Why I volunteered for The Children’s Society
Every summer I volunteer or do an internship for a charity and this summer was no different. As I looked at different organisations, I found a policy and parliamentary volunteer role with the Refugee Children’s Consortium (RCC) based at The Children’s Society.
The RCC is a group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working together to make sure that refugee children’s rights and needs are promoted, respected and met and that the UK meets its legal obligations to these children. The Children's Society is the co-chair of the RCC.
Growing up in the care system, some of my friends were migrant children. I often witnessed their struggles with language barriers, damning stereotypes and a lack of information about their rights. I was keen to take an opportunity to work for an organisation that campaigns and lobbies to make things better for them.
Life in the care system
When I was 14 years old, my adopted mother passed away and I had to go in care as I had no other relatives in the UK. This experience was traumatic, numbing and terrifying, but I was fortunate that I went into a good foster home where I stayed until I moved into independent living.
I recognise that I was very lucky to have a great foster parent because I know of many young people with very bad experiences of the care system.
Even so life in care was perhaps the loneliest experience I’ve known. My foster mum tried as hard as she could to provide a safe and open environment but I chose to deal with my past independently.
Aware of the stereotypes surrounding those in care, I decided to hide that part of my life from my friends. It was important to me that people saw me as I am and not through a distorting lens.
As I felt unable to speak to my family or friends about my troubles, I decided to join my local participation group. I became involved in projects that empowered and supported children in care – the group became my sanctuary, a place to go to find answers, to meet other young people in care and free from stereotypes.
What I have learned
I think this volunteer post has been very helpful to my future career prospects. I have a greater understanding of the plight of migrant children here in the UK and internationally, as well as public policies that affect them.
My time with the RCC has been well spent. I have learnt new skills, including managing and developing project ideas, giving presentations, writing policy papers and minute-taking. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting RCC members and taking part in meetings.
One of my assignments involved researching and creating a proposal for a young people’s advisory group geared to include refugee children in the RCC’s work. I enjoyed doing this very much. Possibly the highlight of my time volunteering for the RCC, was having my ideas taken seriously by the members and developing them into specific actions, which will have a real practical impact on these vulnerable children and young people.
I’m going into my third year reading politics and international relations at university. This volunteer experience has been good preparation for the working world. I hope to pursue a career working in international development and I believe my work with the RCC will help me reach that goal.