International Youth Volunteer Programme: two perspectives

Posted on the 16th May 2019

I took part in the British Red Cross’ International Youth Volunteer Programme where I volunteered in Manderfeld, Wallonia in Belgium. I was at a centre where asylum seekers were provided with accommodation and support.

Part of my project involved social assistance, helping people learn about migration, refugee status and human rights. Aside from this I supported asylum seekers on different activities, for example, I regularly took a football team to their tournament matches, and spent time and supported them.

I studied development, and I have an interest in conflict management, so when I found this opportunity to work with the Red Cross to help people fleeing conflict and persecution I was really inspired. I want to work in conflict management, so working with the Red Cross has been really valuable in that I can learn from people’s different experiences and stories.

Everyone I’ve met has been very welcoming, and people are always willing to show you their country. The people and the culture are what make you want to stay. My favourite thing about Belgium is how open-minded and friendly people are.

My advice for anyone interested in joining the International Youth Volunteer Programme is really try and embed yourself in the culture. Reach out to people and ask them about the culture of the country you’re staying in! If you want to explore you have to leap out.

Andrew Myerscough now works at the centre in Manderfeld and supervises EVS volunteers as part of his job.

This years volunteers at their On-Arrival seminar in Brighton

I volunteered with the French Red Cross in Sablé Sur Sarthe, as part of the International Youth Volunteer Programme.

My role was running activities with vulnerable people in communities, this included disabled and/or homeless French people and refugees. Activities varied from cooking classes to visiting castles or day breaks at the beach

I have always wanted to help people and in light of international developments, was determined to conduct some kind of work with refugees. I loved the idea of volunteering abroad but I couldn’t fund moving out independently. When I saw the EVS opportunity on the Red Cross website I couldn’t believe how perfect it was for me – a volunteering opportunity that gave me the financial support to help others but required no professional qualifications or even knowledge of the language.

However, on my first day I felt so sick. I am a very confident person and nothing ever really phases me so this feeling of sickness came as a real shock. No one in the workplace could speak English and I felt completely out of my comfort zone and lonely. I think this feeling at the beginning is why I am so proud of myself in how quickly I learnt French and created strong friendships with my wonderful colleagues.

Being a foreigner, you can have some really exciting and enlightening conversations. There is so much to learn from people of a different culture and so many doors opened by learning their language.

Looking back, I think the one thing I will take most from the whole experience is the inspirational people I have met and the self-reflection and development this encouraged me to do. Meeting such an array of people enabled me to step back and think about who I am and what type of person I want to be more clearly.

Eleanor Tack went on to study International relations and continues to be involved with the movement.

Eleanor Tack

In three words, Eleanor would describe her year with EVS as 'Best year ever'.

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