Andy, independent visitor
Independent visitors befriend and support children and
young people who are in care and don't have much contact
with their families. Andy has been matched with Barry, who he
supports and meets up with twice a month.
Why volunteer as an independent visitor?
'I was looking to do some kind of volunteer work. I did various
investigations into what was out there, and felt that the
independent visitor scheme was a really worthy cause to engage with
children who haven't had the best start in life.'
How did you get started?
'The training and recruitment was very informal and relaxed. It
involved group work, and it was good to interact with others who
were interested. It also gave an insight into what it's like to be
a child in the care system. Finding out how many children are in
care, and how many need an independent visitor and can't get one
was a bit of an eye opener.
'For the matching process you give the young person a folder
about yourself, your family background, pets, kids, a bit about
yourself and what you like doing, and you try to tailor it to the
right level so it matches up with activities they'd like to do as
What exactly do you do?
'I try to tailor activities to things he enjoys doing, give
himexperiences that he's never had before, to discover if he likes
something or not. You both experience it together, and it forms a
bonding process together.
'We did things like going on a climbing wall, go-karting, went to
the York Dungeon, and stuff like that. Some of these kids have
never been swimming, and never sat in a restaurant before.
'The matching process helps to make sure you have a natural
rapport with the young person, but over time they open up and talk
about their family, reasons for being taken into care, what's been
happening in the placement and how they feel about it, and what
they want to do in the future.'
What are the benefits?
'Some of these kids have had really awful childhoods, and you
have the opportunity to turn their life around and put their trust
back in human nature. They need male role models, someone they can
look up to. I think I get ten times more out of it than Barry gets!
I know I'm helping him to put his trust back in people.
'Some people think that it's strange for a young man to want to
volunteer with children, people might joke "you must be a
paedophile" but it's just ridiculous really, there's no reason why
men should not be involved in children's care. It's not weird -
it's fun! Boys also want to play boys games, and men really enjoy
those things too, football, sports, go-karting, they're all really
fun. Cars, sports, football, motorbikes - Barry loves all that
'Because you're independent, and they know that you're not being
paid to look after them, that you actually want to do it, they
react to you really well, and you can genuinely make a connection
'It doesn't take up a great deal of your time, one in every two
Saturdays, but it's the difference you're making! You could be the
only constant person in their life, and it's an amazing feeling to
be able to benefit somebody who's been disadvantaged.'
Could you do what Andy does?
If so, search for volunteer roles or
phone 0300 123 2112.