How volunteers can help children in care
The words of one young person inspired Nicki to volunteer at Action for Children and befriend children in care
A range of life experiences lead people to volunteer at Action for Children. While attending a fundraising event, Nicki Bogle heard a care leaver share how Action for Children volunteers had helped them. The story inspired Nicki to want to do more.
Soon after, Nicki learnt about the Here4Me Independent Visitor programme in Berkshire. She didn’t have any experience of the care system – she works in marketing – but her desire to help children in care was all she needed to sign up.
As an independent visitor, Nicki is matched to befriend a young person in care. After 10 years, and three successful pairings, Nicki’s role has provided something many children in care go without – stability and support.
So how can volunteers, like Nicki, change the lives of children in care?
Each month, Nicki and the young person she’s matched with spend a day together, going out on fun trips and getting to know one another. The young person gets to decide what they do. It could be taking part in their hobbies or trying something completely new.
“My first pairing was with a 17-year-old girl,” says Nicki. “She was quite shy and needed someone to go out with, so we did bowling and things like that.”
“I was then paired with a 13-year-old girl,” she continues. “She was lovely and really liked all the things I liked doing, like going to the spa and getting our nails done, so we had lots of fun. At the moment, I’m matched with a 14-year-old boy, who I’ve been with for three years. I've become very good at gaming, going to Legoland and arcades!”
As time goes on, Nicki notices improvements in the confidence and relationships of the young people she’s paired with.
She tells us, “The nice thing about Action for Children’s service is that they match people up based on what they think you'll achieve with that person - whether that’s increased confidence or opening up.
“The second match I had was very quiet and lacked confidence. But once she was with me for a few months, she opened up a lot and we used to sing in the car. As a result of that, she ended up joining the school choir. This is something she said she never would have done if I hadn’t felt comfortable singing with you.”
“You can definitely see the changes in them.”Nicki
“The boy I am currently with has some learning difficulties and talked about being bullied at school, so we talked about how to cope with that,” Nicki said. “He said that he took my advice, which helped him a lot. He's also been able to try other things, when before he always just wanted to do the same thing. Just having someone there to reassure him has helped him a lot.”
Nicki's second match had a turbulent childhood. In the two years they were matched together, she moved foster homes five times.
Nicki reflected on what their relationship meant for the young girl. “I was her only constant and was able to give her the support that she needed. I was able to support her foster carers in understanding her a bit better. It felt great because I could really see the value I was adding.”
“It’s helpful for them to have someone around who they can trust and is there just for them. Sometimes you're the only constant relationship they might have over that difficult period of their lives.”
The experience has taught Nicki several valuable lessons. She sees the difference made in the young people she’s supported and in herself too.
“It's taught me patience and taken me outside of my comfort zone, and I’m always learning new things.
“Every child is different and has different likes and dislikes. So, I’ve learnt to be patient and let them express themselves, but also give guidance without it being too overpowering. [Volunteering] makes you appreciate how lucky you are.”
Are you looking for a volunteer role that can change the lives of children and young people in the UK? Whether you want to support our fundraising events, mentor a young child or volunteer at a children’s centre we have lots of roles on offer.
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