Posted: 01 June 2020

Volunteers Week: helping young people make little changes

This Volunteers Week, we’re celebrating our amazing volunteers who give their time to support the children and young people who need it most.

Helen has been a befriender in one of our refugee and migrant services for the last four years. Befrienders are matched with a young person to reduce isolation and improve their English, confidence, and social network. They meet fortnightly to do a wide range of activities.

She shares with us her favourite bits about being a befriender and encourages anyone who can dedicate their time to give it a go. 

A friendly face 

To Helen, a befriender is ‘a friendly face...not an official.’ 

‘It’s really about trying to find out from that young person what they want to do...what their interests are, what their passions are and what they would like to do with those sessions.’ 

‘Some of them want to play football chess or something like that, so they’ll do that with their befriender.’

shaking hands at amateur football match

In the four years that Helen has been befriending, she has been matched with three young people.

‘The young person I’m befriending now is in college...they wanted to get involved in dance classes, so I've helped them find a dance class, and I didn't have to dance.’ 

'But it probably would have been very embarrassing for them had I been dancing too!' 

Someone to talk to

‘All of the young people that I've befriended have arrived in this country on their own and have often been very young when they have arrived, having experienced some quite traumatic and difficult things. A lot of them won't know what's happened to their families'.

On top of these experiences, ‘the process of getting asylum or becoming a refugee, it’s so frustrating and takes such a long time, it’s very difficult.’

‘Just having someone to talk to about their frustration, and someone to have fun with and to experience a bit of the city that they’re in –  I think it’s important.’ 

The best bits

For Helen, the best bit about being a befriender is ‘seeing little changes in them.’ 

When speaking about a young man she befriended, she recalls ‘he became so much more confident. Like, he’d go up and ask people questions about how to do things, and he wouldn’t have done that before.’ 

‘By the end of us being matched together, he’d really come out of his shell...he was a bit of a joker...opening up and becoming quite cheeky, like, in a good way.’ 

‘It’s nice to just see those little things.'

'I always feel quite positive and quite happy afterwards...even if...harder things have come up and come out of those conversations.’ 

Seeing things with new eyes

'It’s really nice to spend time with the young people, nice to find out about their lives.'

'It’s also nice to have an excuse to do lots of activities and then kind of like see it with new eyes.'

Find out more about current volunteering opportunities during Covid-19, or discover how else you can support young people in our services in this time.


By Helen

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