“I am Claudio, and I support young people with special educational needs and disabilities as part of my volunteer role with the Futures Project in Norfolk. It’s been marvellous to see not only the people I support developing new abilities, but also myself.

Claudio supporting service user at allotment in Great Yarmouth
Claudio supporting service user at allotment in Great Yarmouth

Coming from Berlin in Germany, one of the reasons I wanted to volunteer in the UK was to get first-hand experiences in community action, as I want to study medicine at university. The intercultural experience you can get through the European Voluntary Service (EVS) sounded quite tempting and promised to be a journey that had the potential to enhance my horizon. The change from my previous role as a bartender to doing something social for the local community was really interesting!

One of the young people I supported volunteered in a hospital, and he initially didn’t feel comfortable enough to want to shake my hand, but I saw a real positive change in him over time.

The environment in the ward was very busy, with loud noises, constant foot traffic and a high quantity of patients coming and going.

Despite this environment having the potential to be quite stressful, the volunteer was surprisingly calm. He observed his surroundings attentively and assured me verbally that he wasn’t anxious, and that he would tell me if he wasn’t feeling at ease with the situation. I can’t express the vast progress he’s made on the project – to see him change from not wanting to engage with me to being quite comfortable in such a busy environment has been truly heart-warming!

One of the best things that has happened to me was reading a letter from the family of one of my service users, that explicitly expressed their gratitude towards my and the staff member’s role whilst volunteering. It was incredible to read such a lovely note!

Claudio with other Full-Time Volunteers during a volunteer social
Claudio (right) with other Full-Time Volunteers during a volunteer social

Volunteering with Volunteering Matters is truly delightful and has gone beyond my expectations. Currently I’m developing a musical event with the excellent help from staff members at Volunteering Matters in Norfolk. It’s going to be a drum session and lesson for a West-African music instrument called ‘Djembé.’ People who have different needs and abilities will have the chance to learn basic movements.

Volunteering is a glorious way for me to discover myself and different lifestyles. These experiences are going to be a huge benefit for my future life, and I’m truly happy to have the chance to meet so many interesting people.”

Claudio’s placement in the UK was made possible through the Erasmus+ Volunteering Projects funding, often referred to as EVS (European Voluntary Service). Erasmus+ Volunteering projects allow young people aged 17-30 to take part in unpaid and full-time volunteering activities for up to 12 months in another country within or outside the European Union.