot of people on that project – made real connections!

Volunteering is character building 
I have seen a lot more of the world as a result, and travelled more than I probably would have had I not started volunteering.  I think that volunteering definitely changed me for the better – I strive to always be volunteering now, and promote volunteering amongst others. I think it is an essential part of being a responsible, and global citizen, and very much believe in it as an ethos and as part of the bigger picture of society at large. During my volunteering experiences I learnt an awful lot about different nationalities, stereotyping, group dynamics, leading groups and having an open mind. I genuinely think it shaped me into a more mature, grounded individual.

Volunteering encompasses a huge range of roles and responsibilities – it is sad that in current times in the UK volunteering has become more wrapped up with the politics of cutting budgets and keeping people on the road to employment. I believe every politician in every country should volunteer. They should know what hard work, sweat and exhaustion for no monetary gain feels like! I would like to encourage everyone to volunteer at least once – you will have great experiences – it is all character building!

You meet so many people, learn so much and see so much of the world, if you throw yourself into it. I miss it, and hope that others can benefit from its great ethos and character as an organisation – I’d massively recommend it!”

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