Erasmus+ calls for disabled youngsters to think international during World Autism Awareness Week
This week is World Autism Awareness Week (27 March to 2 April) and 19 year old Clarice Barber from Prestatyn is urging young people to consider an Erasmus+ placement, whatever their personal circumstances.
Clarice is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and has speech and communication difficulties, but this did not stop her from taking part in a two-week volunteering project in Belgium.
Although an active young person, Clarice had never participated in any kind of international or residential activity for more than one or two nights.
Clarice said: “For two weeks I lived and worked near Marche-en-Famenne in Belgium with a group of 11 other young people from Belgium, Japan, Spain, Turkey, France, Afghanistan, the Czech Republic and Italy. We were working for a community organisation, called Grimm, building dry-rock walls, repairing a fountain, constructing a disabled toilet and removing Japanese knotweed.
“I gained a great deal from this experience, most particularly in self-confidence and independence. I proved to myself I can travel distances alone, negotiate large travel terminals and get on with people from different backgrounds and cultures. I made friends with the 11 other volunteers and took part in decision making and participating in group activities. Now I can’t wait to do more international volunteering, staying away longer and I think it is something more young people should consider, whatever their circumstances.”
Clarice’s volunteering placement was organised by UNA Exchange, a voluntary organisation based in Cardiff, which has been helping hundreds of people for more than 40 years to have international experiences.
UNA Exchange received funding through Erasmus+, the new European Union (EU) programme for education, training, youth and sport to support their ‘Step by Step’ programme.
SheilaSmith, Step by Step Manager, UNA Exchange, said: “’Step by Step supports young people who have fewer opportunities to join volunteering activities in other countries – mainly short-term volunteering through the EU’s European Voluntary Service (EVS) and youth exchanges, part of the Erasmus+ programme. We believe international volunteering is a powerful force for change in the world; it is an amazing way for people to learn new skills and gain new perspectives.”
Jenny Scott, director of British Council Wales, said: “Stories such as Clarice’s remind us of the impact the programme has on people in Wales and we’re proud to be able to support organisations such as UNA Exchange and the young people they work with. This is even more relevant during World Autism Awareness Week.
“Organisations looking to run similar youth projects and change young people’s lives for the better still have plenty of time to apply for funding as there are two further deadlines for the youth sector; on 30 April and 1 October.”