Interviews

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Meet the Person Behind the Project: Nicola’s Story

Committee, Interviews, Support, Training

Tell us a bit about yourself…

Hi, I’m Nicola, The LIFE Foundation Manager, and I have been involved with LIFE for over 6 years now.  After studying Neuroscience at Glasgow University, I worked with several national and independent charities, gaining skills in charity administration, accounts, training and Event Management.  Alongside managing LIFE, I also run an out of hours childcare provision in a local primary school and provide interventions for children requiring additional educational or emotional support every afternoon.

I love my work, but my real reason for getting out of bed in the morning is my two amazing (and very loud) boys, Aiden, 8 and Dylan, 5 – and I can’t forget the 2 dogs, 3-legged hamster and 10 fish which all need breakfast!

 

Why did you join The LIFE Foundation?

I got involved when a friend asked me to help out with running a training event.  Before I knew it, I was out in Romania playing with these gorgeous people who needed help.  I stayed involved because I can see the difference we have and continue to make.  It’s baby steps, but together, and with the huge help from our volunteers, we are getting there!

 

What does your role involve?

I manage the day to day running of the charity; finance, volunteer support, training, project development and most importantly I make sure there is coffee and biscuits for the committee meetings!

 

What’s the best part of your role?

I love the volunteer training days – there is such an amazing atmosphere and energy.  So many inspirational people in one room with a common goal, it’s magical.

I’m also so grateful for the amazing Trustees and committee members; professionally I couldn’t do my job without their dedicated support, and personally I have made friends for life.

 

Any memorable moments?

There are many – some happy, some heart-breaking. The moment a child who tends to have very little interaction with anyone started to include me in his clapping game, dancing and twirling at the adult institution, and having my children help me to load up a van with lots of Christmas presents to be transported to the children and adults who would be so excited to receive them.

 

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with LIFE?

Do it. Do it next year, or 3 years down the line.  Do it when the time is right for you.  There are opportunities to make your placement as challenging as you are comfortable with (often driven by personal experience).  The reward you feel from meeting these challenges, the personal development – that’s why it’s so amazing.

There are a lot of volunteering groups out there, some more ethical than others, sadly, ‘Volunteer Tourism’ has become a lucrative market for companies driven by profit. As a small charity, this is just not on our agenda. We are all extremely conscious that we have a responsibility to continually evaluate the work we do; its impact in both the short and long term and the strategies we use. Crucially, with LIFE, you can make a difference which is continually built upon – you can leave knowing that the project is sustainable and our work continues throughout the year.

Celebrating Our Volunteers: Megan’s Story

Committee, Interviews, Oltenia, Romania

Tell us a bit about yourself…

Hello, my name is Megan, and I’m the Olt Project Coordinator for The LIFE Foundation. I’m a nursing student at the University of Glasgow, but I am originally from a teeny village in the East of England. I play lacrosse (extremely badly), my favourite animal is a koala and I’m a vegetarian.

 

Why did you join The LIFE Foundation?

I was sent an email from my sixth form about the opportunities available with LIFE. I researched it a bit further, and it sounded perfect, especially as I was looking for more experience before applying to university. From the start, I could see how committed the volunteers and committee were, which was certainly a big selling point for me. Also, because of the small scale of the charity, you know that donations are going straight to the cause, instead of a large percentage to administrative costs. I have been involved with the LIFE foundation for 4 years now, and all I regret is not getting involved earlier!

 

What does your role involve?

I’m the main point of contact for all our volunteers going to Olt. I help to provide information and support before, during and after trips. I try to be the person who you can ask all of your questions to, no matter how small or silly they may seem!

 

What’s the best part of your role?

It’s so nice to see everybody getting excited, and I can’t wait to see our summer cohort talking about their amazing experiences whilst they’re there and when they get back home!

 

Any memorable moments?

I think my ultimate favourite memories have to be when I’ve gone on day trips with the adults or children – last year my group went to the zoo with some of the residents from Cezieni, the adult institution we support. Last year one of the toddlers also took her first few steps when I was there – it was such a proud mum moment!

 

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with The LIFE Foundation?

If you’re unsure – give it a go! I know it’s cheesy, but the children and adults we work with, the committee and all of our fantastic volunteers have really changed my life. I never thought I would feel so passionately about something until I got involved. I don’t think you truly realise how much impact you can have, and how much difference you can make by simply making someone smile. It’s worth remembering that our volunteers come from a huge variety of backgrounds, with a diverse range of experiences, and every one of our volunteers makes a difference to the children and adults in their own way! From a paediatric nurse to a primary school teacher, we all have skills that are integral to the development of the people we support, and we can each truly influence and improve quality of life.

Celebrating Our Volunteers: Claire’s Story

Committee, Interviews, Oltenia, Romania, Specialist, Volunteer experience, Volunteering

Tell us a bit about yourself…

Hello! My name is Claire and I’m a trustee at The LIFE Foundation. I am a junior doctor currently working in Accident and Emergency in Croydon, but am set to start my GP training in August 2017 in Kent. Prior to medicine, I studied to be a vet for 4 years, and it was during that time I began volunteering with LIFE. After consideration and spending more time in Romania, I decided then that I wanted to become a doctor.

