Volunteers' Week: Gisele's Blog

Gisele's Blog: the experience and benefits of volunteering

"Hi, I'm Gisele and I'm 18 years old. I was born in the capital of Spain, Madrid - one of the most beautiful and diverse cities out there. I’m always looking for new exciting experiences in life.

I found the North Lanarkshire Befriending project on the European Solidarity Corps website, thanks to a friend of mine who was going to start her own volunteering project in Italy. We were both in the same situation at that moment; our future plans were no longer possible because of the pandemic, so we had to look for a backup plan. I had been volunteering in the USA for a year and I was doing the same thing in my city, but it was very sporadic, and I was looking for a longer-term compromise. I had several offers that I wasn’t convinced about or that got cancelled, so when I finally came across Volunteering Matters in the UK, I knew it was going to be the one for me.

The North Lanarkshire Befriending Project takes young people between the ages of 8-18 out on fun activities. These young people are referred to the project for a specific reason, for example lots of young people are socially isolated and don’t leave the house. Volunteers become a friend, role model, and someone the young person can talk to. It is amazing discovering that you can help so much just by bringing some fun into their lives. They are an important part of my experience as I learn more about the Scottish culture from them.

I am starting on a Pen Pal project soon, which consists of exchanging letters between people from the community who struggle with isolation and loneliness, health conditions, and lack of social skills. Our goal will be to help them overcome these adversities by writing to them about topics we may have in common and interests to get them distracted from their own challenges.

Volunteering makes me feel very connected to the community and the people I work with. I can have fun and discover knew things as well as establishing a healthy relationship between each other where everyone benefits. Befriending also helps keep me busy, so I also don’t feel as alone.

I have seen many differences and similarities between lives and culture while working on these projects that make me even more interested in keeping doing them.

For now, it has been a pleasure to walk around Strathclyde park, the city centre of Motherwell and different places in Wishaw because that’s pretty much all I have visited due to my arrival in January.

I have lots of places to go after lockdown with family and friends in Scotland. I’m keen to explore the islands, the green vegetation that remains pretty (due to the constant rain!) trying the typical Scottish breakfast, a good haggis or fish and chips, visit the famous cities and admire the old Scottish architecture around the country.

Scotland is a unique country with European culture that has similarities and differences with the rest of the UK territories. The people here have their own words, sayings and culture which makes it even more special!

I would highly recommend experiencing this once in your life - at least. Not only because you get the chance to travel and experience the diversity new cultures provide you, but it makes you realise about people’s problems and how you can mean so much to them when you get involved in projects like these ones.

You always get so much knowledge about yourself and how important it is to provide help whenever someone needs it - it can totally make you think in a different way and adapt some aspects of your life.

Not only that, but it also gives you the experience of living by yourself. I’ve learnt a lot just being independent and on my own, and managing real life situations that are new to me. All in all volunteering can benefit you more than you would expect!"