All our programmes that help young people to raise their aspirations and achieve their career goals are supported by an amazing team of volunteers who selflessly give up their free time to support us on the front lines of changing young lives. Here, we are bringing you their stories.
I grew up as an only child. I went to a convent school and didn’t do particularly well – I actually left and went to boarding school. When I was 16, my Dad passed. I got through my GCSE’s but then my mother had some mental health problems and we went away travelling with my aunt and uncle.
When we returned to the UK, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I started working in a jeans shop and ended up living above it. I was 17, I didn’t have any money and I was paying for the electricity meter and all the bills. I didn’t know what I was doing with my life.
I trained to be an aromatherapist and a beauty therapist, but I got dermatitis, so I couldn’t work with my hands anymore. I trained to be a personal assistant and worked as a secretary until 1991, when I had my first child. A few years after that I moved to Hong Kong and lived there for about eight years, during which time I had two more children.
How did you come to volunteer for Making The Leap?
I always wanted to do charity work and a friend, Tessa, invited me to work with Making The Leap. When I found out what they did I didn’t believe I could do it. I went away thinking, ‘if I don’t get a volunteer job at a charity then I’m really going to feel bad about my life.’ Thankfully I did get the job!
When I attended my first Modular Training Session, I found it extremely challenging and afterwards I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it as the assessment process was quite tough. The Head of Delivery, Marlene, took me to one side and told me she knew I was passionate and that I could do it. That really helped.
What is your role and what are the biggest challenges you face?
I’ve been there for two years now. I’ll do anything really – I help on the workshop, I love mock interviews, and I’m always signed up to do the Social Mobility Careers Fair. I can be flexible and Making The Leap is the same, which I love.
I think I’m much better if someone gives me the modules and lets me learn it a week before. I love the children and young people, and I really get into my role. I add stories and props – I take an old-fashioned telephone with me, which always amuses them. I just try to bring the experience to life.
As you do it again and again you figure out how to work with the young people and figure them out. The ones that are quiet will put their hands up with a bit of encouragement. Some kids have their hands on their heads the whole time, but I find having a quiet word with them privately to try and build their confidence often helps.
It’s given me so much confidence and added purpose to my life. I’ve come on a long journey to even get to the classroom today. I’ve tried to be responsible, committed, and punctual – I’ve made a huge effort giving my time, so I expect the same from the kids.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering? Do you have a favourite moment?
When I see all the positive feedback after a session it makes me feel so good. Generally, I’ve had smiley faces and lovely comments – that makes it all worthwhile. I always tell the young people that now is the time to get your qualifications. Don’t leave it too late. Take the opportunities you are given now.
The other volunteers are fantastic too. A lot of us are similar people and we all have a good laugh – some of us even walk our dogs together.
Why would you recommend working with us to other people looking for volunteer work?
It got me out of my comfort zone, which is something people at my age rarely do. I know I get on well with people, so I wanted to use that to make a difference.
We can get these kids out in the world as positive young adults with a career, who can achieve their dreams. The staff at Making The Leap are so positive and amazing and they really do help people. I keep telling my friends about it and trying to get them to sign up – they think it’s scary but I tell them it’s good for you!
If you’d like to join Sarah in our fantastic team of volunteers, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You could make a real difference!
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