Volunteering – an exciting and rewarding journey!

Have you ever dreamt of having your name in lights? How about on the side of a city bus? Well that’s exactly where volunteering landed Anthi Evangelou!

When I sat down next to Anthi at a London Startup event, I had no idea that the person next to me was the embodiment of the passion and skill that we value at VOLO. After a few minutes of chatting however, I was inspired to learn more about this unique individual and her journey from second year student to bus-beautifying artist with a purpose.

To the naked eye, Anthi is a typical Fine Arts student pursuing her MA at the University of the Arts London. And whilst it might be normal to assume that her degree has prepared her for a career in the arts, it was actually Anthi’s volunteering experience with the Marketing Department for the European Capital of Culture “Pafos2017” that helped to shape her focus and vision for her future

Taking up the placement at the ECC during the summer of her second year of university, Anthi was determined to put her hometown Paphos, Cyprus on the arts map. Chosen to be the city of culture for 2017, Anthi tells me that:

Pafos2017

“I was inspired to get involved with the ECC due to the purpose of the project and my pride in my city…I felt the perception of arts in Paphos could be more defined and I saw Pafos2017 as a great way to translate the concept of “art” into music, concerts, theatre and artworks around the city, where people could engage with and become part of the artistic experience.”

As importantly, she also saw the voluntary placement as a great opportunity to broaden her horizons, learn new skills and explore different career paths, which she didn’t feel would be possible in a traditional internship, where each person’s roles and responsibilities were clearly defined. In the end, her learning experience at the ECC turned out to be even greater than expected.

“I started out working on a variety of tasks that were new to me, including marketing, social media, newsletter writing and more. The marketing officer was very helpful in guiding the development of my skills, but I was also able to bring new skills to the team by using Youtube and the internet to find technologies and tactics that could help make our promotions stronger.

I have to admit, my first pieces of work were not something I’m particularly proud of” [she jokes of hiding the first sponsor manual she created deep in her closet], “but I learned very quickly, because I wanted to achieve the goals for the organisation and make a difference.

I built confidence around the idea that you can learn a lot on your own without everything having to be handed to you. I’m capable of having a goal and reaching it by exploring or searching the way to do it by myself.”

The appreciation and encouragement that she received from the ECC team was inspiring and Anthi soon found herself helping out whenever she could, both morning and night.

“I got involved with running promotional events which allowed me to work on my communication skills and expand my professional network. During these events I got the chance to interact with a lot of different people from different walks of life. This is particularly useful, as it gives you an eye of being open to people and allows you to evaluate, not only what others are saying, but also to grasp what they are giving you through their thoughts, ideas and experiences.”

The biggest surprise of her volunteer placement came when the marketing department was approached by a member of the public, who offered up his abandoned warehouse to be used as a marketing canvas for Pafos2017. With the warehouse as a base, Anthi volunteered to put some sketches together that could potentially be used to cover the building. The Marketing Officer recognised Anthi’s talent and quickly asked her to create something similar that could be displayed on the side of a city bus. She expanded the initial drawings to include an entire background of the city, with the underlying themes of history and culture. She hoped that this would send a strong message linked back to the goals for Pafos2017:

Pafos bus

“The buildings are landmarks from the city, with a lot of history. The Odeon, for example, dates back to 300BC and is the timeless symbol of arts and culture…I did the design as a water colour and left some pieces purposely unfinished. This is to symbolise an ongoing process that will take cooperation from the community to continue filling our city with colour…Art for me personally is the exclusive place where human relations can be built upon and where people, regardless of their economic situation, they can join, coexist and build relations through dialogue. We are asking more people to come volunteer to be a part of this experience.”

When Anthi signed up to be a part of Pafos2017, she had never expected to have such an impact on the campaign, let alone have her artwork displayed on the side of a bus to be paraded around the city that she is so proud to be a part of. She has also gained new skills, confidence and access to future career opportunities.

“This experience really improved my decision-making skills, gave me a more mature way of thinking and a more professional approach to how I present my work. It also helped me to define what I want out of a career and has given me confidence to take on new challenges”

After returning for her final year of university with this new-found confidence, Anthi launched straight into a new challenge with fellow classmate, Donald Takeshita-Guy. Together they have opened the student-run Raum Gallery at the UAL – Camberwell College at Peckham.

IMG_7256 Raum Gallery

“We wanted to create a space where students could confidently display their art, without having to go through the hoops and expense of getting into an off-campus gallery”

The two friends voluntarily located, negotiated and refurbished an unused space on campus before issuing an open call for student entries. The final selection of student artwork has been on display at Raum Gallery since the 25th of February. You have until 23rd March to check out their top picks!

Donating your time to a good cause is not just about giving back, but it’s also about your own personal development and the freedom to explore what you’re capable of in a safe and supportive environment.

It’s not too late to follow in Anthi’s footsteps by volunteering for Pafos2017. Check out their website to see where your skills are needed. And if Paphos seems a bit too far away, don’t forget that there are plenty of local volunteering opportunities that you can access at www.volo.org.uk. Who knows where the opportunity will take you!

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