Jess: I just wanted to change more than anything

Through supported volunteering programm Step by Step we give a chance to young people with fewer opprotunities to volunteer abroad. Meet our volunteer Jess, who travelled abroad for the first time last year.

Jess, a trainee youth worker, got involved with UNA Exchange in summer 2015. She overcame many fears and anxieties about travelling alone and spent three weeks on an environmental/renovation project in France. 


“I think I chose the volunteering project in France because I always wanted to go abroad and I also like the feeling of giving something back to  the community. I expected to be quite terrified and nervous as it was my first time travelling abroad and on my own and I was just like:
„Oh my god, I think I am lost… Oh my got whats gonna happened to me? Will i get kidnapped!”
But once I did it I realized it was actually quite simple. Now I have done it once I feel I can do it again.

It was refreshing to do something else
I just wanted to change more than anything. I was doing the same thing seven days a week so it was refreshing to do something else for three weeks in France. I also don‘t sleep very well because I do overnight shifts in work on weekends so getting up 7:30 in the morning and going to sleep to 9:30-11 was actually really nice.
The work that I chose at the work camp was agriculture and renovation. I was making concrete, drilling holes and I was using equipment I have never used before so it was quite new experience. It was brilliant, not just because the good time I have but also because of the good feeling I had from it, which makes me to want to do it again and again. I actually didn’t want to come back- I would gladly live over there at do that work!

I felt like a part of the community
After work we went to festivals, went shopping, went to the river, had picnics… I didn’t have TV or anything else there although I really love to collect DVDs and I have a lot of DVDs at home but when I went out there I didn‘t miss it at all, because we just made our own entertainment, we had our own fun.
I remember that once we  were in a village called Brinique and  I found the village be quite boring personally. But we found a bar and one of the volunteers Ali found a guitar there. We were sitting on the table, he was playing the guitar, we were singing Zombie by  The Cranberries and Wonderwall by Oasis, we had a good laugh along the table and I just felt great, like part of the community.

If you have the opportunity, take it
This project gave  me a lot of confidence and a sense of independence as well because when I was out there I budgeted my own money and I had to write down a list what we needed for shopping. I learned a lot of team work and I improved my communication skills: I had to because couple of girls didnt speak the best English and most of them told me that I spoke too fast…so I had to slow my speech down, I have to say basic words, so they could understand.
I opened up to one or two other volunteers, which is something I don’t do in general, maybe it was because I thought that I never see them again. I was surprised that I got along with everyone…I literally loved everone there. I have been volunteering in Merthyr for about 4 years give or take, but to go abroad  and do something completely different in a completely different way  was a brilliant experience, it was new and fascinating. Thats why I think that if you have the opportunity, take it. Don’t think twice. It may seems scary at first but once you get through it, you will be addicted to it.”



  • Would you like to know more about our Step by Step programme? Find out more about supported volunteering here
  • Are you a local organisation and would like to support your young people with fewer opportunities to volunteer abroad or in Wales? Become our partner!