‘If I hadn’t gone, I would probably be dead or in jail’ – how taking part in European Voluntary Service can change lives, as it did for Calum Barron.
In 2016 we are celebrating 20 years of European Voluntary Service (EVS), part of the Erasmus+ programme that enables young people to volunteer in another country, making a difference to their own lives as well as those they help abroad.
In 2010, Calum travelled to Italy with EVS, supported by UNA Exchange, a youth organisation that offers community-based volunteering opportunities in Wales and around the world. As a young person with a troubled past and limited prospects, he had no idea of the profound effect that the experience would have on him.
I think EVS was the best cure for mental health – better than any drug, therapist or doctor
‘Since I was a kid I was always in trouble, and then I turned sixteen and was getting into worse stuff – trouble with the law, drugs, hanging out with the wrong people. I think this was the reason my youth workers arranged to send me to a project in Italy – to keep me out of jail. It was a real eye-opener and life-changing. In that place, I started to behave. Because it was different, I was outside of my comfort zone. I became quite open-minded, because I realised that people in other countries are just people like me. I learnt about respect, I learnt about loyalty. If I hadn’t gone, I would probably be dead or in jail.’
A new path
Calum has gone on to take part in and lead other volunteering activities with UNA Exchange in Poland, Wales and Lithuania. In Lithuania he took part in an eight-month long EVS programme and discovered a love for the outdoors and a new career path in landscaping. He continues to volunteer though, working with children with ADHD and at a homeless shelter.
Has taking part in Erasmus+ made an impact to your participants' lives? Why not share your story with us?