Tales from the volunteers

Ta-dah ! Here is the 3rd episode of our Empowered From Within comic book; a story about our Leonardo trainees in their international projects. This is about Ana’s project in Reunion. She went with Marcos to help the Mission locale in their effort to support young people with fewer opportunities.
To be continued!





Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility project supported by ECORYS UK and the Lifelong Learning programme of the European Union.

We’re very excited to present to you the 2nd episode of our Empowered From Within comic book which tells the ‘adventures’ of our Leonardo trainees in their international projects. This new episode is about Marcos’ project in Reunion, supporting Mission Locale in their activities with the young people of the Island. To be continued!



Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility project supported by ECORYS UK and the Lifelong Learning programme of the European Union.

We are really good here, It is an amazing experience (Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility), we are enjoying a lot! Everybody from mission locale is taking care of us.
Here is our last two weeks diary.




Multimedia workshop: young people from Mission Locale were recording a short film in some locations of the island. We had the opportunity to meet them, exchange our languages and know the way they work on.




Multimedia workshop:   second and last day of filming in some new locations. We participate in the film as extras and helping in whatever we could. We enjoyed a drink with the team to celebrate the end of the filming.




Multimedia workshop: editing and mounting the film with the team of Mission Locale. Meeting with Raphael to talk about the association and about the CV workshop in English (first proposal).




Meeting: we met with the team of Mission Locale to talk about all the different workshops we are going to do during the week. English class workshop: we began to prepare our personal workshop (English class and CV workshop). Brainstorming…




Theatre workshop: we were “acting” with the young people from Mission Locale. First, we were playing some different scenes, then… Cayoning: we went to do cayoning with other young people form Mission Locale in an incredible location of the Island.




English class workshop: during all the day we were working on our workshop preparing different activities and stuff for the first session.




Comité Jeune meeting: Mission Locale from Saint Pierre organized an event to get together both offices (St.Pierre and St.Joseph).It was the perfect time to showed the sort film and other young people´s videos.




We went with Filo to another associations in St. Joseph  where people with social  problems  can go to , for example, have a breakfast, have a shower, wash up their clothes, get info about jobs and some activities.



More coming soon…



Ana and Marcos, Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility trainees,


Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility project

part of Empowered From Within

and supported by ECORYS UK

and the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission.



”I’ll be leaving very early tomorrow morning and there’s so much to say about the past 2 months, so many experiences had, connections made and so much learned. It’s weird to think that I’ll be back in my bed within 24 hours, I’ll be sad to leave this amazing place and all these incredible people behind, but I’ll never forget them or my time here.”


The 20th December marks the abolition of slavery. It is a significant event celebrated all around Réunion with a three day annual festival (starting on the 17th) leading up to the anniversary itself. In Saint-Joseph the first night of the festivities was to be opened with a procession – hundreds of people gathered in the city centre as Maloya drummers warmed their animal skin instruments over a wheelbarrow-fire until they reach the right resonance. A young boy in a colourful costume; bright yellow satin trousers and a red strap around his waist, waits patiently, nearby his dance group of all ages are talking quietly. Unlit torches are handed out to the participants, one is shoved into my hand but I pass it onto a friend, wanting to take pictures. The sun passes the horizon and suddenly everything springs into action, the drums start beating, the dancers start to dance, torches are lit. We form a loose line and move down the street, baton twirlers executing moves in time, acrobats travelling with flips and rolls illuminated by a sea of flickering lights. The procession eventually leads us to a large field where a stage has been erected, stalls selling drinks and hot snacks surround the perimeter. A Maloya band is introduced, my friend shouts in my ear to tell me that they are very famous on the island, made evident by the cheers and claps around us as a very small, very old man walks out in front of the microphone, his band in tow. The audience erupt into song with the band, it seems like everyone knows the lyrics. Children and adults dance alike with smiling faces and there’s a general feeling of community and connection around me, I remember feeling privileged to be a part of that moment.


