VOLUNTEERS IN ACTION

PROJECT NAME: CARER’S SUPPORT BEXLEY

Information about the project

You’re a social care worker, going into the homes of families. There, you caring for a disabled child, adult or an elderly or dementia-suffering person. This gives the family carer (the one in the family who actually looks after the person) a break.

Information about myself 

I’ve turned 19 during the year, just had finished school before and was living on my own for the first time during the year. I’m a girl from Germany with a big family and enjoy being with people.

What was a working day like?

Usually, I worked 7-8 hrs a day, typically 10-2 and 4-8 (at an elderly client during the day and at a child during the night) or 10-5 at one client’s. Riding the bus can take up to 1 hour per way. At the clients, I did a vast number of things: playing and going out (to the park, swimming pool, woods,…) with children, getting people in wheelchairs out by pushing them about the town or simply looking after an elderly person, trying to give some stimulation by activities like having chats and walks and doing puzzles. I helped toileting and it was sometimes hard and sometimes I have a really boring day as well (only telly, just sitting next to a person who basically sleeps through the day), but I had great variety and could work really self-reliant.

What did you enjoy about living in a different culture?

I enjoyed learning the small differences between two cultures in Europe (it’s a lot!). This also makes me appreciate more what I have in my country. I enjoyed my “adult-life” here. But most of all, I enjoyed meeting a huge lot of very different people from many places – the volunteers and locals in my leisure time one and the families I worked with very different living backgrounds on the other hand.

What did you achieve?

I achieved my independence. I managed to live on my own, with people from different cultures and countries, so I think I am well-prepared for other ways of accommodation as a student. I met many people and made very close friends, which is brilliant. And it makes me feel more confident about finding friends and being all right in new living conditions. I know how to deal with challenging situations. I know how to keep friendships up even long-distance. I became a lot more open-minded. I became more relaxed and self-confident as well.

I am really grateful for this year and I feel I achieved more aims than I ever had.

INFORMATION ABOUT MY PROJECT

I worked with adults with physical and mental disabilities at Freshfields Leonard Cheshire Disability Centre. You basically are in activities; you go on trips out and do some indoor activities too. It is really fun and enjoyable. The people you work with are really nice and it is fun and a good place to work!

INFORMATION ABOUT MYSELF

I’ll be 22 years old in October 2013. I turned 21 while I was in the UK. I’m from Honduras a country located in Central America and I live with my family.

WHAT WAS A WORKING DAY LIKE

You normally start working around 9:15 am. At breakfast time you are able to help the residents who can’t feed themselves and when you finish you start with activities or if you have some trip out you get ready with the residents and it depends where you’re going but you normally help them make sure they are in the bus safe with all the safety instructions and then go out and if it’s at dinner time you help them with meals too. If you are doing indoor activities you can play games with them and do pottery work which is really fun and basically you do that and it depends if there’s something else planned. You can help with dinner time and tea time also and you normally finish working at 5:15 pm. You need to be qualified to help with meals and to push a wheelchair and also getting the residents in the bus; you have to do some training but are all basic stuff and are really easy.

 WHAT DID YOU ENJOY ABOUT LIVING IN A DIFFERENT CULTURE

You learn something different every day. English people are really nice and you get used to their lifestyle and also different cultures. My roommate was a girl from South Korea and we get on well I learned so much about her culture and she learned from mine and it was so much fun. You improve your English a lot and in my case in my work place nobody could speak Spanish so it was a challenge but it really helps you.

WHAT DID YOU ACHIEVE?

I achieved so much experience and you are basically making someone else happy with your help and they really appreciate your help and time. At the end of your experience you feel that all the work you did is so worth it and you want to continue doing it and you feel really good with yourself. You make lots of friends and being able to be independent and you learn to grow as a person. Is definitely worth it and I absolutely recommend this experience to other people.

