In late August 2015, YHA sent three volunteers to Amiens, France, to take part in the Hostelling International Youth Conference.
The conference brought together young people from across Europe to discuss WW2, the concept of peace, and how young people today would like to shape the future. Theo, Cerys and Toni were fantastic volunteers and did a great job.
In this blog, Cerys tells us about the conference and how the experience affected her.
100 years after the Battle of the Somme, citizens from across Europe gathered together in Amiens Youth Hostel, in northern France, for an intercultural conference on the First World War entitled ‘From Remembrance to Peace’. I was one of three volunteers representing YHA at this Hostelling International conference from 25th August to 5th September 2015. The twelve days encompassed the themes of remembrance and peace “within the framework of the centenary of the Great War”. We met with local officials in Amiens and Lille. We stepped inside the enormous plenary chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels after discussions with MEP Gilles Pargneaux and his parliamentary assistant Karl Pincherelle.
As a history enthusiast, this conference certainly ticked the boxes from a historical perspective. We spent many thought-provoking days visiting war memorials, cemeteries, museums and local archives, and attending history-orientated workshops. We had many insightful experiences, from reading original letters written by French soldiers to standing on the edge of a 91m diameter mine crater, the largest wartime crater ever created.
Our international evenings were simply wonderful; a chance to live a few hours in another country – France, Germany, Spain and Serbia each in their turn. Some memorable experiences included listening to a patriotic rendering of La Marseillaise, eating frog’s legs, doing the Macarena and sampling delicious Serbian honey and figs. At the end of each evening we all sat down to enjoy their traditional cuisine – a real feast!
Add a day exploring Paris, a live show on a local radio station, and strolling along the picturesque cobbled streets of old Lille into the mix and you have a very memorable volunteering experience.
Friendship abounded from day one of the conference. Sharing our cultures was particularly delightful. The conference was conducted in French and English but a mélange of languages could often be heard around the room. It was great to be among different cultures and I take away from this conference, in a small way, a greater understanding of these different cultures.
I can say that I left Amiens with many international friends and new experiences bouncing around inside me.
Have you had a fantastic volunteering experience and want to share it with the YHA community? Do you want to have your own fun volunteering adventure? Get in touch! Email [email protected] or call 01629 592 562.