Get to know our ESC Volunteers - Laura S.

The European Solidarity Corps (often shortened to ESC) supports young people aged 18-30 to be full-time volunteers in many foreign countries. Thanks to Erasmus+ funding, Galway Community Circus has been hosting ESC volunteers since 2013. Learn about the ESC experience with GCC and get to know one of this year's ESC volunteers in this interview with Laura S. from Italy.

The ESC programme is much more than an internship: it is a life-changing experience requiring participants to open their minds by experiencing other cultures. It also enables volunteers to become socially involved in a new culture and committed to a professional organisation.

We interviewed one of this year's ESC volunteers, Laura Santi, to get the scoop on her European Solidarity Corps experience with Galway Community Circus. Read on to get to know Laura!

What do you love about working with Galway Community Circus?

I would definitely say the passion that the GCC team has for the circus arts and its values. At GCC there is constant research, a willingness to learn and attention to topics such as inclusion, safety, wellbeing, listening and dialog – just to name a few. Those aspects are also reflected in the work environment.

What projects are you working on at the Circus and what results (of those projects) do you hope to achieve?

As an arts administration assistant, I work on different projects, supporting mainly the production office. I have worked on several projects, including the Christmas Cabaret, which was the end-of-year circus performance for youth members, Sunday Circus, an integration initiative for children and young people, CFT 6, a professional training-for-trainers programme, and the final but biggest project I will be working on is called Lifeline, an event that will take place on 16th July 2022 and will feature a cast of 150 people who will perform Europe’s largest highwire spectacle over the River Corrib in Galway. Participating in the realization of these projects has helped me understand how the production of circus shows work, including on an international scale.

What do you love about Ireland?

There are thousands of reasons to fall in love with Ireland, and it’s difficult to describe them. You should live them. You should come and see the stunning scenery, the rolling hills and emerald countryside. You should listen to the power of the ocean crashing against the cliffs, and feel the chilly wind on the Wild Atlantic Way. You should take part in a trad session, listen to live music and enjoy the craic. You should experience the modern Ireland that is a melting pot of different nationalities, which when all mixed together make the nation richer in so many ways. If you have the opportunity to become a European Solidarity Corps volunteer at Galway Community Circus, you’ll enjoy Ireland and you’ll never forget it!

What are a few important things you have learned (or are learning) while volunteering with GCC?

The European Solidarity Corps experience could be seen as a metaphorical journey of self-discovery. I think that this is particularly important in the post-pandemic era we are experiencing. After years of isolation and social distancing, fragmentation and divisions, meeting, living and working with others means exposing oneself again, to face our fears, insecurities and fragilities. This puts you in front of yourselves and your limits. It’s an act of courage: getting to know yourself.

Another thing I’ve learnt is how circus works, because I didn’t have experience in it before coming here. I didn’t know how powerful and important it is for so many people. A new exciting world has opened up to me and I would like to continue to be a part of it.

What is one thing you love about circus in general?

I love the fact that circus is really an art for all. Before coming here to Galway Community Circus, I thought that circus was something for a few talented gymnasts. Now I know that I was wrong. You can do circus with toddlers, adolescents and adults, with both beginners and experts. Circus is a democratic form of art.

Why do you think a programme like European Solidarity Corps is important?

The European Solidarity Corps programme is an enriching and inspiring experience – not only because of the knowledge you gain, but also because of how you grow personally. The participation in this programme allows you to measure yourself every day: you’ll face up to new linguistic, cultural and geographical horizons. It can be a bit of a culture shock at the beginning, but you'll build strong relationships and valuable experiences while working. These constant challenges allow a truly genuine personal enrichment. You'll get to learn new skills or put the skills you have into practice, and experience new cultures while creating bonds. Not only because you’ll be in another country, but also, if you’re lucky, because you’ll be working with other European Solidarity Corps volunteers who come from different parts of Europe, and you’ll work with an international team.

Would you recommend that other people apply to volunteer at organisations through the ESC programme? Why?

Absolutely. The European Solidarity Corps programme allows you to take part in a real and authentic experience abroad (especially, I think, for the long-term projects). The fact that all costs are covered is a huge help, because it allows participants not to worry about aspects such as accommodation and bills. In this way the social-economical barriers are overcome and participants can focus mainly on their volunteering activities, their work, on making new friends, on travel around the country … in simple terms, on making the most of this experience.

You can learn more about the European Solidarity Corps here or visit the European Solidarity Corps page on our website for more information.