GCU to become European hub for youth volunteering

29 January 2019

More than 5000 young people are to be matched with volunteering opportunities across Europe as part of a major study led by Glasgow Caledonian University.

VOLPOWER will encourage thousands of volunteers, aged between 18 and 27, to sign up for sport, cultural or artistic activities across seven countries.

The £900,000 EU-funded project aims to increase social integration between EU citizens, migrants and refugees through community volunteering.

Researchers in Scotland, Holland, Austria, Malta, Italy, Croatia and Slovenia, will work with local groups and provide mentoring for sports and creative arts volunteers to set up their own projects.

Up to 40 volunteer leaders will attend training sessions in Glasgow and a smartphone app will be developed to help advertise suitable opportunities.

Professor Umut Korkut, lead coordinator of VOLPOWER at GCU, said: "Working together in sport, creative art or cultural activities has the power to break down language barriers and enables young people to truly connect with one another.

“We hope that our research will demonstrate the power that volunteering can have in terms of empowering individuals within their local communities and helping to foster mutual understanding.”

GCU is working alongside the University Rotterdam, Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Institute for Minority Rights, in Italy, Zavod APIS, in Slovenia, SOS Malta, and IRMO Croatia, on the two-project.

Artwork created as part of the study will be displayed at the Museum of Rotterdam and a documentary film will also be produced highlighting the impact of volunteering on local communities.

Dr Fiona Reid, a principal investigator of VOLPOWER, said:  "The project will look at how and why volunteering can lead to greater community involvement.

"We hope to influence future policy and inspire similar projects which could then be developed to enhance communities across Europe."

Dr Fiona Skillen, senior lecturer in history at GCU and a principal investigator of VOLPOWER, added: "Sport helps forge intercultural dialogue, shared identities and creates role models.

“VOLPOWER will make the process of matching young people and local organisations, in need of volunteers, easier and less time-consuming.

The project, which will be delivered by the WiSE Centre for Economic Justice at GCU, is the second major social integration study involving the University.

GCU and the University of Cambridge are providing research for RESPOND, a £3million study into the impact of the migrant crisis on Europe.

More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into the EU in 2015, sparking debate over how best to deal with resettling people as some countries struggled to cope.

The EU-funded review will focus on border control, migration and integration and involves 14 universities across the continent, as well as in Lebanon and Iraq.