weltwärts with Jesuit Volunteers: perfectly prepared
Tips for applying for your year abroad
The sending organisation Jesuit Volunteers was founded 35 years ago and has organised assignments for around 100 weltwärts volunteers to date. Rather than applying to be sent to a particular country, interested candidates apply to the programme as a whole. In this interview, we find out more about the organisation itself and its volunteer programme, as well as what it looks for in its volunteers.
How long has your sending organisation been involved in the weltwärts programme?
Jesuit Volunteers: We were approved as a sending organisation for the weltwärts programme in January 2009.
What is it about the weltwärts programme that appeals to you?
Jesuit Volunteers: For us, weltwärts offers an opportunity to meet new people and explore other cultures on an even footing, to gather intercultural experiences and to put the ideas these experiences generate into practice back in Germany, with the aim of creating a fairer world.
Approximately how many volunteers do you send each year?
Jesuit Volunteers: Normally, we send between eight and thirteen weltwärts volunteers per year. The coronavirus pandemic has meant that we have only been able to send two volunteers per cohort over the past few years, but we plan to raise this back to ten to twelve from summer 2023.
What important qualities do you think a volunteer should have? What are you looking for when you go through the applications?
Jesuit Volunteers: We believe it is crucial that our volunteers have a positive general outlook on life and demonstrate tolerance, an openness towards other cultures and topics, flexibility, and a willingness to learn a new foreign language.
Inclusivity has also become increasingly important to us in recent years – we welcome applications from people with all kinds of disabilities.
Do you have any tips on how to make an application stand out?
Jesuit Volunteers: We like receiving applications where we can get an impression of you straight away and where your interest in performing a volunteer service jumps off the page. Tell us about your interests, hobbies, hopes and dreams. Maybe you’re a musical person, maybe you’re more into sport, maybe you already have some experience working with refugees, children or older people. It is a great opportunity to showcase yourself and your talents. But the most important thing to remember is this: be yourself!
What do you focus on during the preparatory seminar you hold for the volunteers?
Jesuit Volunteers: We explore a variety of topics such as poverty, (in)equality and intercultural skills, which the volunteers will then experience on a practical level during their service.
Forming a community and bonds between the volunteers themselves, which has a positive impact throughout the volunteer service period and beyond, is also an enriching experience.
Let’s give a face to your organisation. Who works there? Who is responsible for coordinating the weltwärts assignments?
Jesuit Volunteers: Sarah Lechler and Rossemary Brückner-Hospedales work for Jesuit Volunteers as advisors. They support the volunteers during the preparation phase and throughout their assignments. They are also responsible for the seminars. Theresia Lorbach is the team assistant and is in charge of administration, including financial matters involving weltwärts, as well as publicity work for our volunteer programme. Jesuit priest Trieu Nguyen SJ is responsible for working with the volunteers after they return home.
What is special about participating in the weltwärts programme with your sending organisation? What can volunteers expect?
Jesuit Volunteers: We offer our volunteers thorough preparation and support. The preparatory seminars last 15 days and are mostly arranged and run by our two advisors Sarah Lechler and Rossemary Brückner-Hospedales. During their assignment abroad, the volunteers receive support from both a project partner and a locally based mentor. They also have a catch-up meeting with the advisor responsible at Jesuit Volunteers roughly every six weeks. These conversations can be more frequent if necessary. Personal growth for every individual involved is key for us, and we all love getting to know new parts of the world!
Do you have any funny anecdotes or experiences you would like to share with us?
Jesuit Volunteers: The seminars we hold when the volunteers return are truly special. After a year on assignment, they get to meet again laden with so many new experiences, adventures and “treasures” to share and discuss. Sharing local foods at the seminars, new habits people have picked up, or volunteers who have forgotten the German word for something and can only think of the Spanish can all be very funny, but they also show how deeply the volunteers immerse themselves in another country and culture. It is always fantastic – and touching – to see.