PROJECT NAME: TRELOAR’S COLLEGE

INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROJECT

Treloar’s College is a college for physical disabled students. It is part of Treloar´s, that has too a School and a Trust, although my job was mainly in the College. The students can live there in some different houses with any technology they need to live properly and staff 24 hours a day. It is located in Holybourne, Alton, in a peaceful place in the countryside.

INFORMATION ABOUT MYSELF

I am Adrian and my two surnames say that I am from Spain. I was 24 years old when I started the project and 25 when I finished it. I have been a scout since I was 8 years old and a scout leader since 2007. With them I volunteered in some organizations and schools working with disabled students and I knew that you can learn a lot with them.

But, maybe, what I love the most and what my life is dedicated to is films. My love about films has guided my life since I was a child and I want to be working in the film industry in a near future. And because this love has helped me a lot during my life, I like to create activities to share my love with young people. That is what I did in Treloar’s, at Photography, ICT and Media classrooms, very related with films.

WHAT WAS A WORKING DAY LIKE

I woke up in my three-minute-to-job home and started the first lesson at 09.00 in the morning. There I helped the students to do their work, either in a small group or, usually, in one-to-one basis. Sometimes I typed for them and other times I prepared the camera to be ready for them. I helped them as well in the darkroom or to make activities for Maths, English and ICT lessons.

I was a sort of key worker for one of the students, whose hobbies were much related to mines, so I helped him in Media lessons to create a Flash animation and all the preproduction before it. As well as this, I helped to one of the students to create his first webpage with Dreamweaver.

I used to work 09.00 to 11.00, then 11.45 to 13.00, and finally 14.15 to 16.00 every weekday. Aside of that I had to help in some after class activities and volunteered in anyone I liked it. Because of that I helped in an iPad club in the LRC. I created and managed a Radio Club with the collaboration of the rest of the volunteers, and I went so many times to the Wheelchair Basketball Club to learn and play.

Finally, if you were lucky enough, you could go to help the students and the staff to the trips they prepared. I was lucky enough to go twice to the History Museum of London to see two photographic exhibitions that were amazing.

WHAT DID YOU ENJOY ABOUT LIVING IN A DIFFERENT CULTURE

Even when European cultures are becoming less different with the time, living in UK was a very interesting experience. Of course the most important one was the language. I did not know English very well when I firstly arrived in September 2012, but now I can write this text you are reading, and you can see that although there are mistakes everywhere, it is pretty good for a Spanish guy who learnt English washing dishes in a hotel in London during a couple a summers.

Now I know English enough to be working as a Teaching Assistant in Surbiton, London. And I even assist in English lessons! All my life I will thank Treloar’s to have the patience to teach me words and idioms every day, and ICYE to have trusted me and chosen me to be a Teaching Assistant even when they knew my English had to improve a lot.

Of course I also enjoyed any other aspects about living in English culture. Even more, I finished my volunteer placement in Treloar’s and I stayed in UK. Spain still is waiting for me and it has to wait a little bit longer.

WHAT DID YOU ACHIEVE?

Well, the language is the most obvious one, but my teaching skills are the most important ones. Before my placement in Treloar’s I was not so sure about if being a teaching assistant in UK was easy of not; or if I could do it. But afterwards and thank to the staff I was working with I realized that I could do it and I started to apply for schools and colleges. I now I am working in Surbiton. In London! In UK! Wow!

Everything I do every day now I learnt it before in Treloar’s. Maybe, I would not have been brave enough to be doing what I am doing if Treloar’s and ICYE had not given me the confidence I needed it.

PROJECT NAME: FETHNEYS

Information about the project

Fethneys, Worthing, West Sussex. Fethneys is a project that supports disabled people from 18 up to 25 years old. By spending time with them, shopping, travelling, escorting them to college and helping them live independently at the care house

Information about myself

I am Marlon, now studying System Engineering at University. I´m from Costa Rica, I love Football, and of course I love English Football “Chelsea…!!” I love Travelling and like so much English Culture.

What was a working day like?

