Meet the Volunteers: Julia
Julia: My name’s Julia, my role is as a volunteer mentor, although I did do some of the online groups when I first joined. I’ve been volunteering with Children Heard and Seen (CHAS) for about 12 months now.
‘How did you find out about CHAS?’
J: I used to work with prisoners and their families before I retired, and one of the prisoners I was working with, his child was being supported by CHAS. That was the first time I’d come across them. As it wasn’t that long before my retirement, I had a look into what they were doing, and decided it would be and an ideal opportunity to volunteer.
‘What do you think are the benefits to the child you support?’
I’ve been surprised actually, how much it has benefited the young person I’m supporting. She’s had to move areas, has been home schooled, was really struggling to go out… So we’ve been out a lot together on the train and we’ve been to places that she couldn’t go with the family because there’s a lot of younger siblings. Evidently, it’s really built up her confidence which is great. It takes her away from the home for a bit – she’s got a lot of younger siblings so it gives her time by herself.
‘What do you get out of volunteering?’
Just knowing that you’re helping someone I think. Having worked with prisoners families for quite a long time, I know how difficult it is for the children. There’s been a lack of support for such a long time for them, so to be able to support these children and to see them develop and change is lovely.
‘What is your favourite memory as a mentor?’
So my favorite memory is the fact that the young person I’m mentoring probably won’t need me much longer. To hear that she’s going to she’s going to be really busy during the summer is just great. I know that she’s now more confident to go out by herself, and that she’s doing things that she should be doing – being out enjoying social contact with other people their age – so that’s great. Also knowing that she’s hopefully going back into school, having been home schooled for a while, so she’ll have that social contact with children her own age is just great. Hoping she can now fly, but we will keep in touch.
‘Do you feel supported by CHAS?’
Yes. Leanne, the volunteer coordinator, is always quick to reply to any emails. She’s always there for a WhatsApp message and we have Zoom support groups now once a month. So, well supported.
‘What do you think makes a good mentor?’
I think you have to be patient and understanding of where the children are coming from and take things at their pace. The young person I’ve mentored is very quiet, so not pushing and letting them take the pace. Just being patient, kind and understanding and being there for them. And listening ear – whatever their age.
‘What would you say to someone who’s thinking of becoming a mentor?’
Give it a go. It’s very rewarding and the children really appreciate the time that you spend with them. Being that person for them outside the home is very rewarding – just give it a go!