What will Brexit mean for volunteers in Sheffield from across Europe?

Youth Discovery Ventures (YDV) are unsure what will happen to their European volunteers post-Brexit.

The not-for-profit organisation work with Sheffield’s young, providing community events and array of projects which aim to enrich their lives and thus the opportunities available to them.

Rachel Boyce, YDV’s director, said “We have funding for 2018 but we were contacted three weeks ago by the British council and I’m unsure whether the money will be available beyond that.”

YDV was founded in Manchester by Anne Marie Laurence but made the move over to Sheffield in 2014. When Anne stepped down, Rachel inherited the organisation, after initially starting as a volunteer herself. “The big question now is about how we move forward. Funding that was guaranteed until 2020 now has a massive question mark over it,” she said.

Research done last year estimated that Britain would lose £200m in European funding as a result of Brexit. In 2014 £217m was given to 249 charities from the EU. Rachel said it was: “a fantastic opportunity for young people to expand their horizons, explore Europe and get to know young people across the continent.

“We started in 2008 and we’re all about supporting young people to become more empowered and more active members of society.”

They work out of Regather’s HQ on the outskirts of Sheffield’s city centre and the volunteers work across both organisations. The programme encourages 18-30 year-olds to take part in a placement in Sheffield. Last year’s volunteers looked at the issue of food wastage, culminating in a European-style cook off at Steeple Corner Café.

It is currently funded by the European Commission but they are yet to receive assurances of funding after 2018. Similar programmes are available for British volunteers across Europe. The initiative has been running for 25 years.

Rachel said there are currently a small number of initiatives like this across the UK, but it is more popular in mainland Europe. Organisations have to be accredited by the British council to host volunteers. They assess whether  suitable accommodation and support can be provided.

To get the funding they must also show they are focused on improving and enriching the lives of those who volunteer. YDV offer  personal development programmes, allowing individuals to develop the  skills and goals they’re personally interested in.

The money comes from the same pot as the Erasmus programme, which offers students the opportunity to study overseas for a term. Rachel said: “We’ve had 300 applications for the three positions we’re offering from October.”

“We were hosting four European volunteers at the time of the EU referendum. It completely changed how they wanted to plan and live their lives.

“It was as if they no longer felt welcome in the UK anymore.

“I also think it made them question their value here,” she said.

As well as hosting soup nights and outdoor events they also brew their own beer and have a fully licensed bar. They have a projector room, replete with popcorn maker and lamppost – which was originally outside the building, back when it was a place of industry.

If she could speak to Theresa May about Brexit, she would like to say: “You owe it to this generation, who voted for a united Europe, to work for a Brexit that doesn’t punish the young. Even if that means swallowing your pride on issues such as the free-movement of people.”