‘Being a health and social care student really opened my eyes to the inequalities faced by people and brought me to the conclusion that I wanted to help reduce this in some way. After some research I found Volunteering Matters and the North Lanarkshire Befriending Project. I thought this would be a good fit for me since I had relevant experience of working with young people who suffered from adverse childhood experiences, so I sent off an email and I have never looked back!
The training I received before my match was excellent. I felt equipped for the role, and I was confident because I knew I had a good support network within the project. I was looking forward to being a good role model.
I was matched with a young person experiencing social exclusion due to family circumstances, and despite being initially quite nervous at our first meeting I found the relationship was positive from day one. The young person was chatty and full of questions, which gave us lots to talk about, and my nervousness quickly faded.
Our first outing was to Pizza Hut, and there we made a list of activities that he wanted to try. After that, our outings took place once a fortnight, when we would go bowling, to the cinema, swimming and lots more. My young person had never been to the cinema, so was very keen to go! It made me realise how much we take for granted.
It was very rewarding seeing the smile on his face and showed me just how important the befriending role can be, and the positive impact it can have on an individual. The young person’s mother also had very good feedback for me, saying that he was so happy and glad we had met, and I felt very proud.
Throughout the year that I volunteered with my young person I noticed our relationship became totally relaxed and we were able to talk about school, friends, and his family. If he was apprehensive about trying a new activity or going somewhere new, I was often able to encourage him to try it.
Overall, the befriending has been positive both for my young person and me. I have become more confident in my own abilities and communication and negotiating skills. Currently I am a student at university where we talk a lot about the importance of befriending. I am grateful for the opportunity I was given and look forward to a new match in the future. I plan on remaining within the project and hope to receive a new match once I finish university in May.’
If Sharon’s story has inspired you to volunteer, we have programmes running across the UK with something for everyone. In February 2018 we launched Clackmannanshire Befriending Project which is running nearby to the programme that Sharon worked on. If this sounds up your street, get in touch!