Posted: 02 June 2015

Volunteers' Week: 'The independent visitor initiative is a fantastic scheme'

In celebration of Volunteers' Week, we asked Barry, an Independent Visitor volunteer at our CheckPoint programme in Torbay, about his experiences.

Find out more about Volunteers' Week. 

Why did you choose to volunteer with us?

I had volunteered for a similar scheme with my local authority, which unfortunately (for me at least) never got off the ground. My attention was subsequently drawn to The Children's Society's website, and your work actually appealed to me more. I was brought up in a mainly one-parent family and missed having a positive male role model in my young life, which has affected me in my adult years. I wanted to make a difference to the life of a young person in care, who might also lack that positive role model and the independent visitors's profile seemed like a good opportunity to do so.

I contacted Rhonda, the coordinator at CheckPoint, who was very encouraging. Suitable training was arranged and once I had passed the necessary checks, I was matched up with a young person and have not looked back since. 

What is your volunteer role with The Children’s Society? What is a typical day?

I am an independent visitor (IV) to a looked after 12-year-boy and I take him out for the afternoon, normally once a month, with the date arranged through his carer. Sometimes he has an idea what he wants to do and other times I would make a suggestion as to where we might go.

There is no typical day. We might go to the cinema, watch or play football, visit a local tourist attraction like The Living Coast in Torquay, go ten pin bowling, or take a train to Exeter or Plymouth for a longer day, amongst other activities.

What have you enjoyed the most about volunteering?

As I said earlier I want to make a difference in a young person's life. Seeing my young person clearly enjoy himself on a day out makes me very happy, first and foremost. However, I too have enjoyed our activities and have done things that I have not done in years such as kicking a football in a park, or watching a U-certificate film in a cinema (and be able to discuss Frozen with my partner's young niece on the phone as a result).

Sharing those experiences is what being an IV is all about.

'If you are interested in helping vulnerable children and young people then The Children's Society is an ideal place to begin.'

What is a highlight of your volunteering?

My YP and I visited the National Aquarium in Plymouth recently and we were both enthralled with the giant fish tanks that contained sharks, rays and angel fish, amongst many others. Whilst walking around, we were invited to sit in on an 'introduction to sharks' talk hosted by a guide. When the guide was looking for volunteers, my young person's hand shot up and he came to the front of the audience, with two other young volunteers and enjoyably acted out his part of being a shark's mouth to much applause!

He loved it and it was great to see him in a learning environment, reading the descriptions to each exhibit and understanding and appreciating the information given about sea pollution. When we left the aquarium and walked along the jetty, he pointed out with obvious disdain the rubbish that had been thrown in the water such as paper bags and a women's shoe. That was one of several highlights I could have chosen in what was a great day for us both.

'He enjoyably acted out his part of being a shark's mouth'

What have you gained from volunteering with us?

It has given me an opportunity to put someone else's needs first and have a day where I don't have to focus on my own particular troubles or worries.

The IV initiative is a fantastic scheme and I take pride in playing a small part in it.

What would you say to other people who are interested in volunteering with us?

I would say if you are interested in helping vulnerable children and young people then The Children's Society is an ideal place to begin. I have found the training, support and advice to be first rate and everyone I have come into contact with, has been friendly and professional. I wish that I had found them earlier. 

What would be your three top tips to new volunteers to make the most out of their experience?

  1. Be yourself
  2. Have fun
  3. Be observant and attentive

 

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Find out more about volunteering opportunities with The Children's Society.

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