Lena’s Story

Categories: News, Volunteers, OpinionPublished On: 7th July, 2021682 words3.4 min read

Lena’s Story

Categories: News, Volunteers, OpinionPublished On: 7th July, 202131 min read

To me, volunteering was (and is to this day) a source of inspiration, a driver for personal development and a door opener. It helped me in many ways, provided me with insights and confidence, new networks and various learning opportunities. And ultimately with a role as trustee.

I am originally from Germany and moved to Cardiff over three years ago with my partner and little son. I started volunteering at a time where I had come out of a temporary job position, still relatively new to the country and motivated to apply my skills while exploring new opportunities and meet new people. I was looking for a way of learning more about the third sector and the Africa-Wales community, and possibly gaining some in-depth knowledge within certain organisations of interest for me.

I contacted the Welsh Centre for International Affairs / Hub Cymru Africa (HCA) about possibilities to get involved, as I have been passionate about international collaboration, global learning and solidarity for a while. My own experience in Uganda – a 6 months volunteering programme at a cultural institute in Kampala in 2014 – has significantly shaped my interest and ideas around international partnerships.

“It was a perfect match”

While I was interested in what HCA are doing, at the time when I got in touch I knew only little about their work in detail, their scope and impact. I had the opportunity to volunteer at two events (the Health Conference and the Ethical Christmas Market) – both I really enjoyed – before the Volunteering Coordinator at HCA arranged for me to start a regular volunteering role in November 2020. The role was communications support for Dolen Ffermio (Farming Link), a small charity linking Wales and Uganda, promoting sustainable agriculture and other projects, in partnership with rural communities in Eastern Uganda. Given my connection with Uganda, my previous experience in communication roles and my current postgraduate studies in Environmental Management, it was a perfect match.

Since then, I have been involved with a successful fundraising campaign, establishing a regular social media presence and further strategic processes of improving communication. I am amazed by the support and interest both from HCA as well as colleagues at Dolen Ffermio – they go out of their way to help and encourage volunteers. I think that support makes a big difference and I’m very grateful for it.

Volunteering has already been such a rewarding and insightful experience for me, and I am excited to be part of a transformative journey within Dolen Ffermio. That is why I happily agreed to become a trustee in April 2021, alongside my volunteer colleague Kadun. The team aspect is an important one: Having another volunteer starting around the same time has helped both of us a great deal – it makes it much easier to settle in and allows to share responsibilities as well as learnings.

“There are a lot of great people doing great work out there”

Working with Dolen Ffermio is a wonderful way of contributing to something that I care about while learning about organisational processes as well as issues and practices within the global solidarity sector. I learned that there are a lot of great people doing great work out there – my volunteering role has enabled me to connect with some of them, build valuable relationships and be part of a wider network.

I have also developed a keen interest in approaches to decolonise our language and work, and change the narrative around Africa – this was definitely encouraged, inspired and informed by various HCA events, including the Global Solidarity Summit. I feel really lucky to be able to participate in these sessions and other trainings; I think they are one of the great advantages of volunteering.

It can be challenging at times to find the right balance with family and other commitments. But it is nevertheless satisfying and very worthwhile. I am looking forward to continuously learning from and with other organisations and individuals within the global solidarity sector. I believe that if we work together and seek to understand different perspectives, we can increase our impact.