Orla and Fran were only 16 and 17 years old when they first began volunteering, providng direct support for a young woman with cerebral palsy. Fran and Orla have now reached the end of their volunteering placement with the project and share their experience with us.
What originally attracted you to volunteering?
'The possibility of helping someone who was the same age as me to lead as normal a life as possible and have the same opportunities as I do. I also want to do a degree in Applied Social Science and eventually work with young people. Volunteering was a stepping-stone towards this.' (Orla)
'I am interested in moving into a career in nursing and I felt that volunteering would help me to improve my confidence, relate to young people and help them to get out and about more with people of their own age.' (Fran)
Has it been what you thought it would be?
'It has been a good experience, especially learning about adult’s reactions to young people with a disability. Quite often they would talk to us rather than talk directly to Michelle. Volunteering has also taught me that pushing a wheelchair isn’t as easy as it looks!' (Orla)
'I never thought that working with a disabled young person was going to be easy, so I was surprised by how well I adapted to the volunteering role. It has been fun, I have enjoyed it and Orla and I both became good friends with Michelle.' (Fran)
What has been your happiest memory during your time as a volunteer with The Children's Society?
'My happiest memory was the day we went to Beamish and it absolutely chucked it down with rain! We were absolutely soaked but it was really funny and we still had a good time. Michelle laughed at how wet Fran and I were!' (Orla)
'Beamish…that would be my happy memory too! Plastic anoraks and nowhere to eat lunch. We ended up eating our packed lunch in a bus stop but it was still a good day!' (Fran)
Fran and Orla saw positive changes in Michelle during the time they supported her. They say she has become more confident and copes better in social situations; for example, ordering for herself in restaurants and interacting with other young people. She has also gained the confidence to ask for help when it is needed.
When asked if they could summarise their experience, Fran and Orla said that they 'would recommend volunteering as a way of learning something new, improving confidence, gaining independence, learning transferable skills, having fun and making new friends.'
You could make a difference to a young person's life just like Fran and Orla - volunteer for the Children's Society.