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Volunteering Sabbatical

3 Months Volunteering Sabbatical | An Experience Report by Laura

Taking a sabbatical from your job for 3, 6 or even 9 months is a dream for many. But what to do with the free time? Being a couch potato is probably only fun for the first two weeks. For the big world trip often simply the money is missing. But somehow you still want to do something exciting and new. Then why not take the chance and get involved in a volunteering activity during your sabbatical? Or even in several? That’s exactly what our interview partner Laura thought and got involved with 5 social organizations during her sabbatical.

In the interview, she tells us what it was like to get involved in this many projects in such a short time, what people and impressions she met along the way, and what she gained from this unique experience.

Laura die sich in 3 Monaten bei 8 sozialen Organisationen engagierte
Laura after voluntering with the Bikeygees | Copyright Bikeygees

A glimpse into Laura’s volunteering sabbatical

On her Twitter channel, Laura has accompanied her engagement activities and gives insights into very different sides of engagement and volunteering during her sabbatical.

Copyright Bikeygees | What came first: deciding to take a career break or wanting to get socially involved? And what was your motivation for getting involved in this many volunteering activities in such a short time?

Laura | My career break came about because my husband got the opportunity to work in Berlin for three months. I decided to take a sabbatical rather than try to work remotely from Germany, which gave me 12 weeks of free time. I have volunteered on different projects since I was 18, and I also work as a Volunteer Coordinator, so it was important to me to fill some of that time with volunteering. I wasn’t sure how easy it would be as I don’t speak fluent German, but when I realised that wasn’t a barrier, I got involved in more and more! 

How did you decide which projects to get involved in?

I used the filter on to choose projects which were hands-on, and which needed basic German language skills. Even with those filters, I got 50 projects I could get involved with. I had heard a radio programme about the volunteer effort at the Hauptbahnhof welcoming Ukranian people to Berlin, so I knew I wanted to help with that, but the other projects I chose because of my interests in stitching, cycling and sustainability. I was also keen to improve my German, so tried to choose projects where I could use both German and English.

After going through all these experiences, did you find a volunteering activity/topic that you are really passionate about?

I volunteered regularly at a textile reuse project for Berliner Stadtmission at Haus der Materialisierung. I got great support there to develop my sewing skills, and am now talking to one or two different projects in Edinburgh about volunteering on their textile projects. 

I also volunteered most weeks for Bikeygees, which teaches women from around the world to cycle. I work for an active travel charity and so understand how important it is for people to have access to sustainable and free transport, and it was amazing seeing these women progress from not cycling at all, to going solo round the park and learning how to fix a puncture.

Is there a particular moment during your volunteer time that stuck in your mind?

So many. But dancing at the Special Olympics Athletes Disco under the Brandenburg Gate and kayaking down the Landwehrkanal with the Clean River Project collecting litter are experiences I don’t think many visitors to Berlin would have! 

How was your experience with using during this time?

Great. As a Volunteer Coordinator, I know how many steps there can be to getting someone involved in projects, but using vostel felt really easy and frictionless. I loved that in many cases I could sign up for a shift to try out a task, and then if I liked it simply sign up for some more. And if it wasn’t right for me, I could try something else. That let me make the most of my time in Berlin. In the cases where Vostel directed me to contact other organisations to start the application process, I got quick replies from them and it was clear what the next steps were. Without Vostel, I really think I’d have had a less fulfilling time in Berlin. 

And finally: Are you planning on volunteering again in the future?

Yes, I’ll always volunteer – it is important to me to give time that I have to projects that make a difference. And in return I always get new skills, new friends and new experiences, so it’s an obvious choice for me! At the moment, that volunteering will be in Edinburgh, but maybe one day it’ll be in Berlin again!

Have you been inspired by Laura and would you also like to try out what kind of volunteering suits you? Maybe even as part of a sabbatical or during your semester or school vacations? Then embark on your own journey of discovery now.

Gruppenbild der vostel Mitarbeiter*innen auf dem Tempelhofer Feld

Your team wishes you a great experience with your volunteering, with or without a sabbatical!

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