I Volunteer – Isobel Weller
Photo Credit: Almyra Knevel Persson
As a newcomer to Luxembourg from the UK at the end of 2013, volunteering seemed to be a great way to meet people and help out in a small way, whilst getting to know my new country.
It didn’t take long to find the STC website, and respond to a request for four volunteers to help at a children’s Carnival party at Don Bosco in Limpertsberg (the Centre d’Accueil for asylum seekers run by the Red Cross). What a great opportunity and a good way to learn about some different traditions!
The entrance to Don Bosco is a bit daunting, with a bevy of security guards to greet you, but smiles and elementary French were enough to gain entry. Once in, there were lots of excited children and their parents, an array of colourful costumes and tables groaning with food ready for the party. The only problem was that the other three volunteers did not show up ( first rule of volunteering : keep your appointments or let someone know you can’t make it) so it made for a busy afternoon!
The children were keen to try on the donated costumes, everything from pirate outfits to floaty princesses, and the staff had organised a whole range of games which fortunately had a universal language. The asylum seekers come from many different countries and often have quite good English, so between us we managed communication without difficulty.
The staff were so welcoming and it was just a question of joining in, encouraging the less confident ones and making sure everyone had a good time, parents included. I absolutely loved it and slept very well that night!
The Educatrice at Don Bosco, Jeanne, told me they had a children’s activity group every week, and so I began regular afternoons at the centre, working alongside the staff to set up and run a group for the pre-teen children. The average stay for families at Don Bosco is about a month, so the second rule of regular volunteering is just go with the flow each week and be surprised! In the summer we have played outside : football, frisbee, parachute games, you name it, and in inclement weather we have been in the library doing puzzles, games and craft activities. It’s a well resourced centre, and the children are eager to take advantage of whatever is on offer, so motivation is never a problem.
In the UK I work as a social worker and would expect to have information from case files and know the background and plan for families such as these. Here in Luxembourg I am a guest, a volunteer and, in some ways, a displaced person like these families, but the circumstances of my being here could not be more different from their experiences. I go as regularly as I can, and enjoy the interaction with the children and conversations with the families who happen to be there.
Often afterwards I go and sit in the beautiful Parc Tony Neumann just near the Centre, and reflect on the privilege of volunteering, and the many people I have met along the way. And other opportunities beckon – Serve the City is a great catalyst for finding ways to volunteer, and always supportive!