accessibility & help

Leo's story: mastering English and volunteering

Leo the young international volunteer© InfoA young Red Cross volunteer has won a prestigious volunteer award – despite English being only his third language.

Finnish volunteer Leo Kaipianen (22) first came to the UK two years ago as part of the British Red Cross’ International Youth Volunteering Programme, which offers young people an opportunity to volunteer overseas in another European country for twelve months.

After arriving in Liverpool, the young volunteer first had to undergo extensive training in first aid, child protection and school speaking skills, and attend an HIV conference.

Challenging sessions

Once trained, Leo then spent an eye-watering 60 hours developing and running his own training sessions. Youth manager Rebekah Dickson, the young volunteer’s supervisor throughout his year-long stay, said: “Leo should be very proud. He showed exceptional stamina and commitment travelling across the North-West to visit schools and teach first aid to young people, including those with disabilities and learning difficulties.”

But all that hard work eventually paid off. Leo has now been presented with a Platinum Youth Achievement Award. He’s one of very few Red Cross volunteers to be given the prestigious award, a huge achievement for an international volunteer who had to complete such a massive project in an unfamiliar country.

Incredible volunteer

Alex Jackson, programme coordinator, said: “Although his first two languages are Finnish and Russian, he somehow completed the whole award – including the delivery of all his sessions and presentations – in English.”

A modest Leo said: “It was challenging, especially the sessions for young people with disabilities and learning difficulties. But I gained lots of new skills and knowledge, and probably now have more self-confidence.”

Rebekah added: “Leo’s positive attitude to work and life in general is contagious and he had a positive effect on all those around him.

“He was always keen to learn colloquialisms – and even successfully grappled with the great array of accents that exist in the UK, which is no mean feat!”

Find out about our Humanitarian Citizen Awards

Volunteer for the Red Cross