Two weeks ago, I took the train to Birmingham to visit Volunteering Matters’ National Full Time Volunteering team. I met with Heather Candelet and Claire Rennison, who fully acquainted me with all aspects of their work in Full Time Volunteering, and I was able to provide an overview of Volonteurope’s work for them, with a particular focus on our Erasmus+ projects. We also discussed how we could best present our work at the Education Show in the NEC, which we attending the following day
At the Birmingham Education show, Heather, Claire and I joined the communications staff of the European Representation to the UK’s stand. We invited visitors to our stand to test their knowledge on the UK’s closest neighbours, while providing information about our Erasmus+ projects. We promoted Volunteering Matters’ Full Time Volunteering programme as another option to consider before further education, while also encouraging young people and teachers to go abroad to meet their European peers. The Education Show was patronised by a hugely diverse crowd, with teachers, students, parents and representatives of the British education sector all in attendance. As such, it presented an ideal opportunity to communicate the importance of supporting the continuing exchange of good practices between European peers around the wider educational sector.
Visiting Birmingham thus served a number of purposes. Attending the show was hugely informative, and I learnt about a number of new initiatives which will impact upon the future of education – from smart pens, to learning support schemes and new curricula in citizenship education. It also provided an opportunity to highlight Volonteurope’s work promoting active citizenship amongst young people, and to discuss the possibility of future collaborations with new stakeholders in the UK. Additionally, one of my goals is to reinforce the links between Volonteurope’s European work and the volunteering being done around the UK – and meeting my Birmingham colleagues was a crucial first step in doing so. Having acquired a better understanding of each other’s work will allow our teams be mutually supportive in the future, especially in ensuring the validation and recognition of experiences gained while volunteering.
The visit to Birmingham also allowed me to meet with Volonteurope board member Peter Nesbitt, who is based there. Over a Korean meal in Birmingham’s Chinatown I brought him up to speed on the work Volonteurope had carried out since he last visited our Secretariat in London. However, before dropping me off at the train station, he broke the sad news he will be leaving Volunteering Matters on 7 April, after nearly 12 years’ working for Volunteering Matters. His continuous support to Volonteurope and his work at Volunteering Matters will surely be missed
Pieter Baeten, Volonteurope European Projects Coordinator