It was a bit difficult in the beginning, because I haven’t work with people with disabilities, but then I think I had learn from them, and I think I had a great time working with them and having fun. I had to do meals sometimes, go shopping, travel, to college, to the parks, to the pub, and sometimes to football matches! But my main task was to talk and help them every day. The staff and everyone at Fethneys were so nice to me.

What did you enjoy about living in a different culture?

I chose the UK just to improve my English and It was my first time in Europe and my first time travelling alone. But I also enjoyed the English culture: The food, the nice people, and the nice and different places. I experienced living in a small city of England and so many other things; I travelled and got to know many big cities and the capitals of the world like London. It has been a great experience knowing a new culture.

What did you achieve?

I have learned a lot about myself living alone and living with so many nice and different people in a shared flat. I have become more self confident and Independent and I have more fluency in my English. I met so many people from many different countries and I made so many friends.

MY PROJECT

My name is Teddy, and in August 2017 I was fortunate enough to start volunteering for 6 months at GOLASO Chicos de la Calle in Quito; a project which focuses on supporting children with challenging backgrounds and who often sell on the streets. There is an academic focus where the volunteers’ principal role is to help with school work, in particular helping the kids who don’t know how to read or write, as well as playing with the children. Volunteers can visit families & schools to discuss any problems and possible solutions. As the team is small, volunteers are also tasked with assisting in the kitchen, to ensure that all the kids get a hot meal.

Working alongside these children impacted me enormously. Admittedly, at the beginning of my volunteering at GOLASO I found it incredibly stressful at times having to look after so many kids, usually about 30 at one time, who initially were difficult to control. Nevertheless, after a few weeks of perseverance, I had already warmed to them and began really enjoying myself. Playing and chatting with the kids allowed me to get to know them better and I developed some close friendships. Saying goodbye to them was one of the hardest things I had to do during my time in Ecuador, and it saddens me greatly that I may never see most of them ever again. I want to go back as soon as I can to visit or maybe even volunteer there again to keep updated on how they are doing.

WHEN I WASN’T VOLUNTEERING…

There was so much to see in Ecuador and you could get anywhere quickly. I went on many weekend trips away to Baños, a waterfall, adrenaline-rushed haven on the edge of the Amazon, Papallacta, some natural thermal baths beneath a volcano, Cuenca, the most beautiful colonial city of Ecuador, and Atacames, the mesmeric endless beaches with dramatic cliffs. My family came to visit at Christmas, so I really enjoyed having the luxury of visiting the Galapagos islands. No adjectives could possibly describe how incredible they are, I was truly blown away by the nature, the sea, and the unique animals. The highlight of my entire trip was snorkelling among a group of about 15 sea turtles. Towards the end of my 6 months, I went on a tour around the Amazon, in Cuyabeno, which was unforgettable. I enjoyed the dense green, tropical rainforest emerging from the black waters and getting up close to all the incredible animals, including an Anaconda! I spent a lot of time with the other volunteers, usually going out for food at our favourite pizzeria in Quito. It was lovely to have a good group of friends and it made the whole process of settling into life very easy. I really enjoyed my blogging too and it is a fantastic idea to keep a record of your travels and your experiences to reminisce on in years to come.

THE MOST INTRESTING THING ABOUT LIVING & VOLUNTEERING IN ECUADOR…

 The most interesting part of living in a host family and volunteering is that you get to know some unbelievable people and their distinctive lifestyles. Staying with a family is ideal and unique, because unlike living on your own it gives you a real insight into the Ecuadorian cuisine, traditions and celebrations.  Raquel, my host mother, was so charming, caring and funny. Her life story was so fascinating, moving over to Ecuador at the age of 16, becoming the head of a bank for years before losing her job and deciding to take in volunteers for years. If you ever get Raquel as your host mother in Quito, then you are in for a treat! My project was just as compelling as my host family. As a volunteer, it was my duty to visit several families in very deprived, dangerous and horrible districts of Quito. Seeing how the kids lived, their troubles at home, involving abusive parents, severe poverty and problems with drugs/alcohol, really opened my eyes to the bigger picture. Ecuador for a tourist must seem like a paradise with all the stunning natural wonders and wildlife, however volunteers have the opportunity to learn about real life situations of people in Ecuador by visiting communities and speaking to people. Getting to fully know the community, your work colleagues and their stories really is the best way to understand a country. People make up a country, so learning about their politics, culture and beliefs is the best way to discover what Ecuador is about.

