SEVERAL European students have just completed a visit to West Cork, volunteering with the Bantry & Dunmanway School Completion Programme (SCP).
Each year since 2002, Bantry & Dunmanway SCP have received volunteers from different parts of Europe. The European Voluntary Service (EVS) Programme is funded by the EU Commission under ‘Erasmus+’
‘They provide ‘in-school’ help, and work with after-school clubs and trips and camps during mid-terms and holidays,’ explained project co-ordinator Roger Earl.
‘We are a bit like a youth programme in schools supporting children and young people to get the best out of school,’ said Roger. Cappabue, Kealkill and Togher National schools and Maria Immaculata Community College (MICC), Coláiste Pobail Beanntraí & Rossa College all benefit from the SCP programme and the volunteer’s work with the youngsters.
The volunteers shared a house in Dunmanway. Valeriia Samoilova, a PE teacher, spent the year with the group while her own country, Ukraine, was in turmoil.
‘One of her comments about Ireland was how perfect the roads are here,’ said a bemused Roger. ‘She also told him that Dunmanway was ‘a completely different world’ for her. ‘Among the colourful houses and endless nature the biggest asset here are people. And they happened to be amazing. I am lucky to experience Ireland for one year and it will definitely make an impact on my future life and attitude to the world, if it hasn’t made done so already,’ Valeriia added.
David Garcia Roca, a language teacher from southern Spain, told Roger: ‘If I could go back in time, I would surely do an EVS again. It has been one of the most incredible experiences I have ever lived.
‘Given my professional background as an educator, I have been able to gain precious work experience in a motivating school environment, including school trips and lots of interesting outdoor activities,’ he said.
‘However, not only has EVS been rewarding from a professional point of view,’ added David, ‘I feel I have grown a lot in human terms. I have had the opportunity to travel and discover the wonders of Irish culture and landscape, make good friends and enjoy myself. As Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa once wrote: ‘Life is what we make of it. Travels are travellers. What we see is not what we see but what we are’. I have seen many things in the course of this travel; now those things are part of what I am. I will never forget it.’
Caro Roth, from Germany, took a break from her studies in psychology to volunteer, said Roger. ‘She wrote back to us, saying she got to know a lot of people from different countries and learned about their lifestyle, culture and values. In addition, the work in school with the students was very interesting and enriching. She also travelled around a lot and really enjoyed the nature in Ireland.’
Orane Charrier, from France, was studying public administration. She also loved to cook and so set up an afterschool cookery club in MICC with Caro.
‘As usual, the volunteers have made a huge contribution to our programmes work while at the same time they had a very valuable informal learning experience,’ Roger told The Southern Star.
‘Let me take this opportunity to say thank you to the volunteers for all their help and wish them all the best in their future lives.’
He added that EVS is a wonderful way to help community projects in another country, to learn new skills and also what it is like to live abroad. The programme is EU grant-aided and so all basic costs are covered.
‘If you are between 17 and 30 it is a great opportunity to travel and learn where you can have people to support you. There are also many other activities under Erasmus+, listed on the ‘Léargas’ website,’ he said.