Euan Mackie is a long-time volunteer, an ex school headmaster, training to be a psycho-synthesis counsellor and a volunteer mentor for IVS. We caught up with him to find out about his role and what kind of support is offered to our long-term volunteers as they take the plunge.
Could you tell us a little about your role as a long-term volunteer mentor with IVS?
My role involves showing volunteers that there is someone with their interests at heart, someone who is there for them and a friendly face to alleviate any issues they may be experiencing.
I do this through emails and face-to-face meetings about one month in to the volunteer’s project. I ask our volunteers about themselves and their previous experiences and discover their thoughts about the project where they’re volunteering. I also provide pastoral care when it’s requested.
What kind of benefits does your work bring to the volunteers?
I bring a knowledge of the importance of the work that they’re doing. Sometimes when the work is hard and the days are long this can be forgotten. I also listen to anything they may have to say about the camp. I then check that everything is going to plan and that everyone is happy with the living and eating arrangements.
I also provide Peace Education sessions, which helps groups to deal with tensions and challenges that may be present as well as becoming more aware of the prejudices and stereotypes that everyone is susceptible to in life.
How do you help volunteers to get the most out of their experience?
I help people gain a fuller sense of what they’re achieving by enabling them realise their accomplishments in full. By questioning people, you can change the dynamic of their situation as they use you as a sounding board.
I also let volunteers know that they shouldn’t be afraid to be curious and ask questions. I encourage them to learn and interact with each other more. The unique situation of volunteering is such a valuable chance to learn about others and yourself.
When did you first experience volunteering?
My experience began at the age of 21 during my summer holidays. I was working as a park ranger and one day while I was cleaning out dovecotes at the children’s zoo, bus loads of children began arriving hand-in-hand with IVS volunteers. I was amazed that people from all over the world had come together to look after and play with these children. It struck a real cord with me and it wasn’t long before I myself was travelling to Massif Central in France to volunteer.
What advice do you have for anyone out there who may be on the fence about volunteering?
Just give it a go, it doesn’t matter what kind of work it is. There’s always gold to be found by working together and forming bonds with others.
You will find that you have broad shoulders, and that it opens you up to do new things and have new experiences in life. It will broaden your world view and increase your empathy and, most importantly, volunteering can help people find what makes their heart sing, where their passions lie.
You were an IVS volunteer in your 20s. How did this impact upon your life and later career?
I was very shy as a young man, but through attending Scouts and then later volunteering with IVS, I gained the leadership skills that enabled me to become a teacher and, before long, a headmaster. I approach leadership with an open and obliging nature, and these are qualities that I picked up through voluntary work.
I believe in community service being a force for good. It enables people to bring down the entitlement that many suffer from in today’s world, once an individual lets go of this entitlement it’s liberating and you can find a deeper meaning for your life.
Thank you so much Euan, it has been a pleasure talking to you and please keep up the amazing work!
Euan is still engaged with many charitable organisations and spends a lot of his personal time volunteering with them. One of these organisations is the Trees For Life, a project that aims to restore and replant trees in the Caledonian Forest, an important ecosystem for local wildlife. To find out more, please visit: www.treesforlife.org.uk.