 

Why did you join The LIFE Foundation?

I joined LIFE after watching a programme on TV called ‘Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children’, which really shed light on the issues people living in Eastern Europe were facing following a Communist regime that left masses of parents unable to care sufficiently for their children and a care system that struggled to cope with the most vulnerable in their societies. After hearing about the volunteering opportunity in Romania, I decided to apply, and before I knew it I had completed my training and was embarking on my first trip to Romania. I enjoyed it so much I didn’t want to stop going back! I wanted to do as much as I could to help, and here I am now all these years later having seen many people grow and develop – the difference is astounding.

 

What does your role involve?

My role involves developing the project in Romania, especially with regards to specialist volunteers and the progression and skills development of the staff we work alongside in Olt. I offer advice about the day-to-day running of things and help to find any medical support that is needed for the babies, children or adults, whether that be medication, medical equipment or further, more specialised advice. I also help with recruitment, interviews and training of volunteers, as well as our integral fundraisers; particularly when the people we are supporting in Romania need life-changing medical interventions.

 

What is the best part of your role?

The best part of my role is getting regular updates about the people we are supporting and their development. When one of them even makes the tiniest bit of progress, it makes my heart swell with pride as I know we’re playing a part in their achievements and providing an overall better quality of life.

 

Any memorable moments?

A stand out memorable moment for me was when we got a text to say that one of our little girls had got through her complicated heart surgery and was eating yogurt. Thanks to our volunteers’ persistence and fundraising she was able to get that life-saving surgery – she was later adopted and is now at school doing fantastically well. It is success stories like this that remind us all of the reasons why our donations and fundraising efforts are so vital.

 

What would you say to somebody who is considering volunteering with LIFE?

It is such an amazing, life-changing experience! Whilst many volunteers continue to come back year on year, seeing the continued progress for themselves, some volunteers will not return, but will treasure their memories, continuing to donate and help from a distance. No matter who you are and what you choose to do, it is important to acknowledge the difference you will have made – it may feel like a drop in the ocean at the time, but it’s all part of our strategy and overarching plan for Romania and the work we assist with in Olt. You can make a difference.

 

Celebrating our Volunteers: Lucy’s Story

Committee, Interviews, Oltenia, Romania, Volunteer experience, Volunteering

Tell us a bit about yourself…

Hello, I’m Lucy and I’m a trustee for The LIFE Foundation. I’m currently a University administrator and am based in the North West. I first volunteered in 2008 with LIFE and have been involved ever since – through sixth form, University and now work. As well as being a trustee, in my spare time I like cycling, running, reading and exploring the hills around Manchester.

 

Why did you join The LIFE Foundation?

I applied to volunteer at 16 when I was about to start sixth form and beginning to think about my next steps. I heard about the Oltenia project while visiting a University campus event in Nottingham and it sounded perfect. I ended up travelling to Oltenia for a 10 day trip that summer, and also volunteered with a charity in Hyderabad, India, that we used to partner with. The people I worked with on both projects completely captured my heart and I learnt so much from the projects, the countries, and the people I worked with – both UK volunteers in my team and the local volunteers, carers and co-ordinators. I returned to both projects in 2010 and when I moved to Manchester that same year I became a part of the committee.

 

What does your role involve?

I work with the management team to oversee charity activity and support the short and long term goals of our projects. My main role is leading the recruitment of volunteers each year and helping to support our committee members. I’m also heavily involved in selection and training of volunteers and look after our website, helping with online communications too.

 

What is the best part of your role?

I love speaking to volunteers, from the first enquiry, in interviews, at training, and after trips. We have such brilliant individuals join our team each year and it fills me with gratitude and amazement when I hear how interested and passionate they are, about their work experience and career goals. I love sharing my experience of the projects with them and then hearing their stories of who they worked with, what went well, what challenges may have arisen and how the teams get on in Slatina. I also am very privileged to work with such a great team with the committee and our staff as well – words can’t describe how lovely, hard-working and incredibly brilliant they are!

 

Any memorable moments?

I have far too many from the 9 years to list – I’ll just pick a couple!

In 2011, I met fellow Trustee, Claire, for the first time when she picked me up to collect a van which we were to drive to Romania, full of donations. Spending 9 days in a van together is certainly a great way to get to know each other very well!

In 2017, I embarked on my second winter visit – it snowed and was -14 degrees! I enjoyed a sweet moment with a resident from Cezieni on this trip who held my hand and hugged me… until she then threw a fist full of snow at me and run away laughing, with members of my team laughing too! On the same trip, it was great spending a fantastic evening at Mr and Mrs Matei’s home where they kindly welcomed us for a home cooked meal.

 

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with The LIFE Foundation?

Volunteering on these sort of projects is challenging but also hugely rewarding and every volunteer learns and grows from the experience. Take a look at our website, blog posts written by volunteers, and speak to us to find out more!