As you probably know, I have just started a journey through the volunteering organizations in Aarhus. I prefer to call it a pilgrimage as recently a profound and unexpected faith has made its way into me: by the end of my pilgrimage I will find an answer to my obsessing question: 

“Who are the volunteers who contributed to make Aarhus the European Volunteering Capital 2018?”

As first stop I decided to visit AIESEC - the largest youth-run organization in the world, which makes available to young people between the age of 18 and 30 to be part of volunteering projects and internships abroad. In order to know more about the organisation I took part in the event “Let’s discover South America”, a social occasion organized by AIESEC on 26th April with the aim of letting people get closer to the fascinating Latin American culture.

The words of young people who had been living in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, both as natives and as expats, filled the auditorium of the Business Academy of Aarhus adding an exotic touch to the students’ routine.

By listening to them I thought about a popular quote of the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado who once said that even though 10 photographers are standing in the same place, they will never take the same pictures because each of them will reflect his background in his photos. In that moment I realized that it is exactly what happens also when it comes to an experience abroad. 

There is no chance that your adventure abroad will be the same of that of someone else and you cannot imagine how it is going to be until you try it in person.

“Let’s discover South America” was just one of the many events that AIESEC plans throughout the year in order to show the opportunities that it offers abroad.

What inspires people working in AIESEC is the goal of connecting three things: youth, leadership and peace. Indeed, according to them, any young people has a leadership potential and the better way to unfold it is to give him the suitable framework to gain some practical experience. Moreover, by doing it in a context of cross-cultural exchanges, young people will broaden their horizons, which means that in the future they will be more keen to avoid conflicts that could arise from differences of culture, religion or political ideology.

Easy to say, but how is it possible to accomplish such a mission?

The strengths of AIESEC are the facts that the organization can boast a global network which spans 126 countries and that it makes the most of the energy and commitment of students and recent graduates, who are the only ones in charge and who work as volunteers.

Aneena Thevaraveendran, the Local Committee President at AIESEC Aarhus.

Indeed, “by young people for young people” is a recurring mantra during my talk with Aneena Thevaraveendran, the Local Committee President at AIESEC Aarhus. Aneena is 25 years old, has Sri Lankan roots and studies Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Business Academy Aarhus. She welcomes me with a calm attitude and a warm smile and I ask her how it is to be at the top of one of the 6 Committees in Denmark.

“I am very happy of being the Local Committee President and it is a good opportunity for me to learn even more. I was elected in December and I will be in charge for one year. In fact, in AIESEC we have a rule: you can’t hold a position for more than a year. In this way we want to give everyone the chance to learn from the experience.”

Let’s take a step back. How did everything start?

“My adventure with AIESEC started in 2015 when I heard from a friend of mine about this organization she had just become a part of. I found it so exciting that she was attending meetings and was asked to take decisions. At the time, while I was studying Multimedia Communication at the Business Academy in Aarhus, I had to take an internship and I decided to do it in AIESEC. At the end of it I realized that my first impressions of the organization were right and I became a member.”

What was your role in the beginning?

“I started at the Marketing Department. Afterwards I became in charge of both the Talent Management Department and the Finance Department. It has been a great challenge for me to be responsible of both of it, but it was worth it. Before I did not know anything about accounting and bookkeeping interviews and during that time I learnt everything about it and even more.”

Would you recommend young people to become member of AIESEC?

“I would like to answer this question not as Local Committee President, but as a young person because there are so many advantages you can get by becoming a volunteer in AIESEC. First of all, you grow professionally. Moreover, you get to know a lot of people. During these years I have been building such a strong network thanks to the organisation and I have been creating friendships which I am sure will last also in the future.”

Speaking of which, what do you see in your future? And what will you take with you from your experience as AIESEC’er?

"My dream is to create a start-up and to fulfil this dream I will make the most of all what I learnt in AIESEC. Of course, I will also take with me good memories, which will inspire me in crucial moments. For example, I will never forget when I took part for the first time to an international conference. It took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina and at the time I had just been elected Vice President. It had such a strong impact on me to see all those young people from all over the world who were gathered there for the same purpose. We were there sharing the same values and interest in AIESEC, so it was so easy to start a conversation and get to know new people."

If you had to summarize what volunteering means to you, which three words would you use?

“For me, volunteering means passion because if you don’t do something with your heart you are just wasting your time. Moreover, if you want to do a good job you need to be committed in a purpose, so I would definitely choose the word ‘cause’. Finally, as third word I will go for ‘friendship’.”

I said goodbye to Aneena with a warm smile on my face, the same that I saw on her face before and I began to understand why. It is reassuring to know that outside there are rail tracks who someone has already prepared for us so that we can have the right frame to find ourselves. We just have to develop our potential and focus on the world we want to leave behind.

After my talk with Aneena I had the certainty that both by taking part of the programmes of AIESEC or by volunteering in AIESEC, everyone gets the chance to unfold his future and at the same time have an impact on the world. That smile remained with me for a long time afterwards, as did the question:

“Can you imagine what would happen if every young people in the world engages in such an experience?”

To know more about AIESEC, visit their website page or their Facebook page AIESEC Denmark.

AIESEC was just the first organisation I visited during my journey in Aarhus while the city is holding the title of European Volunteering Capital 2018. Are you curious where I am heading next? Don’t miss my next article.

Also read: Dear Aarhus

Genny Cabas is an Italian taking a European Volunteering Service in Denmark. In February, she started working at Studerendes Frivillige Netværk (SFN) based at VIA University College and she finished her project on 1st October.

To know more about her and SFN visit the Facebook page SFN - Studerendes Frivillige Netværk.