Taking the first steps towards becoming an independent adult is a challenge for any young person, but for those leaving care it is so much harder. That’s why the charity Barnardo’s is using Volunteers Week to appeal for befrienders to help guide them on their way.
Barnardo’s runs Plymouth Care Journeys, on behalf of Plymouth City Council, and as part of that work is encouraging people to act as a mentor for a young person who is either about to leave care or has recently done so. Each volunteer will be carefully matched with a young person to befriend.
Many care leavers are isolated and lonely and don’t have a strong support network around them. Volunteer mentors can help reduce that isolation, build young people’s confidence and self-esteem while also encouraging them to develop new skills, interests and activities. That could mean anything from offering a listening ear over coffee to socialising with them at a bowling alley or helping them develop budgeting skills or write a CV.
Jemma Flower, Children’s Services Manager with Barnardo’s, said: “We are looking for people from all walks of life to volunteer. It is important that our care experienced young people have someone in their life who’s not another professional and who can be a good role model for them as they take their first steps towards independence.
“They need some stability so we are looking for volunteers who would be able to work with a young person for two years or more and share with them some of those important life moments, maybe help them prepare for job interviews or move house. However, we also have volunteering opportunities for those who can only commit a short time, maybe six to 12 weeks at a time when the young person needs extra support.
“The volunteers are an important part of our young people’s journey and can make a real difference to care leavers’ emotional health and wellbeing by increasing their support networks. The volunteers gain a lot themselves and say it is a hugely rewarding experience.”
The Barnardo’s team is looking for people who are empathetic, open minded and non-judgemental to join their team of mentors known as Positive Connectors. The volunteers should also be reliable and trustworthy, friendly, enthusiastic and have a sense of fun.
They will receive full training, regular supervision and support, and out of pocket expenses. Some people may volunteer because they want to do something community minded, while others may see it as a useful way of gaining skills and experience towards a future career. Barnardo’s would like to hear from people of all ages and backgrounds, preferably with a driving licence and access to a car.
To find out more about what Positive Connectors do and how to apply, visit www.plymouth.carejourneys.org.uk.
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