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It is International Volunteer Week this week and since VUB is home to many volunteers, we are taking the opportunity to present some of them. Ionna Stefanou is volunteering at the Department of Mechanics of Materials and Constructions (MEMC), Faculty of Engineering at Vrije Universiteit Brussel.


I have a university diploma in Business Administration and a master in Economic Theory & Policy. I work as a volunteer at the Department of Mechanics of Materials and Constructions (MEMC), Faculty of Engineering at Vrije Universiteit Brussel.


Which volunteering project(s) do you support?
I started my “journey” in voluntary work by participating in the organization of “ETNDT6 –6th International Conference on Emerging Technologies in Non-Destructive Testing” held on 27-29 May 2015 at Etterbeek Campus of VUB by MEMC Department.


What does that mean? What do you do exactly?
The work appointed to me by the organizers, Professors Danny Van Hemelrijck and Dimitrios  Aggelis, was related to the social program (events and reception dinner) as well as communication or administrative tasks connected with these activities. Right now, ETNDT6 Conference is participating in the VisitBrusselsAwards Contest, in the category “International Congress and Fair 2015”. We were really glad to submit our project and compete with other candidates promoting our university as a key player in hosting international conferences in Brussels.


How long have you been volunteering?
I’ve been volunteering since January 2015 and I feel very satisfied with my work! I enjoy every minute. That is the reason why I continued after the end of ETNDT6 Conference. Now, I am engaged in the communication of the Department, creating and managing our Facebook page as well as the news website of MEMC with the help of other members, professors and our PhD students. We post news, conference participations, experiments, videos, PhD public defenses, events, research work from our collaborating laboratories and project teams or our students’ groups. Also, I was assigned the writing of the Brochure about MEMC activities and achievements and there are many other ideas for the future!


How much time per month do you dedicate to it?
For ETNDT6 Conference, we worked a lot on daily basis, to search for venues and organize the social events for our participants. Regarding science communication activities, it is not an activity that has a specific amount of time to dedicate, since it has also to do with thinking and writing. Sometimes, I follow seminars and workshops or events related to my tasks and I have discussions with people that we are going to write about or post. 


What do you get from volunteering for your personal development?
From volunteering, I discovered “hidden” strengths in myself. I try to learn more on project management, science communication and use of new media.  Thanks to MEMC and VUB I had the opportunity to offer some of my knowledge, but the most important is that I got a deeper insight of my field of study, which is management, and developed other skills, for example in communication. Additionally, I started learning a new language, Nederlands. All these combined with the family atmosphere of MEMC – VUB; make me feel lucky that I belong in this team!


Why would you recommend to others to do volunteering?
If we see volunteering from a humanistic/social point of view, it is a way to feel more complete as a person, because it provides us with the pleasure of contributing and offering. The sense of belonging to a community is essential in human nature. In a recent issue of HENRI, VUB Magazine, there is an article about the physical and mental advantages of volunteering. According to a study of VUB, KU Leuven and University of Stockholm, volunteers feel happier and more satisfied with life. So, it is even scientifically proven!

Personally, I had the chance to work on an interesting project, with international aspect and scientific interest. It was joy for me to assist people I care about. Moreover, due to the fact that VUB supports volunteering, I met the dynamic team of MEMC and their important research work!


Where can people find more information about your volunteering project?
You can find all the information you need on our website. Also, about he project and our candidacy for ETNDT6 in the VisitBrusselsawards, you can visit the site of Visitbrussels  and “Vote for Us”! You can visit, Like and Share our Facebook page as well, of course.


Information, news and feedback and our brochure can all be viewed on the MEMC website.