Tom, 50th Solidarity Corps volunteer at EKOenergy’s secretariat

In 2012, EKOenergy became a partner organisation of the European Solidarity Corps (previously known as European Voluntary Service).  This EU funded program enables us to host long term volunteers. Most of the volunteers stay 10 to 12 months at our office in Helsinki. They help us keep close contact with hundreds of partners in many countries and develop multilingual campaigns.

Tom Hall, from the UK, is our 50th Solidarity Corps volunteer.

Hello, Tom! Congratulations, you are the 50th European Solidarity Corps (previously EVS) volunteer in EKOenergy. How do you feel about it and how did you feel when you knew you had been chosen?

I feel extremely grateful and privileged to have been accepted at such a long-running and successful ESC project. This placement is extremely popular, and I was ecstatic when I received the news that I had been accepted! To be the 50th is a landmark for EKOenergy, and only goes to show that it is not only a success, but also a great place to be – with so many previous volunteers taking part.

Why did you decide to volunteer and why the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) in particular?

Through my experiences whilst travelling, several previous voluntary projects, and my recent studies in Social Sciences, I’ve learnt of the wealth of issues we, as humans, face today. I believe, however, that the battle for environmental justice and the preservation of our natural world is paramount. With this burning desire to enact change, I wanted to build on my experiences to broaden my knowledge in the area of sustainability; hoping to volunteer in a project surrounding this topic. The ESC program appealed to me as it offered the chance to work for up to a year in one project, with funding provided, a rare opportunity for volunteers. I had heard of ESC (formerly EVS) a long time ago and had planned to apply as soon as I finished my studies. When this placement at EKOenergy appeared, it seemed too good to be true! Working in a professional environment, gaining vital experience on a topic I am passionate about and being supported by funding from the EU, quite amazing!

Was it difficult to find all the information and prepare your application? What was the biggest challenge for you?

The process was really straightforward throughout. The ESC website is easy to use, with the ability to search through projects by theme, location, or date and duration of the project. The application didn’t take long and you can apply to several projects if unsure of where or when you want to go. For me the big challenge was the issue of Brexit and knowing whether I would still be able to complete the project depending on the situation between the UK and the EU. But in terms of the ESC system in general, it was a breeze!

How is it going so far? 4 months, huh? How does EKOenergy treat you? Do you regret your decision?

It’s been a really great experience so far and I have no regrets at all. When choosing a project, as has been the same with previous voluntary projects, I find it is always hard to fully comprehend what it will entail; especially with a project that lasts for such a long time. But it really has been great here. We’re working hard towards a cause that I believe strongly in, climate justice and environmental sustainability. The team here is amazing, with 8 volunteers from different countries and 2-3 full time staff that run the project. We have a great bond and a strong morale and despite all the hard work on such a serious topic, we still find time to enjoy and celebrate our successes and achievements regularly!

What are your plans for 2020? Do you have an idea about your life after EKOenergy? How the ESC will help you to implement your plans?

2020 brings a new decade and it’s an interesting time for me, personally. The last 10 years saw me learn about the world and how it really works, and by the end of the next I’ll be almost 40! What I’ve learnt is that I want to forge a future in environmentally sustainability and to do my small part of protecting the beautiful planet that we inhabit. After this year, I hope to develop my knowledge further through similar projects and roles, and I feel that this ESC placement will only help further me in achieving this. The knowledge I am gaining and the platform this will give me is priceless, and there really aren’t that many voluntary programs that offer financial support and such a variety of project lengths and themes to choose from.

What would be your parting wishes for other young people who are thinking about volunteering?

I would recommend volunteering to anybody and everybody. If you are someone that is figuring out what they want to do in the future or someone who knows their path but wants to gain more experience, volunteering is a win-win. Supporting amazing projects not only helps the organisations immensely, but the warmth of being accepted as a volunteer surpasses anything a normal job offers. Knowing that you have given up your time, the bond between you and your colleagues and other volunteers is something quite unique, and something I’ve experienced in many of the voluntary projects I’ve taken part in. Through this mutuality of giving, I believe a space is created in which learning and experiences are deepened compared to normal working environments. Volunteering is a way to move from one path to another, one career to the next, from studies to a professional environment. If you are thinking about it, and have the chance to make it happen, do not hesitate – you won’t regret it!

Posted on 3 January 2020.