Read the story of Alex, who took part in our supported volunteering program “Step by Step” for young people with fewer opportunities. Volunteering abroad helped Alex to develop his potential and motivated him to do youth work.
|Alex, from Swansea, first joined UNA Exchange in 2013, taking part in a theatre project in Vienna. He caught the bug and went on to a two-month project in France the following year, and becoming more deeply involved in UNA Exchange activities in Wales.
“I enjoy travelling abroad as I like getting away from Swansea, finding new places and exploring. I am adventurous. I just don’t really like the culture here in Swansea. I feel there is lack of opportunities for young people and there is quite a strong drug scene where I used to be involved. That’s why I like travelling: I don’t like to stuck in one place for ages where I can get into these things.
This summer I went for two months long project in little village called Vauniéres. I was keen to work in France, which I really like in general and a youth worker from Info-Nation helped me to get in touch with UNA Exchange and arrange everything. I wanted to just get away from the city and Vauniéres is a little farm in the middle of nowhere.
Life in Vauniéres
There were a lot of different things going on. I was basically doing whatever needed doing, most of the time I spent in the kitchen cooking for everyone there. There is a hotel where a lot of different groups were coming from all different places. They have schools going there, lot of different long-term volunteers. In the kitchen I was sometimes working with people with disabilities. That was really good experience but also challenging. They were mostly French speakers so besides the disability barrier I faced the language barrier. I think that gave me lot of patience with everyone there. My typical day was hot, hungover and busy.
We had a lot of fun and parties in Vauniéres or close villages, we visited local pubs and concerts and one day we also saw Tour de France! I was also sleeping on the sun and sunbathing a lot, when I didn’t have to work. I visited conference about international youth work and volunteering and there were people from all of the workcamps in France and I met volunteers from other places there.
Meeting people from all different countries
I most enjoyed meeting new people, because in Vauniéres there were people from all different countries there and all different places from France. I loved to be around them because I just don’t see any difference between them and me. I liked to work with all these people in the kitchen and teach them Welsh cooking and I made Welsh cakes for them. But sometimes it was hard to understand each other in the kitchen, because I didn’t spoke much French. For example I was cooking pizza with one boy from local school and I tried to speak to him and explain how to make the pizza- And I asked him to put like lot of cheese and he ended up putting like six inches hire cheese on the top of the pizza and this pizza didn’t cook properly.
I definitely learned better French and improved my cooking skills. I hitchhiked for the first time when I was there and really enjoyed that. I have lot of memories and friends from that place and I am still in touch with friends from Latvia or Canada. When you do projects you live with local with different people and become like a little family and know them a lot.
My plans for the future
I think if I didn’t have done projects, I would be just in my house bored, doing nothing. I am a kind of person who doesn’t like to do anything. I have to be doing something, otherwise I just go crazy. So a rather work for nothing than not doing anything. Because I made so many different projects with so many different young people and I enjoyed it so much, I decided to start study community and youth work in the university.
I have a couple of ideas and plans, what I would like to do next. I plan to go do EVS (European Voluntary Service) and continue doing projects with UNA Exchange. I would like to train young people to cook so they can get work, because there is lot of unemployment and people need these skills, which I would like to give them. I hope it could help people not to fall into drugs and homelessness.
If you are lucky enough and you’re in good situation nearly on you can be good and, but if you are just not that lucky one who doesn’t get that quick break, you can stacked doing about of drugs drinking all day. I was lucky for UNA Exchange to help me get out of my situation.“
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