Monday, March 13, 2017

Being a volunteer with Concordia

Trying to put into words how much enjoyment I get from volunteering with Concordia is hard, but I'll try…so here goes!

I’ve been volunteering with Concordia for over 5 years now. I started out by wanting to do an extended trip overseas and to see more than the backpacker trail. I was lucky enough to spend three years living overseas in my 20’s on various working holiday visas so 10 years on from these adventures I found myself wanting to have a trip where I would feel like I had lived and experienced a different culture even though I just had the gift of being able to take 6 weeks off work. I came across Concordia on an internet search and then went on the North-South training in Brighton. The training was great and I met like-minded people who wanted to visit and experience different cultures too which just made me more excited about my upcoming trip. For my first volunteering trip, I went to Nepal and lived in an orphanage at the foot of the Himalayas for 2 weeks. Sounds all very rustic and romantic right? Rustic, beautiful, and amazing it was but not sure that romantic can be a description particularly when our ‘shower’ was using the only communal tap for over a mile and had chickens around our feet! I shared the camp with 5 other volunteers from Japan, Hong Kong and France and can honestly say that it was some of the most incredible weeks of my life. On the project we mainly did manual labour such as building a dam for the flood season, creating a vegetable garden and creating a new room by using pickaxes against a cliff face. We also spent our evenings playing with the children and teaching them English. Our hosts were amazing and took us to lots of different places including a local viewpoint to watch the sunrise over the Annapurna range and to local shops and coffee shops. Following the workcamp, I spent about 3 weeks backpacking which was also incredible, but also made me realise that the two weeks I had spent volunteering gave me a rare insight into the ‘real Nepal’ which you rarely get backpacking.

When I got back to the UK I started helping with the overseas volunteer training as a volunteer and then came across the opportunity to be a coordinator for overseas volunteers coming to the UK to do a project. Again, I went on the weekend training for this and met more like minded fabulous people, many of which I am still friends with. So, in 2013 I was one of two coordinators for a project in East Sussex to renovate a school for children from developing countries to come to the UK and do their baccalaureate through winning scholarships. I was joined by fabulous volunteers from all over the world; Taiwan, Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland and Germany. We spent two weeks renovating the school; painting, gardening, demolishing walls and sheds and building furniture and in our spare time ate amazing food and visited various places in the local area. It was my first experience of leading a group and was quite nervous beforehand but being able to share the leaders’ responsibilities with another UK volunteer helped and all the training and support that Concordia gave us meant that we never felt on our own.

After that project, I started assisting with the coordinator training as well as the overseas volunteer training. Through Concordia’s partnership with Girlguiding, I have been a Concordia leader in two-week trips to the Republic of Korea in 2015 and Vietnam in 2016 with Girlguiding groups. Acting as a Concordia leader is both rewarding and challenging and on both trips, I have seen fellow volunteers grow in confidence and blossom as a result.

This year I have participated in a turtle conservation project on the west coast of Mexico and also just got back from a week long Erasmus funded project in Italy where along with fellow volunteers from all over Europe we are going to lead an activity camp for teenagers in the summer which will also encourage discussion and debate on gender stereotypes.

Volunteering is now a major part of my life and makes me feel alive, proud and happy to be me! I can’t recommend it enough!  

No comments: