Posted: 19 July 2012

Befriending is 'an amazingly empowering experience'

Liam Mackin holding his awardLiam Mackin was named Worcester Young Citizen of the Year earlier this year. He is a student, works in the voluntary sector and has raised an estimated £150,000 for a range of charities. Here, he writes about the influence of befriending work with our LEAP programme.

Befriending has had big effects on my life

In 2010 I received a befriender from The Children's Society's programme in Bradford. The service allowed me to go on group activities with lots of other young people, or to go on an outing of my choice with someone other than family. 

As a person who is deafblind this was an amazingly empowering experience, as it gave me both choice and control to decide what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go – my favourite being a music gig that I went to with my befriender.

However, when Bradford council decided that they were not going to fund The Children's Society's work, I thought I would no longer be involved with them and their befriending service.

I was wrong.

Liam Mackin in front of a classHelping adults realise what is so important about befrienders

About six months later I got a phone call from Nola from The Children's Society's LEAP programme in Leeds, asking if I wanted to help with facilitating for the charity.

She explained that the role involved running courses for people who want to volunteer with children or young people with a disability. I would teach about and discuss issues of terminology, communication, behaviour and child protection. 

I happily accepted because I wanted to give something back to The Children's Society after my previous positive experiences with their befriending team.

Liam Mackin teaching a course with Nola

Nola and her fellow facilitator Megan worked really hard to get all of the notes and information I needed into Braille, and gave me complete choice over how and when I was involved with the sessions.

I ran each of the three days of the course on two separate occasions and thoroughly enjoyed it. I spoke of my own experiences, led themed group activities and explained some of the ways in which The Children’s Society works with young people.

Setting a career path

As a result, I was given some fantastic feedback from the volunteers on the course, saying how valuable they felt it was to have someone with a disability as part of the course and they gained knowledge and understanding from me. I felt that my opinions were being heard, which as a disabled person very rarely happens. 

I also received a written reference which I hope will be able to help me to get further opportunities in charity work. 

Facilitating is something I have never even thought of trying before but after my experience with The Children’s Society I have realised it is something I would like to do as a career.

By Liam Mackin, Worcester Young Person of the Year and volunteer with our LEAP programme


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Rhyme time

In addition to his charity work, Liam is a poet. Earlier this year he delivered his reworked versions of nursery rhymes:


By Liam Mackin - Guest bloggers

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This just shows what a difference a charity can make to a person with disabilities. Usually the bigger charities are money making machines, but I have to say that The Children's Society really stand out in their support to young people. Saying that, it is the individuals working at the charities who can make all the difference. The lady mentioned in this piece (Nola) has really impressed us with her ideas, trust and belief in Liam. By supporting Liam to do this work, Nola has given Liam a belief in himself which has led to self confidence and now he has a few ideas of his own that he is trying out!
We can never thank Nola or The Children's Society enough for the difference they have made (and continue to make) in Liam's life.