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Taina Nordgren - Ardaluin Regeneration Trust

My name is Taina Nordgren and I am from Finland.

I am currently volunteering with Ardaluin Regeneration Trust at Ardaluin house in Newcastle Co Down.

I am volunteering at Ardaluin house for a year. My role is to be a warden for the place. Ardaluin house is a residential activity centre for young people and children of all back grounds and different organisations. I look after the house and the premises and make sure everything is in place and in order and if anything is broken I will either fix it myself or get someone to come in and fix it or help me out. I  do anything from mowing the lawn, to surface cleaning the house, taking the groups climbing, gathering leaves, weeding, painting signs, helping out on the volunteer days, meeting and greeting the groups upon their arrival and also trying to network with the local community and come up with new connections and new forms of cooperation.

I had  worked for Belfast Activity Centre eight years ago in Belfast and BAC run Ardaluin house. At home, in Finland, I work as international relations coordinator at Turku University of Applied Sciences in the South West of Finland and I came to visit partner universities in Belfast in March 2015. On the same trip I visited BAC and got to meet with my friends from eight years ago. I spoke with the CEO Stephen Dickson and he told me about Ardaluin and how they are looking for someone to come and look after the house for a year. I came to see the place as well, but didn’t think at the time that I would be coming over. After my trip I went back to university into my office and after about two weeks I started to think about this role. I went to speak with my boss at the university and she thought that it would be a good opportunity for me and she gave me a year sabbatical to come and volunteer at Ardaluin.

I had been thinking  for a while that I would like to take a year out to do something else. I like my job at the university, but it is very office based and outdoors has always been important to me and big part of my life and taking the volunteer position at Ardaluin gives me the chance to be in the outdoors for a whole year. I also missed Northern Ireland and my friends over here and Ardaluin being right at the heart of the mountains and the most beautiful scenery in Northern Ireland I felt privileged to have the opportunity to get to stay in such a beautiful place. I already knew Belfast Activity Centre and knew what a great job they do with the community, young people and children and I felt that it would be highly rewarding to get to be part of the BAC team again getting involved with the community and helping the young people in finding their potential.

I volunteer because it gives me a good chance to do something else for a year, learn about my self but at the same time I am able to help the young people and the communities at Northern Ireland by doing my part. Most rewarding days are when I get to liaise with the young people and see how much they have enjoyed, learned and gained from their experience at Ardaluin.  I love meeting new people, learning something new every day and challenging my self every day.

Volunteering is a good opportunity to put your self out there and challenge your    self by doing something completely different. It is also a very good way of meeting a lot of new and different people and do your part to help the community. But really you are truly able to help in the most rewarding way.

I would recommend everyone to try volunteering - there are so many opportunities out there. My advice is to choose something that you feel really passionate about and that you feel you have a lot to give but equally that you also get a something out of your volunteering experience in return whether it being new skills, new friends or true feeling of making a difference.