Fin's Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility : abolition of slavery celebration

Fin’s Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility : abolition of slavery celebration



My first Christmas away from my family and home was made less lonely by the Mission Locale staff. We celebrated the season together by taking a sea tour along the shore of the island aboard a small fishing boat; the trip was great for the first 15 minutes as we glided under sun along the choppy Indian Ocean with the craggy island coastal cliffs to port and endless waves to starboard, but then my stomach started to churn – I’d never been on such a tiny ship out in the ocean before and waves of nausea washed over me stronger and stronger as we bobbed up and down against the tide, each tiny movement of the current amplified because of the boat’s small size, the bow rising and falling in rhythm on the waves… I  stepped onto dry land an hour and a half later, pale-faced and empty-stomached, not a very enjoyable experience!


The Mission Locale Young Committee celebrated together with a beach party involving lots of swimming and home-made food, where I was invited for another celebration with Fred (director of Mission Locale Saint-Jo) who kindly offered me to join him and his family for dinner two days before Christmas. We ate delicious local Chinese/Creole fusion food home-cooked by his wife and played Pictionary (in French), which my team somehow managed to win despite having the English person handicap.


The 24th and 25th themselves were spent with colleague Raphael and family at his brother’s home inland from Saint-Joseph. It is traditional to eat dinner and exchange presents on Christmas Eve in Réunion, and so we feasted on trout roe, roasted goat and sautéed potatoes on the 24th and let off fireworks and lit sparklers after finishing our chocolate cake with coconut ice cream dessert. One of the fireworks misfired and shot towards me as I was taking a long exposure photograph; I dived into the bushes and managed to escape with just muddy knees. We exchanged gifts and left for a neighbourhood Christmas party where dozens of people living in the area had gathered to eat and celebrate the festivities together, a band played covers of western 70’s rock hits mixed in with local music and later the audience participated in Maloya/Sega karaoke with live instrumentals, Raphael even got up on stage to sing a number.


The New Year was celebrated at Grand Anse, a popular beach near the city. Hundreds of Reunnionaise had had the same idea and the shore was crowded with BBQs and marquees, loudspeakers playing tropical music and groups of dancing people. We ran into the sea as the clocks struck midnight and drank champagne in the water as fireworks exploded all around us.


It’s been an exciting final month in Rèunion, I’ve been alone since the departure of Aurélie and have been speaking exclusively in French (with the exception of teaching English lessons and Skype calls home), and as a result my language has improved quickly. I’m finally getting past the point of asking whoever it is I’m speaking with to repeat themselves every sentence and conversation is flowing more smoothly. It’s a rewarding feeling to be able to successfully communicate in a different language, one that makes all the challenges of learning worthwhile.


I’ll be leaving very early tomorrow morning and there’s so much to say about the past 2 months, so many experiences had, connections made and so much learned. It’s weird to think that I’ll be back in my bed within 24 hours, I’ll be sad to leave this amazing place and all these incredible people behind, but I’ll never forget them or my time here.


For more pictures, visit Fin’s Tumblr : http://leonardoreunion.tumblr.com


Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility project part of Gaining Through Training
and supported by ECORYS UK
and the Lifelong Learning Programme
of the European Commission.



Our first month in Réunion is coming to an end and we’re starting to get into the flow of life here on the island. Christmas lights and decorations are being hung in the streets, at the same time the weather is getting hotter and more humid as we approach mid-summer – a bizarre thing for us northern-hemispherers. Things have been mostly quiet since our last testimony, work has been continuing around the office – at the reception, participating in theatre rehearsals and multimedia workshops, helping out with the English lessons for the Leonardo Trainees who will be travelling to England next January.


We have also started to teach our own English lessons, our class size is small but we’re enjoying it a lot. We have two dedicated students who want to pursue careers where English proficiency will be useful, fellow colleague Raphael has also been attending on occasion. Our lessons are taught very casually, usually involving lots of conversation – more social than academic.  It has been a great learning process, even as a native English speaker; it’s surprising how much difference there is between knowing how to speak and knowing how to teach a language.


In the office kitchen, we’ve had two team-building, culture-exchanging, food-making workshops with the Mission Locale team. Our mentor Philomene suggested the idea to the staff and everybody was immediately on board. We spent a morning being taught how to mix dough and make pizzas for a lunchtime feast, everybody choosing their own toppings.


