For our young people, making a positive difference in their community can boost confidence, expand social circles, enhance life skills and future employability, and – importantly – also bridge the gap between service and civilian communities. Army&You spoke to three teens doing just that…

Arwen

Name: Arwen Thomas 

Age: 14

Location: Catterick, Yorkshire

Whilst I love living, learning and taking part in all the activities that boarding school offers, one of my frustrations has been the lack of opportunities to gain work experience. After several rejections due to my age and requiring supervision, I was fortunate enough to do some volunteering with Help for Heroes (H4H). At first, I was a little daunted to volunteer in a completely adult environment and I wasn’t sure how I would cope with people with physical and mental injuries, but this was one of my personal challenges that I wanted to overcome.

David, one of the volunteer managers, gave me a chance to do several activities such as fundraising in our local Tesco, supporting a charity motorbike event selling

H4H merchandise, and attending the Valiant Games – a warm-up to the Invictus Games. My role was to help encourage the beneficiaries to try new sports. It was awesome, and I even got to try out a few disciplines like velodrome cycling and seated volleyball. It was incredible to see the guts and determination of some of the beneficiaries and equally good for them to see me facing some fears too.

H4H also invited me to a volunteer conference at Phoenix House, Catterick, which was interesting as I felt I could offer a younger person’s view to the discussions.

Now working towards my silver Duke of Edinburgh Award, I feel much more confident assisting in a residential nursing home.

I’ve learnt to appreciate how important good communication skills are and to be non-judgemental.

Having grown up in a family where both my parents have volunteered, I know how important it is to help within your own community. So, when my dad, currently a volunteer for Swaledale Search & Rescue team, asked my sister Morgan and I to help out clearing debris off the roads following the floods in Yorkshire, we didn’t hesitate to put on our wellies, high vis vests and get stuck in.

Oleander

Name: Oleander Hall 

Age: 15

Location: Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

I wanted to contribute to my community as I felt I took without giving.

I came across girlguiding, which seemed perfect as I had enjoyed being a rainbow, brownie and guide in the various countries we have lived in around the world and there was a brownie pack ten-minutes’ walk from my boarding school.

I now volunteer and really enjoy it. I help with setting up and overseeing activities, supporting the brownies with their tasks and leading activities. I am another person that the girls can interact with and a listening ear; hopefully I inspire them.

I’ve learnt how to lead and help people who are younger than I am, rather than just my age group, and have become more comfortable working with children and understanding their needs.

I also feel part of a team and have learned the responsibility of regular commitment.

I’ve recently become ‘Little Owl’ and attend planning meetings, which is helping me learn more skills. I hope to start some of the leadership training available through girlguiding soon. My confidence in my own abilities and how I interact with others has grown and I enjoy the independence it gives me. I’m able to get out of school life, have a change of pace and give back to the local community that otherwise I wouldn’t have much contact with.

I would definitely recommend volunteering to others. I feel that I’m learning lots, it gives me another outlet other than school and I come away feeling that I have helped, even if it is only one child – plus it costs nothing to do.

Sam

Name: Sam Judge 

Age: 14

Location: Ralston, Canada

For the last three years I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to play ice hockey, which is one of Canada’s main sports and one of the best sports I’ve ever played. I play for a team called the Ralston Wildcats, which is spilt into two groups, seniors (ages 9-16) and juniors (4-8). Each season I feel like I’ve improved so now in my third season, it’s the ideal time to pass these skills down to the younger players.

I wanted to volunteer because ice hockey is a hard sport to learn so I thought it would be fun to help teach the younger ones. They were also short of coaches, so it’s a good way of supporting the community.

Over the past six months I’ve seen the juniors massively improve their skills and have bonded with many of them. I help set up the equipment and get the younger ones into their kit and then on to the ice to do the drills. I love helping because each session is different, and it’s great to see the kids improve their skills each time.

I’ve also been a member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets for the last two years. We do many volunteer activities in the community including fundraising, selling poppies and laying wreaths on Remembrance Day.

I think other service children should volunteer and do activities that contribute to the community because it improves your skills and teaches you things you never thought you could do. You also get to meet new people, make new friends, and at the end of the day you feel good about yourself if you’ve made a difference.

USEFUL LINKS

ukyouth.org

step-together.org.uk

childrenssociety.org.uk

volunteeringmatters.org.uk

vinspired.com

volunteering-wales.net

volunteerscotland.net

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