FROM MY VOLUNTEER PLACEMENT I LEARNED…

…to be proactive and independent. We weren’t given out specific tasks for each day, however I knew what had to be done and the objective of my project. I already spoke Spanish, as I study it at University, yet I improved it drastically and reached a high level of fluency. I was able to speak comfortably with anyone about anything without any major communication barriers. I also learned how to adjust to a life far away from home, by recognising how to conduct myself and be well-organised. I discovered more about myself as a person too, as I became more confident and willing to get out of my comfort zone, to truly test my character. This made me realise that I could do things that I didn’t know that I could do. This experience definitely changed me for the better. I am a more open minded person about the world we live in, more confident in my abilities and excited about my future. We live in such an incredible world; I just want to go on another adventure and see as much as possible.

MY PROJECT

Morning Star Centre – a non-profit, non-governmental organisation which was the first day-care centre in Hanoi to provide a high-quality system of early detection and intervention services to improve the quality of life and social integration for children with intellectual disabilities and autism.

MY ROLE

As this volunteering experience formed my university placement year, my role in the centre had a strong link to my psychology degree. As well as providing the teachers with the support and help that they needed in their daily activities with the children; I was also asked for my opinion on different psychological approaches which could be implemented and asked to develop activities which from a psychological perspective would help to enhance the children’s development over time.

A TYPICAL DAY FOR ME WAS…

I would arrive at the centre at about 8-8:30am while the children were still arriving. Whilst waiting for all of the children to be dropped off by their parents, the teachers and I would get the children involved in a ‘warmer’ activity, such as aerobics or dancing, to get the children active and alert. Afterwards, we would move onto the teaching session. During this time, I would have two of the children to help teach them through many different activities; teaching them numbers, colours, animals, clothes etc. (all in Vietnamese – testing my abilities). After the teaching session was complete, the teachers and I would take the children to either the soft play area on the second floor of the building or to the outside play area for them to have some time to burn off some energy. This was then followed by lunchtime, where I would assist the teachers in helping the children to feed themselves. I would then go on my lunch break while the children had a nap (a very common practice in Vietnamese culture, for all ages). In the afternoon, we would have a similar ‘warmer’ activity, followed by teaching the children how to dress themselves, how to wash their face and brush their teeth. As well as this activity, we would also have a more creative activity which would involved painting or colouring in. These activities would be followed by a snack break, similar to lunchtime, I would help some of those children who needed help to feed themselves. Finally, the last activity of the day would involve music, whereby the main teacher in my classroom would play the piano and the children would take it in turns to sing one of their favourite Vietnamese nursery rhymes (and try and teach me). This is the general overview of the daily activities which I partook in on a regular basis, however, I did observe a lot of different therapy sessions outside of the classroom when the children were taken for their one-to-one sessions. I also taught yoga for 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday morning to a group of six students and in the summer, we also took the children swimming.

WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO WHEN I’M NOT VOLUNTEERING

When I wasn’t volunteering, I spent much of my time immersing myself into the culture; visiting museums and famous historical monuments, visiting religious sites such as temples and pagodas, trying the local cuisine and trying to understand Vietnamese culture. I often travelled around Vietnam with some of the other volunteers I was with, exploring the beautiful landscapes both in the north and south of Vietnam. Again, this provided an opportunity to experience the culture but also to see the differences in cultural customs across the country which was really interesting. After work, I regularly went to the local gym where everyone was really friendly, coming up to me and asking to practice their English with me which was really welcoming.