A couple of days later, Aurélie and I prepared Full English Breakfasts, to serve 12, all cooked on a single-burner camping stove. We spent the previous evening going back and forth between the local supermarkets searching for some of the more elusive ingredients (bacon, baked beans), and borrowed a toaster. The meal was curiously-but-well-received, one of the questions asked being “Do you eat this every morning in England?”




We used some of our free time to go on an expedition to Cirque de Salazie, one of three major mountainous zones in Réunion. A three hour drive took us to high-altitude Hellbourg, a traditional Créole village nestled between the mountain peaks and stunning views. Waterfalls cascaded through openings in the rock faces surrounding us as two men sat in the shade of a painted wooden house jamming together with an accordion and improvised beer-can drum + lighter drumstick percussion. After looking around town, we walked through a short way through the woods to the ruined remains of old thermal bathhouses, made obsolete by domestic bathrooms, flowers planted in patches around them.


During the return home, we suddenly pulled over by a bus stop where Philomene had recognized an old lady waiting there. The two warmly greeted and Philomene explained they knew each other from Church. The woman had been waiting for an hour for her infrequent Sunday bus, and planned to wait another 3 ½ until it arrived. Bus being the only way to make her weekly commute to Church for Sunday Mass, she would wait every weekend for hours at that bus stop. We let her in and gave her a lift to her house, where she insisted that we come inside for a drink and biscuits with her family – an encounter that really demonstrates the hospitality of Réunionese people.


Saturday saw Aurélie’s sad departure from the island; we drove to the airport and shared goodbyes. It was sad to see her go; we’ve made a good team during the past few weeks.  And especially sad for her – she loved it here and didn’t want to have to leave.


I’m going to be alone for the remainder of my stay, the thought of working and communicating only in French without anyone to be my translator is nerve-wracking, it will be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to the upcoming weeks.


 Project part of Gaining Through Training
and supported by ECORYS UK
and the Lifelong Learning Programme
of the European Commission.



Hi, everybody, here is our second testimony about our Leonardo De Vinci Mobility in Reunion Island!!

Since our first testimony, many things have changed here. Of course, we are not talking about this beautiful weather (although it’s getting warmer and warmer here) or the island with her mesmerising/fascinating/spellbinding landscapes and people, who would change that? No, we are talking about our project in Mission Locale and our activities.

Since everything calmed down after the big event we had last week (AKS), we had more time to organise our timetable and the activities we will do here as trainees.

With our mentor, Philomène, we planned to do as much as we can do during this short period of time, to be able to learn as much as we can, but also to give as much as we can!

Here are some of the activities we started: amongst others, you will find English courses for the youth working with Mission Locale who would like to improve their level or just discover a new language; a multi-media workshop where we are trying to create a video about AKS, the previous event of Mission Locale; a theatre workshop, where we create new plays about hot topics that we find in Réunion, such as racism, violence, poorly-balanced diet, or even incest.

We had so many ideas of what we could do here that it is impossible for both of us to do everything! That’s why when Fin is working in the multi-media workshop, Aurélie will do other activities such as working at the reception or shadowing advisers in their work with young people.

One important part of our project is to devote our time to young people and to communicate with them. We meet a lot of young people during our different workshops and when we work around the Mission Locale office & reception. We also have the opportunity to meet other Leonardo trainees from Réunion Island who are going to the UK in January for 3 months. Once a week, we spend the morning together to speak about the Leonardo program and the opportunity that this program gives us, the cultural differences between Réunion Island and the UK, and their worries and questions they have about their hosting country. During these meetings, we are also attending English courses where we can help them to improve their English by acting some situations they might be exposed there.

Now that we have spent some time here on this island, you may think that we are getting used to life here, but that is absolutely not the case! We are still enjoying every single moment we have here, amazed by everything and we still have so many places to visit, local food to taste or local music to listen to… For so little time…


Aurelie and Fin, short term Leonardo Trainees.


For more pictures, visit Fin’s Tumblr : http://leonardoreunion.tumblr.com



Project part of Gaining Through Training
and supported by ECORYS UK
and the Lifelong Learning Programme
of the European Commission.

