CENS works with Volunteering Matters, an organisation that connects charities and volunteers. Sera was studying Youth Guidance and Sports Science in South Korea when she came across some information about CENS. A lot of interviews, paperwork and nail biting later, she arrived at CENS for a gap year from her studies.
CENS stands out
“Originally, I wanted to volunteer with young people as that would have fitted in with my studies. However, when I saw the leaflet about CENS and read about what I would be doing here, I thought it sounded cool. I want to learn about welfare and homelessness.
“In Korea, I live with my mum and dad and my life is quite sheltered. I decided to break away and see some of the world so I can develop as a person.”
Finding my way
“I considered my English to be good when I was in Korea but as soon as I got here, I thought, ah, it’s not so good! By the time I leave, it’ll be better. Before I got here, I studied a lot about English culture. I didn’t want to get too much of a culture shock.”
“In Korea there is a different attitude to people who find themselves homeless. The economy is worse and there are a lot more people begging. They are considered lazy and that they don’t care about other people. But when I first met the residents, I realised that’s not the case at all. They’re very tidy, gentle people. Whenever I struggle with something like the washing or putting the bins out, they always offer to help. Sometimes the language is a barrier but they speak slowly which I’m grateful for! It was a surprise to find that the residents help me.”
A new adventure
“This is my first time living alone. So everything is a first. I have my own place to cook and clean and I’m enjoying doing it all for myself. When I arrived, another volunteer was already here so that helped. He showed me what to do and made me feel at home. All the staff take care of me and always ask if I am ok.”
“My duties are to support the night staff. I help with the cooking and cleaning, take the service charges from the residents and breath test when they come in.”
The best and the worst
“I can’t choose a best moment because the whole experience has been very special to me. I never imagined I would be in the UK working here. It’s been such a cool experience. One thing that has been interesting to me is the diverse age range of everyone. I like how the residents and staff get along as equals. In Korea, there is an ‘age culture’ so younger people are expected to be respectful of their elders. But here, sometimes staff are younger than residents and yet everyone is treated the same.”
“If I had to choose one negative it would be cleaning the rooms! Support staff are very busy and I have to do that alone. I set a timer and get it done as quickly as I can!”
“I am very appreciative to CENS. It’s been a great opportunity and I’ve enjoyed all of it so far!”