Posted: 25 February 2015

Alberta tells us about her experiences as a volunteer befriender

Today, we hear from student and volunteer befriender, Alberta, in recognition of National Student Volunteers' Week.

Where do you study and what course are you doing?

I am a student at the University of East London studying Psychosocial Studies with Professional Practice.

1. Why did you get involved as a volunteer with The Children’s Society?

My course chose The Children’s Society as the organisation where I would do my work placement. However I went through the normal interview process before I was given the place.

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

I currently volunteer on the Destitution Project with young refugees and asylum seekers. My role as a volunteer, has been to befriend a young adult who is going through major challenges in her life. I have the privilege to talk to her on the phone and organise activities of her choice fortnightly. I am also there to speak to her during her time of need and to be a supporting hand in days that she finds particularly challenging. I am also there to assist in case work.

As a volunteer, I show good listening skills, making no hasty judgements and always aim to bring out the best in each young person I work with.

On one day, I worked with a young person to arrange her photo album, which is something she had always wanted to do. I had to phone the office as soon as I got there to inform them we had met up successfully. We then went to the studio to print the photos. Afterwards we sat at a restaurant table and arranged the pictures in an album we had bought before lunch. It was fun and important work because the pictures told a lot of very good stories and captured memories as well as touching on some of the not so good times. I was allowed to arrange some of the pictures and also my young person was extremely happy to have completed her album and was so proud of what she had achieved that day.

On a typical day, I would also phone the office to inform them of how our day went and if there were any concerns. I would then send on my case notes describing how the day went, and include my expenses and the details of my next meeting.

3. What has been your favourite experience of your volunteering? Why?

The most enjoyable day for me with The Children’s Society was a day out in London with most of the young adults. It was very rewarding to see them forget about all their struggles and to be with them for that day. I enjoyed working together with other members of staff on that day and also getting to know most of the young adults and seeing their potential and the rich contribution they can make to British society.

'The Children's Society is a very good organisation to do your work placement'.

I have also been given the chance to help out at the Head Office of the organisation. I was part of a team assisting in the appointment of a new supervisor to cover a maternity vacancy. I was debriefed on that day.  I was very scared at the responsibility implied, but the support and the help given me by the people I closely worked with, plus the welcome from staff I had never met before, helped me carry out my duties to the best of my ability.

4. How has volunteering with The Children’s Society helped you with your studies?  Have you gained new skills?

Studying Psychosocial Studies teaches you not to have a definite answer to life. In other words, everything has to be questioned and reflected on to help one arrive at different answers from the most common sense ones, and to think of creative solutions to things. Being a volunteer with the Children’s Society has helped me to accept the very different backgrounds of members of our society and has taught me about the position of people on the very edge of our society, who are seeking inclusion.

I have gained advocacy skills and the ability to write case work notes. I am a better listener than I previously was.

5. What would you say to other students who are interested in volunteering with The Children’s Society?

The Children’s Society is a very good organisation to do your work placement with. The help given you is beyond expectation in terms of support and training. The staff are very friendly and extremely helpful. Supervision is excellent and they help to bring the best out of you. As long as you are willing to learn, the help is there for the taking.

'The help given to you is beyond expectation in terms of support and training'.

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

1) Be yourself

2) Work hard

3) Give your best

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

By Alberta Oppong-Mensah - Guest bloggers

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