Bonjour! After a 14 hour overnight flight from London Heathrow, with a change in Mauritius, we landed into the airport in St. Denis, the capital city of French island and our Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility home for the next few weeks, Ile de la Réunion!

Very tired but very happy to have arrived, we stepped off the plane into the mid-day 30 degree heat and were greeted warmly by Philomène, our contact here for Mission Locale – the charity we will be working for during our stay. The journey wasn’t over yet; a two hour drive taking us to our hostel in the southern city of St. Pierre followed. We skirted by the sea along a coastal road, mountains of indefinite height towered over us from inland, their peaks obscured by thick clouds. We pass deep ravines coated in green foliage, forests composed of trees we’ve never seen before, men selling exotic, multi-coloured fruit stacked in piles by the roadside.

We make a quick stop for food by a busy beach, white sand and turquoise blue crystal clear water, a marina filled with well-kept boats, hundreds of holiday goers eating in a plethora of restaurants.

One of the things that first strikes you about Reunion is its multi-cultured-ness and variety of religion, and more so, the mingling and mixing of those religions and cultures. People from many different backgrounds have settled on the island and live together with little segregation. Indians, Africans, Malagasy, Chinese, Europeans, Christians, Muslims and Hindus alike have all made this place their home and it’s common here to see families and groups of friends made up from a mixture of all the above.

We awoke early after a welcome night’s rest at our hostel Pension Ognard and gathered our things to move to our accommodation for the next two weeks. The hostel we had originally planned to stay at was full due to the touristic season, and by a stroke of luck, Mr. Ognard, the owner, offered us two spare rooms in his home in the nearby city of St. Joseph. The house was wonderful; we didn’t expect to live in such luxury – a garden surrounding a swimming pool, our own bathroom and rooms with two very big beds.

On Monday we were introduced to Mission Locale South for the first time, everyone here at the office has received us with a warm welcome and we’re already feeling at home. We have to give special credit to Philomène for being such a fantastic host, she has guided us through our first days here with incredible patience, taking us to places, introducing us to her culture, and she always manages to do everything with enthusiasm and a smile on her face.

The Mission Locale charity has 5 branches all around Réunion and works with young people in difficult circumstances, helping to arrange opportunities to work, to volunteer locally and abroad, to get involved in various activities and to give them a space where they feel free to follow their pursuits.

Before our arrival there was a major concern about how useful we would be, especially for Fin with his limited French. The previous two volunteers felt that their time here wasn’t as fruitful as they would have liked, and there were worries that we would face the same problems. We soon realised that our fears were ungrounded; there are many opportunities to do something good here – from English lessons, multimedia workshops, designing and creating promotional posters and videos, to helping to write CV’s in English.

On Thursday we worked with Mission Locale at a huge event, AKS (Alon Koz Santé – Let’s Talk about Health) at St. Joseph’s School of Sport and Culture, attended by various charities and organizations and with over 700 young participants from local schools.

Stands were erected to promote healthy diet, sexual health awareness, drug and alcohol responsibility, road safety and more. A mass-scale Zumba took place in the auditorium, tournaments were held for a new sport named Franc Balle, taekwondo black belts sparred, drumming Maloya acrobats showed off for the crowd, a theatre group performed a play about responsible living. Aurélie’s role was to present the Leonardo organization to potential trainees; Fin spent the day taking photographs of everything (almost literally) for use in promotional material.

Our weekend included a difficult 7 hour hike to the 2600m top of one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Piton de la Fournaise. We hiked uphill following white dots painted on rocks over the wrinkled and furrowed lava flows from the previous years; the last eruption was only 10 months ago. A sign in three languages told hikers not to stray from the marked path, as vaults created by lava could be hidden under a thin layer of unstable ground. We reached the summit safely, (except for being a little sweaty and sunburned) to find an incredible view of the volcanic crater and the surrounding caldera.

It’s the end of our first week here in Réunion and we’ve already fallen in love with this island. We’re feeling very optimistic about the work we’re doing and the weeks to come, our only concern is that there isn’t enough time to do everything!


Aurelie and Fin, short term Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility Trainees.

Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility project part of Gaining Through Training
and supported by ECORYS UK
and the Lifelong Learning Programme
of the European Commission.

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