Sandra found herself with some spare time on her hands after her daughter had grown up. She had always had a keen interest in working with children and because she had a privileged life, she wanted to give something back to the community. So she decided to volunteer as an IV.
‘When I first arrived at Salford Children’s Rights Service I was quite nervous. Just being in a room full of strangers and not having many academic qualifications made me feel unsettled. After a while my fears disappeared as the environment was relaxed.
‘The training provided me with information about the care system. What was also interesting for me was how a looked-after young person may feel. Thinking back it also provided me with tools and ideas on how to work and build relationships with a young person. Throughout, I was supported by the staff and as time went by I began to really enjoy the training and making relationships with other volunteers.
‘When I first met my young person she was adorable and so enthusiastic about meeting. When we began talking she was very chatty and talked about school, foster carers and anything that seemed important to her at the time.
‘I noticed rosary beads with a cross in her skirt pocket, so we began talking about her religion and her beliefs. What I found amazing was that she knew all the local children’s parks because of the many places she had lived.
‘The support that I needed was the nuts and bolts on how to spend quality time with the young person, suggestions on where to take them and help with some behaviour that I hadn’t come across before.
‘A challenge for me was the transition from being a little girl to a teenager – although I have been through this before with my own daughter the difficulties were slightly different. I have always tried to be inspirational and keep asking about school and her future career, and most importantly I’ve just been there for her.
‘My advice to someone who is reading this is to take the role seriously as it isn’t something you can take on flippantly – these are young people who will look up to you for support. If you have a genuine interest in children’s welfare then you can make a very positive difference. So go for it!’