European Solidarity Corps volunteer Belén from Spain tells us about her placement at Volunteer Now in Belfast, and her involvement in promotion and supporting organisation.
Hi, my name is Belén and I am a volunteer in Belfast. I have been here six months, and I am half-way through my placement.
How I came to volunteering
I am from Noia, a fishing village in Galicia in northwest Spain.
I studied computer engineering for five years and I worked in it for six months. During all that time, I never enjoyed it. I thought about changing career a million times, but I never did it because I guess I was scared. I didn’t know what else I could do.
While working, I randomly found on Facebook an opportunity to join a volunteer organisation named AIESEC. Volunteering had always been on my mind, but I didn’t really know anything about it. Still, I decided to join them because one year earlier I had been in Poland for six incredible months on an Erasmus placement and I thought I could help other people to have fantastic experiences abroad, just as mine was. So I joined them and I loved every minute of it. AIESEC sends young people abroad to live volunteering experiences in a multicultural environment and my role was to attract, select, prepare and coach those volunteers. And so, it was because of my Erasmus and AIESEC that I decided to leave my job and apply for a volunteering placement.
The best match!
I decided that I wanted to do Erasmus+ Volunteering to explore more, and so I wanted an organisation that would help me to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life and that would allow me to understand the many different aspects of volunteering.
And that is why I applied to Volunteer Now. Volunteer Now is an organisation which works to promote, develop and support volunteering across Northern Ireland. They give people the opportunity to get involved in the community and make it better. They have projects within the community, they do youth work, they organise events, trainings... and lots more. They basically do everything that you can imagine. I am placed in the youth work team, but I work across the whole organisation and with them I have taken part in information stands, in talks, in social action programmes, I have gone to conferences and done trainings about mental health, about video storytelling, about managing and motivating volunteers… I have been in events including Belfast City Marathon, the launch of the Glider, the Queen´s Award Event, even a country show. I have also done so many photoshoots to promote volunteering that if you visit Belfast you will probably find my face in pictures all over the city!
So many opportunities
Throughout my volunteering placement, I have also benefited from opportunities to get involved in other organisations including fundraising, conservation and coordinating a workcamp.
I have really been given so many opportunities that it is difficult to keep track of them, and for me that is European Solidarity Corps. The possibility to explore, to try new things, to discover what you enjoy doing and what you don’t. A programme that broadens your horizons and helps you change your life.
An organisation's perspective
Jane, from Belén's hosting organisation, reflects on the impact of Belén's involvement: "Volunteer Now is an organisation that encourages the inclusion of volunteers, supports good practice in volunteer management and promotes the value that volunteers bring to individuals, communities and the Northern Ireland society. Volunteer Now’s involvement in international volunteering gives us the opportunity to practice what we preach. It gives us the opportunity to involve volunteers in the very heart of what we do, if gives us the space to listen to their own experiences and to learn from them.
“Each time we welcome a European volunteer we gain a special human being who is willing to bring their talents and skills into our organisation in order to give and to gain.”
We knew from the application process and Skype call that Belén was special and were on tenterhooks until she came. There was something about her passion and ease of communication that stood out amongst the other applicants and she has surpassed all initial expectations. Belén has come to Northern Ireland and Volunteer Now to give as much of herself as she can - she seeks out opportunities, training and organisations that will give her a new experience, that will enable her to learn new skills and will enable her to make a positive impact on the cause or those around her. Her work is always to a very high standard, she gives 100% all of the time and is willing to give everything a go! Belén is an inspiration not only to her peers but to everyone that she meets. Volunteer Now has greatly benefited from her involvement, passion, energy and commitment.
"The European Solidarity Corps projects have been key in bringing a new perspective into our work and very special young people like Belén and the support that Bryson Charitable Group has played throughout the process has been invaluable."
Exciting times ahead
Back to Belén for the final words: "Six months ago I felt I just had two options, to stay in my job or to leave it to participate in a volunteering project and explore the unknown. Now, thanks to my experience I can see that there are many many more opportunities ahead of me, and I am not scared at all, I am very excited to see how the second half of my placement will be and to see where I will end up after that. I see now so many opportunities to do different things, to explore, to learn and to continue growing… I just know that I want to continue volunteering throughout my life because I find it an amazing way to gain experience, to develop skills such as leadership and to get over fears such as public speaking while having fun and meeting interesting like-minded people. And in the case of international volunteering, while experiencing a different culture and learning and improving other language."
“I think European Solidarity Corps is an amazing programme; I feel grateful that I was able to do it and I would recommend it to everyone."
Article submitted by Bryson Charitable Group, Eurodesk UK Partner
If you would like to consider trying out an exciting experience such as Belén's, check out European Solidarity Corps – just give it a go!