Host a Long Term Volunteer in Wales

The European Commission’s Youth in Action Programme exists to provide support for a range of activities which enable young people from the European Union to participate in informal educational and community activities with those from other countries. UNA Exchange works through the Youth in Action Programme in different ways to support some specific projects. Whave been actively involved in the European Voluntary Service (EVS) Programme as a hosting, sending and training organisation since it began in 1998.

Youth in Action will run from 2007-2013, so we can plan our EVS activities with the confidence that support will be available for the next six years (and probably beyond that).

EVS provides support for young people aged between 18 and 30 to spend up to one year volunteering in another European country. Within the new Programme, which started at the beginning of 2007, it is now possible for an EVS project to take place in almost any country in the world! However, the volunteers will always be from a member country of the European Union, or one of the countries in the European Free Trade Area (EFTA).

Since the EVS programme started, UNA Exchange has been supporting community organisations across Wales to host EVS volunteers. We do so in a co-ordinated way, so a number of volunteers work on different local projects for the same period of time (currently 11 months). This enables us to provide a higher level of support to the volunteers and host projects. It also means the group of volunteers can support each other, as they are going through similar experiences. Each year we bring around 20 EVS volunteers to Wales.

The European Commission finances the volunteers travel, living expenses and even some of the hosting costs (rent, bills, etc). As a host, you will be expected to contribute to the remaining costs of hosting your EVS volunteer. As a guide, the monthly contribution you would need to pay to UNA Exchange would be approximately £510.

UNA Exchange has an EVS Programme Co-ordinator, , who manages all aspects of UNA Exchanges’ EVS work, and is there to help provide hosts with support and guidance at all stages of the project.

Our current EVS host projects have nine volunteers in total, include the following:

  • Safer Cardiff : one volunteer from Mayotte (France) works on the Youth Bus, assisting youth workers with outreach work. He will also run an African Awareness project in mid 2007.
  • ProMo-Cymru : two volunteers from France and the Netherlands support the marketing and events management work of ProMo.
  • Merthyr Tydfil Youth Service: five volunteers from Portugal, Poland, Spain and Estonia work across the Youth Service, supporting information provision, the inclusion of immigrant children/young people, outdoor education and youth centre activities
  • Dare Valley Country Park: one volunteer from France assists with the environmental education work of the Country Park.

If you would like to know more about hosting an EVS volunteer, or would like to chat about your ideas please do contact us. We are always happy to talk about new ideas so e-mail Georgie Mavrakis or call us on 029 2022 3088.

The story of a current host project

The Bell Centre, in the small village of Blaenllechau in the Rhondda Valley, is a community facility which provides a wide range of services and support for local people. UNA Exchange and the Bell Centre have worked together since 1999.

Short-term group projects
The Bell Centre runs a summer playscheme for more than 50 local children aged between 5 and 12, plus a youth drop-in centre for young people aged up to 25. A two-week short-term group project supports the local staff and volunteers each summer, providing much needed extra pairs of hands and a valuable international flavour. Attached to the Bell Centre is a Community Farm which has also organised International Volunteer Projects, with volunteers helping to build forest footpaths and renovate buildings. The UNA Exchange volunteers arrive with ideas, experiences and energy and leave with a large group of new friends, great stories to tell and good working experiences.

Long-term volunteers
Our first contact with the Bell Centre was in fact through them hosting a long term EVS volunteer from Belgium in 1999. This was such a good experience, for the volunteer and the Centre, that we went on to explore other forms of co-operation.

Global Education work
We have run several Global Education workshops in recent years, bringing visitors from India, the Ivory Coast, Togo, Malawi and elsewhere to work with local young people on issues ranging from fairtrade and trade justice to the reality of poverty in the developing world. The children and young people have always responded to these visits very positively and actively engaged with complex issues.

Leadership training
One of the volunteer youth workers at the Bell Centre, Michael Caswell, joined the UNA Exchange Leaders Training course in 2004. He was the leader of the summer International Volunteer Project that year and in 2005 he led a group of young people from Blaenllechau to a youth exchange with Germany. Michael eventually went on to become a paid member of staff at the Centre. He continues to support the international volunteers that work in the village.

Volunteering abroad
Following the visits of international volunteers to the Bell Centre, several young people from Blaenllechau have participated in projects in other countries including France, Germany and Lithuania. It is our intention and hope in working with local community groups in Wales that local young people will take advantage of the opportunities we offer abroad; it is the international volunteering cycle coming full circle.