Giving young people a ‘step up’ through volunteering opportunities and supporting local communities
Erasmus+ enables international volunteers to support local organisations to make a positive change in their communities, to learn about different cultures and promote global citizenship.
UNA Exchange, based in Cardiff, was previously supported by the Youth in Action programme, the EU’s predecessor programme for youth funding. ‘Step by Step’ supports young people with fewer opportunities to join volunteering activities in other countries. This is mainly short-term volunteering through the European Voluntary Service (EVS), but also youth exchanges.
Clarice Barber, a 19 year-old from Prestatyn, Denbighshire, took part in a two-week volunteering project in Belgium. Clarice was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and has speech and communication difficulties. She also suffers from anxiety. Although an active young person, Clarice had never participated in any kind of international or residential activity for more than one or two nights.
For two weeks Clarice lived and worked near Marche-en-Famenne in Belgium with a group of 11 other young people from Belgium, Japan, Spain, Turkey, France, Afghanistan, the Czech Republic and Italy. They were working for a community organisation called “Grimm” building dry-rock walls, repairing a fountain, constructing a disabled toilet and removing Japanese knotweed.
Clarice gained a great deal from this experience, most particularly in terms of self-confidence and independence. She proved that she can travel distances alone, negotiate large travel terminals and get on with people from different backgrounds and cultures. She formed positive relationships with the 11 other volunteers; expressing her opinions, contributing to decision making and participating in group activities. She was open to the intercultural aspects of the group and demonstrated a positive and proactive attitude to difference and diversity. She is now motivated to continue with more international volunteering for longer periods of time.
We believe international volunteering is a powerful force for change in the world. It is an amazing way for people to learn new skills and gain new perspectives. - Sheila Smith, Step by Step manager, UNA Exchange
Are you interested in finding out more about volunteering opportunities for young people? Take a look at our volunteer abroad page.