MOST INTRESTING THING ABOUT LIVING AND VOLUNTEERING

I really enjoyed living in a volunteer house with lots of other volunteers from around the world. This meant that as well as learning about Vietnamese culture and traditions, I was also learning about many other cultures through the people I was living with, which made the experience really interesting for me. Furthermore, living with other people who are volunteering, who are far away from their homes just like you provide you with a sense of comfort – the other people around you understand what you are going through, and I think this mutual understanding allowed me to make some really meaningful friendships that will stay with me. Moreover, from a volunteering perspective, the most interesting part for me was to see how the children in my class developed throughout my time volunteering with them. I was able to see direct observations of my work which made the whole experience so much more rewarding.

FROM MY VOLUNTEER PLACEMENT I LEARNT

Volunteering at Morning Star Centre has been an invaluable experience and one which I cannot really describe how much it has changed the way in which I approach things and has altered my perceptions on things. Perhaps one of the most salient things that I have learnt from this placement is patience. Although I mentioned that I noticed the children making progress during my time at the centre; this progress was slow which often brought about feelings of frustration in myself as I felt that I wasn’t providing the children with enough support. However, gradually, over time, I began to notice some small improvements which were incredibly rewarding and motivated me to continue what I was doing. Therefore, this experience made me appreciate the role of patience when you are working with children, a skill which will be vital as someone hoping to pursue a career in child clinical psychology. Furthermore, I have developed my communications skills. On the first day if my placement, I realised that there was an evident language barrier, whereby my teachers and I only spoke a basic level in the others language, limiting our conversations to “hello, how are you?”. This meant that I had to find alternative means of communicating with the teachers and with the children whilst I had Vietnamese lessons. At times it was really frustrating because I couldn’t always convey my message that I wanted to get across, but I also couldn’t add to their conversation which I found challenging. However, this encouraged me to develop a greater understanding of the Vietnamese language and during the latter half of my placement, my teachers would be helping to teach me phrases and words in the classroom to help me understand and I would do the same with them in English, developing a cultural exchange.

To see more of volunteer stories like the ones on this page, have a look at our Federation Newsletter:

http://www.icye.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/50th-Issue-ICYE-Newsletter.pdf

ICYE UK works with people who see volunteering abroad as a chance to broaden their horizons and develop themselves as individuals through intercultural learning.

Through supporting local projects that matter, living with a host family and receiving extensive pre-departure and on-arrival training, all volunteers have opportunities to build skills, enhance social and personal development and take part in social action at their project. Here’s how are programme is ethical, immersive, impactful and supportive for each volunteer.

ETHICAL

Since 1993, ICYE UK have arranged ethical placements for volunteers throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Our aim is to provide opportunities for volunteers to make a positive contribution to the community in which they will live and work, as well as gain a better understanding of their own and other people’s lives. ICYE UK focuses on the value of culture-sharing and giving volunteers the tools to promote peace through intercultural learning.

IMMERSIVE

Our programme is a truly immersive experience where volunteers get to fully experience a new culture and support local-run projects that matter. Volunteers live with a host family, helping them develop language skills and by living as part of the community, volunteers also meet new people and make international friends.

With language lessons offered on our long-term programme and an opportunity to travel throughout, our volunteers can really get to know a country with an entirely different social and political situation. 

IMPACTFUL

Through sharing cultures and ideas, volunteers benefit from personal and professional development. In fact, many of our volunteers develop ongoing relationships with their projects and continue to offer support after the placement. This all means that our volunteers can become part of the solution and help to promote peace through gaining new skills in the field of inter-cultural awareness.

SUPPORTIVE

We know that volunteering overseas can seem daunting, but we’re supportive every step of the way, providing extensive training, in intercultural awareness, for Long-Term and Short-Term volunteers.

ICYE UK and the local ICYE office in country also work together to ensure each and every volunteer is well supported throughout the duration of their stay. ICYE UK will also give advice on how to fundraise towards the cost of a programme fee!