'We are learning so much and just love being here'
We are very fortunate to have two volunteers placed with us this year as part of the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) programme, Martina from Spain and Salomé from France.
The ESC is managed by the European Commission and helps young people take part in projects that benefit communities, either abroad or in their own country. These projects offer an inspiring and empowering experience, as well as the chance to bring change while developing key skills and competences.
We have Martina Frontini Mensa, from Barcelona and Salomé Bigot, from Northern France living and working with us at the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede for a year.
As part of International Volunteers' Day we asked the girls a few questions about what made them want to volunteer with us and what life is like for them as a volunteer:
Why did you decide to volunteer?
Martina: I wanted to start a new adventure in my life, to get out of my comfort zone and take new risks. I thought volunteering in another country would be the best option. It is a great opportunity both professionally and personally. You learn with every step you take; every new experience is a memory you will never forget.
Salomé: I wanted first to discover a foreign country with a different language and culture. Then, the volunteering opportunity appeared like the perfect opportunity to invest myself in a new experience. I decided to volunteer with the National Trust because I wanted to learn more about that conservation charity and how it manages to protect heritage throughout the United Kingdom. I'm very sensitive to the environment and being able to work in such beautiful places like Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-rede was just ideal for me.
What does your role involve?
Martina: I’m a Social and Digital Media Volunteer. I help as much as I can to pass on the values of the National Trust and to support the work of my colleagues. My role is based on communication and content creation. It ranges from photographic reports of different events, to the design of posters, brochures and new visitor content.
Salomé: As a volunteer with the ESC programme, my main subject that is visitor experience and programming. I'm doing very different roles and multi tasking a lot. I can work in an office, studying scripts for guided tours or creating contents for visitors, and I can work outside, welcoming people on site or doing litter picks. I also help anywhere I am needed, for example helping at the cafe when it is busy or working on signs for visitors.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Martina: I like the feeling of pride when I see something I have created on social media or in the hands of our visitors. It is comforting to see that you have been involved in the projects and that your work is reflected. I also enjoy spending time with my co-workers, everyone is so nice and caring to make this experience the best it can be.
Salomé: What I really like about my volunteering is talking with people and helping them as much as possible to make their visitor experience the best it can be. I also really enjoy being in a foreign country, speaking another language and living new experiences. And I'm especially glad about the nice people I have met here.
Would you recommend volunteering?
Martina: Without a doubt! And even more so if it is in the Northern Ireland. This country sets up a postcard of green landscapes that captivates everyone. Volunteering allows you to participate in a really interesting project and expand your knowledge at all levels. It is a great opportunity for cultural diversity and personal growth.
Salomé: I would recommend volunteering because it was for me the best opportunity to live and work in a place like here. Thanks to that experience, I'm learning a lot and more than what I expected. Volunteering at the National Trust allows me to be involved in something I care about: conservation of nature and landscapes.
What is your favourite memory from your time here so far?
Martina: For me it is impossible to choose just one moment. I know I will never forget the sunsets from the Giant's Causeway. To see that puzzle of natural hexagons, unique in the world, illuminated by the last rays of sunlight of the day, is something spectacular. I will also always remember the impressive rainbows at Carrick-a-Rede. I can't forget to mention the people who work at the National Trust. Thanks to all of them I am having experiences I never thought I would have. I laugh a lot with them, they take me to visit spectacular places, they teach me about their culture and customs. I have learnt a lot since I have been here. I feel very lucky and I would recommend this experience to everyone.
Salomé: There are many good memories and it's difficult to choose just one. I think one of my best memory was when I saw these places for the first time, just walking and discovering it. I especially remember when I discovered the amphitheatre, at the end of the Giant's Causeway trail, with all the wildlife and especially the birds. Looking at the northern fulmars nesting on the cliffs, the gannets flying over the sea... And all the others animals I could see. One another important moment for me was the first guided tour I did for other international volunteers, in English. I was glad to help people discover the beautiful place where I volunteer, and to be able to conduct a tour for the first time.