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101 Years of International Volunteering

Our blogs are written by volunteers and contributors to represent a diverse range of views. Opinions expressed in blogs are those of the contributor. 

By Isabel García (ESC Volunteer) 

I truly encourage every young person in Wales and the world to enrol in a volunteering programme, you’re just one decision away from living one of the best experiences of your life. 

On Thursday 4 November I was privileged to attend the virtual Senedd event celebrating 101 Years of International Volunteering. For me, living the volunteer experience at this moment, and at the same time being able to listen other volunteer stories was incredibly enriching.  

I’ve always thought that volunteering is a wonderful experience that everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. Not just because you’re helping and contributing with your time and knowledge, but also because you’re making a positive impact on society and especially in local communities.  

During the event, we heard experiences from returning volunteers, current volunteers and host organisations that showcased the diversity of programmes and activities that are in our grasp. Especially impactful, we heard the life-changing story of Joseph Lewis (European Services Volunteer, 2010).  

He’s just an example of how an exchange opportunity can change your life.  In fact, Joseph explained that he comes from a rural area and wasn’t interested at all in formal education. But he learned about UNA Exchange programmes and decided to fly to Tallin, Estonia. Ten years later, he has a post grad degree and now is working in the public sector.  

Not just Joseph, but actually all the people who I talked to about it feel exactly the same way.  

“For me it was international exchange opportunity in Kenya that set me on my life course. 22 years on, I have worked in 5 countries with colleagues from all across the world” 

Susie Ventris-Field, Chief Executive at WCIA

As a solo traveller, you do learn who you really are and how to interact and understand other individuals. In fact, probably one of the highlights would be that you’ll be able to meet people and make lifelong friends that will leave a mark on you forever.  

In my case, this is my first time living abroad alone. Pushing yourself in that way it’s quite brave, and being able to go out of your comfort zone and leave your life behind to start a new one, behaving as a local, makes a big change.  But it was very clear to me, I wanted to quit my job and start from scratch.  

I’ve got already the feeling that I’m experiencing a transformative period of my life and that actually, what I’m living now will have a real impact on my near future, personally and professionally. So, I truly encourage every young person in Wales and the world to enroll in a volunteering programme, you’re just one decision away from living one of the best experiences of your life.