Interview

Lotte Rens: "Volunteering is so meaningful; you build a network which is so enriching on top of the more direct volunteering impact.

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Author: 
F Pere Tarrés - Miriam Bantulà
  • Lotte Rens, European Volunteer Ambassadors 2024.
    Lotte Rens, European Volunteer Ambassadors 2024. Source: Lotte Rens.

Lotte Rens is one of the three European Volunteer Ambassadors 2024, announced by the Centre European for Volunteering (CEV).

 the newly appointed European Volunteer Ambassador shares her excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to represent volunteers across Europe. Her initial experiences, including speaking at the European Parliament Elections 2024 launch event for Vlaams Steunpunt Vrijwilligerswerk and as part of the CEV's Vote Volunteer Vision Campaign, have provided insight into the diverse and inspiring world of European volunteering. With a focus on collaboration, inclusion, and the removal of barriers to volunteering, She aims to promote the essential contribution of volunteers to the future of Europe. 

Congratulations on joining the European Volunteer Ambassadors 2024! Tell us, how does it feel to be named Ambassador and what are your first impressions about taking on this important role?

Thank you! It’s such an honour to fulfil this role. I’m very grateful for this opportunity. I was a bit overwhelmed at first. My first event as an ambassador was in Leuven, during an event from Vlaams Steunpunt Vrijwilligerswerk. They held the European Parliament Elections 2024 “Vote Volunteer Vision” (VVV) launch event, where I gave a speech about my volunteering experience. It’s very exciting to network and get to know more people on the European level. I feel inspired by the people I’ve met in this short time with different backgrounds and fascinating stories. Thanks to the team of Centre for European Volunteering for welcoming me so warmly. I look forward to some more network events, sharing and promoting the essential contribution of volunteers to the future of Europe.

As Ambassador, you join Edona Shehaj and Wannes Huybrechts. How do you plan to collaborate with your fellow Ambassadors to maximize the impact of your efforts and achieve common goals?

I was surprised that I was chosen as the third ambassador, which I am very grateful for. As Edona said, the three of us have a different schedule. For example, I’m doing my masters in Brussels, which makes it easy to join events, meetings etc which take place in the centre of Brussels. I feel like the three of us give particular importance to social inclusion, where we strive to embrace the diversity of today’s society. We all have different volunteering experiences which gives us an intriguing dynamic.

We know that you are involved in volunteering with the Thila Coloma Scouts in Mechelen, the future European Capital of Volunteering in 2025. Can you share any volunteering experiences that have had a significant impact on your life and motivated your continued commitment?

Scouts Thila Coloma has had a massive impact on my life. First my family and parents were leaders and organised weekly activities for kids, youth and children with disabilities. So it was quite natural that I would also go to scouts, spend my Sunday afternoons playing games with my friends in the forests, go camping and forge friendships for life. The scouts is a place of immense precious memories. Throughout my years at TC, I learned to always dream big and yet remain realistic, always with an optimistic mindset and smile. This year is my third year as a Volunteer group leader, which isn’t an easy task. My focus is on communication, inclusion and networking. Because of combining these three elements we’ve created some nice opportunities with other youth organisations and released unique projects. ‘Jeugdwerk Voor Alleman’ is one of them. 

TC is a place that shaped me into who I am today, from admiring glaciers in the Italian dolomites to coming home after a Sunday activity completely covered in mud. A warm gang where as a volunteer leader I now get to prepare the new generation. Fun fact we are the largest Flemish scouts who go camping with their entire organisation, which is about 450 people. So you can already imagine the process of dealing with different personalities, working together, finding joy in the little things, being creative with what you have, for example when you’ve to fix something when you’re camping in nature with mainly only natural resources around you as a source for a solution. .

What are your main objectives as Ambassador of the European Capital of Volunteering? Are there any specific projects or focuses you would like to pursue during your tenure?

I would like to continue my focus on inclusion and removing barriers to volunteering. To this day, unfortunately, not everyone finds a way to enrol or participate in volunteering. Which is a pity, because it’s so meaningful, a statement that is also substantiated by studies done around the impact of volunteering. You build a network, get to know people from different backgrounds, which is so enriching on top of the more direct volunteering impact according to your role and tasks. 

The CEV mentions that ambassadors have a crucial role in disseminating the value and recognition of volunteering in Europe, also connecting with the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2024. How do you plan to address this crucial role and what are your strategies to reach wider audiences across Europe?

I definitely believe that as ambassadors, we can play an important role in this. It just so happens that a lot of my friends are scattered across Europe. In 2022, I did an Erasmus in Denmark on 'Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship', which left me with a lot of international friends. We try to see each other every year and stay in touch through social media, Whatsapp and FaceTime. Last year, I built up a further international network during my internship in Cape Town. Cape Town is a challenging city where different travellers come together. Both my experiences abroad taught me a huge amount and made me aware of my position. Which is not unimportant when you are travelling. 

I will be able to reach a wider audience around Belgium's impact with the EU Presidency, , on the one hand, through my network through my own social media channels. Also, I look forward to getting to know (online) organisations and projects. The CEV Spring Volunteering Congress in Trento, the European Volunteering Capital 2024 in May will be a good case for this.

What are the unique challenges and opportunities facing your city as a future European Volunteer Capital and how do you plan to address them during your time as Ambassador?

As said earlier we have a project with several volunteer-led youth organisations based in Mechelen. The local authorities, youth council take part in it as well. The project aims to facilitate encounters and build bridges between youth work, especially volunteers in youth work, and organisations. We want to give as many children and young people as possible a taste of the world of youth work. We do this by, for example, volunteers organising  weekends together and iftars. In my opinion, this is one of the finest projects I have already engaged in. We want to establish a long-term collaboration that is sustainable for all parties. The youth service supports us tremendously nicely in this.

I plan to join several meetings to get an even broader picture of volunteering in Mechelen. In my opinion, Mechelen is an enormously vibrant city where many events are organised, often on a volunteer basis. Always looking for new opportunities.

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