Volunteering plays a vital role in adult learning, right from the participants themselves to educators and at a wider level.
If we say “volunteering”, what do you immediately think of?
You may have thought of those who assist in education, particularly in language or cultural learning. But the role that volunteers play in adult education is much bigger.
Volunteering can create quite an impact on educators, participants and even the wider community. It also acts as another method of adult learning - giving volunteers skills and experience through the work they do.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Erasmus+ funding can help organisations offer these opportunities to volunteers in the UK. One such example is the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). They save over 400 lives per year and rely on the support of dedicated volunteers to provide their 24-hour search and rescue service.
The organisation ran an Erasmus+ funded project named ‘Lifeboat Crew Exchange Europe’. It allows adult volunteers the chance to take part in an exchange for maritime rescue services overseas for up to seven days.
Participants are able to develop their technical skills, job-shadow experts from other European countries and receive training which can be passed on to the volunteers in their own local crew when they return to the UK.
From volunteering to professional maritime
One volunteer who benefitted from the project is Callum Robinson. He has been on the crew of his local lifeboat centre in Rhyl for over 10 years. He was inspired to join by his father who volunteered at the station before he was born.
Callum was one of a group of RNLI volunteers to travel to Oslo in Norway through an Erasmus+ funded mobility project. Today he works on the national flood rescue team in addition to serving the crew at Rhyl Lifeboat Station – one of the busiest stations in Wales for emergency call outs.
“I found the exchange extremely valuable. Not only did I learn new skills but how to use the equipment we already have in more effective ways.
There is a lot of training involved for volunteers – from basic things like standing in the boat in extreme weather to using all the different equipment.”
During the exchange, Callum learned techniques and new equipment used by Norwegian emergency search and rescue. This included firefighting from the boat, a new training facility which incorporated a helicopter crash scenario set in water and unique equipment for cutting clothing from casualties when they are injured.
Making a wider impact
At an organisational level, the mobility project facilitates the professional development of volunteers, helping to develop their competencies both within emergency rescue services and their daily lives.
Project co-ordinator Oliver Mallinson explained the project is also a stepping stone in developing a validation method for recognising the skills required by volunteers both in the UK and internationally. He said:
"The collaboration of maritime emergency search and rescue organisations across Europe allows lifesaving best practices to be shared internationally and help retain committed volunteers."
As RNLI’s story reveals, volunteering can play an important role in adult learning. Erasmus+ funding has allowed volunteers to develop their skills, whilst sharing knowledge with their teams – strengthening the organisation’s expertise.
Altogether, this shows volunteers can create a huge impact on adult education and beyond in the wider community.
Are you interested in applying for an Erasmus+ project? Visit their dedicated webpage on Adult Education funding opportunities.
Erasmus+ is the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport. The Erasmus+ UK National Agency is a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK.
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