A volunteer’s journey

I originally resided in Wales.  I decided to make changes to my life due to 18 years of chronic substance misuse and the problems that that created.  Problems around social isolation, police involvement, disruption to my family, loved ones and the wider community.  At that point I had no belief in myself and how life could change.  

As part of my resettlement plan, it was suggested that I look for voluntary work to help reintegrate me back into the community.  I attended the local CVS and was given contact details for Ynot Aspire.  I applied and was full of concern and anxiety about attending.  I went down to sign up as volunteer and meet some of the team.    I was fortunate enough to be accepted onto the volunteer programme and I started to provide support at the local snooker youth club.  Straight away I felt welcomed and had a sense of purpose.  I was learning about commitment and perseverance, things that were essential to forming a positive structure in a place where I knew very few people.  Following on from fundamentals such as time keeping, confidentiality and engagement skills that I was supported to develop, I was also encouraged to look at further education and employment opportunities along the lines of youth work.  The encouragement came from being involved in every aspect of the project including team meetings where I was encouraged to express my ideas for the project moving forward.   With the support of the staff and I was able to access various courses in Youth Work.  I was accepted on the grounds that I had a volunteering place at Ynot and I felt completely supported by them throughout.    Throughout the course I was encouraged to reflect on practice and started to realise that I could start to make a difference.  You can’t change the world but reaching those certain individuals would help to bridge the gap.

I feel like Ynot Aspire really appreciate their volunteers and this was apparent when several of us were put forward for a local volunteering award.  We attended a celebration event at the Dunkenhalgh Hotel and were presented with the award for services to volunteering.  I still have the award on my bookshelf.

The sense of achievement through volunteering led me to look for other opportunities as I had spent a number of years out of work and I wanted to build up my CV.   I started to volunteer for the supported housing unit that I came through.  Within the interview for that position I was able to offer an understanding of time keeping, commitment, taking contact notes and confidentiality.  I felt less fearful of the DBS process as I had been supported through it before.  I was successful in gaining the voluntary post.  Within 10 months I was in full-time employment with them in a Floating Support Worker post.  Since then I have also managed a project with prolific offenders at HMP Preston, all the while building on the foundations that voluntary work had offered as a benchmark for good working practice.

Having those volunteering opportunities made me feel like I was giving back to the community at the same time as receiving a great deal for myself in terms of self-confidence and belief.  I truly believe that it is building on these skills and having a sense of purpose and feeling part of the community that has prevented me from re-offending. 

Matt, past volunteer

Patnership working at it’s best

Starting point

  • Initial area referral from the local Community Beat Manager with regards to youth related anti-social behaviour and crime in the Springhill area. In particular there was a core group of 8 Asian males who were coming to the regular attention of the police for their anti-social and criminal activity. Previous attempts to engage them and tackle their behaviour, including Acceptable Behaviour Contracts for some of them, had all had a very poor response. Friday evenings had the greatest number of reports to police for these issues.

Who was involved?

Lancashire Constabulary, Sweeney’s Multi-Sports, Community Safety Partnership, Scaitcliffe Neighbourhood Management, Early Break, Springhill Resident’s Association, Core group of 8 young people.

What did we do?

We started out with a ‘street survey’ over 3 Friday evenings, talking to young people to find out what activities they might be interested in. Many told us that they wanted a place to hang out with their friends, that there was no provision in the area on a Friday evening and that they would be interested in different sporting activities.

What happened?.

We initially ran a 12 week pilot of a multi-sport project to gauge interest and monitor engagement of young people. We secured some initial funding from the CSP, Scaitcliffe Neighbourhood Management and Springhill Resident’s Association to run the pilot project. We also wanted to measure the impact that it would have on the wider community.

We actively recruited young people to engage in the project, before and during the activities. We talked to attendees and their parents about any other support needs they might have and made appropriate referrals into relevant services.

How did we involve young people?

  • The core group of 8 young people were very much involved in the planning and development of the project. We consulted with them about what activities they would like, what time they should be and where. They also put a bid together for some equipment for the project.
  • We also did a wider consultation through the ‘street survey’ with many young people from the area.
  • We involved the attendees of the project in the evaluation of the pilot to see what was good about it and what we needed to improve if anything. We acted on all the feedback received and kept them informed of what was happening every step of the way.

What were the outcomes for young people involved?

  • Improved understanding and implementation of team work.
  • Increased self-confidence.
  • Learning new skills.
  • Improved communication skills.
  • A greater awareness of services available to them.
  • Feeling valued and listened to with regards to service provision in their area.

What impact did the project have on participants and their community?

  • There was a reduction in reported youth related anti-social behaviour and crime in the area.
  • Young people attended the project on a regular basis.
  • Attendees reported an increase in their self-confidence and communication skills.
  • All of the 8 young people in our core group stopped coming to the regular attention of the police and are still very engaged in the project.
  • Participants reported a sense of ownership of the project
  • Participants felt that their views and opinions were listened to, valued and acted upon.