Rosie: UNA Exchange helped me to develop into the person I am today
The huge variety of activities in which you can be involved with UNA Exchange can be essential not just for your life direction but also for your future career. Read the story of UNA Exchange volunteer Rosie Ferguson, currently Chief Executive of London Youth!
Rosie spent many years volunteering with UNA Exchange and contributing to its development. Her journey took her through all our programmes/activities (volunteering abroad and in Wales, training, representing the organisation at events and seminars abroad, leading activities, etc.). Has just spent the past 4 years as Chief Executive of London Youth – the network of 400 youth clubs across London. Rosie is passionate, energetic and pragmatic leader who loves music and games.
“When I was 17 and doing A Level German, I found out about UNA Exchange. There was a directory in the library of ways to improve your language skills and it had UNA Exchange in it. It seemed like a fun and cheap way to improve my German by doing a workcamp over the summer.
Coming out of the comfort zone
Overall I probably did about 7 or 8 workcamps, one MTV project and over 10 training weekends so I think it is hard to highlight one project as the best. All of it was life changing at different points in my journey. But I think the best thing for me was the initial exposure to people from different countries and living as part of a team to learn about different cultures. And the adventure of doing something very independent. Some of the projects I did were quite challenging, such as my workcamp in Japan.
It was three weeks long and in a rural and traditional area. That was a real culture shock for me especially as a big noisy woman being in a country where there weren’t many people like me and a lot of it I didn’t enjoy. It was the first time I had been so far out of my comfort zone and was a really tough experience but hugely formative. My incredible workcamp experiences include visiting the Nagasaki nuclear memorial as part of an international youth peace event, living in a football stadium in Tanzania and working at a tv station in Hamburg to create programmes documenting the city’s cultural heritage.
I learned how to motivate a group of hungry volunteers
The best UNA memories that stick in my head though are from the different leaders’ training weekends I did over the years as participant and trainer. On these weekends I made my very best friends and they continue to be so 12 years on. Getting to know them and learning and growing together on Amelia Trust Farm are some of the most sacred memories of my life.
Through UNA I learned how to motivate a group of hungry, tired volunteers without a common language! I learned about communication skills and leadership skills, how to run great training and how to sing lots of random songs in different languages. All of these things helped me develop into the person I am today. For me, what is great is working in a diverse team with people who are passionate about something to achieve a common goal whilst having fun. Whether volunteering or getting paid, this is the best kind of experience for me.
Volunteering experience absolutely changed me
I think that volunteering experience absolutely changed me. It made me less judgemental about people and accepting of different perspectives. It made me less ‘cool’ – but in a good way. It made me understand the impact that good human relationships can have and it helped me develop the leadership and facilitation skills that have enabled me to have the career I have to date.
In 2012 I became Chief Executive of London Youth at 30 years old. This would never have been achievable without the formative experiences I had with workcamps and UNA Exchange. Thank you UNA Exchange. You have impacted so many thousands of lives in ways you can’t even imagine.”
- Start your own international volunteering journey with us! Take a look in our database and join a short-term project in over 60 countries worldwide!
- Check out which training opportunities we have for you and gain valuable skills for your future life and career! Choose from a range of courses such as leadership, international youth work, intercultural understanding, and much more.
- Would you like to become a leader of one of our International Volunteer Projects in Wales this summer? We are always on the lookout for project leaders and we offer special training to develop leadership skills. Find out more about our training opportunities and get in touch with us to discuss your possibilities: firstname.lastname@example.org