Posts Tagged 'volunteering'

About a Boy

I know, I know… I haven’t blogged for ages. I’m debating taking it up again but we shall see. In the meantime, here’s a little something Christmas related 🙂

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I think most everyone has at least one year in their lives that stands out as being incredibly difficult from start to finish. My year was 2011. It was a year of loss, job woes and a whole raft of health concerns (mine and others) that left a black cloud hanging over me pretty much from start to finish.

One of the most upsetting features of the year was the death of my grandmother. Many people don’t understand my level of devastation from losing her but my grandma lived with us for 20 years of my life so it was like losing a member of my immediate family. I didn’t realise until a while after she’d gone just to what extent she’d left a hole in my life. I took to calling it my “Grandma shaped hole” and it represented all the time I’d have otherwise spent with her – talking on the phone every week, playing board games, taking her shopping (she was wheelchair bound in later years), and just generally spending time with her.

When you enjoy doing something you don’t notice the amount of time it takes up in your life, and when that time suddenly frees up it can be quite astonishing. I decided I wanted to do something else now she was gone. Something to fill the Grandma shaped hole; another way to spend my time with someone who could do with a little extra love and company in their life. My initial thought was to other old folk. There are so many of them alone with so little company and comfort and I was quite used to their needs. But my grandparents are irreplaceable and after all the recent losses I didn’t feel emotionally strong enough to put myself in a position where I might lose someone I came to love yet again. And when I spoke to a local charity about the level of commitment they asked for I was disappointed at their lack of flexibility, something which was an important factor for a full time worker with a big commute and irregular hours. So while I still believe it was the right decision for me at the time, I decided I couldn’t go the old folk route, but in all honesty I’m a little ashamed of myself for it. I don’t have any children of my own and there’s a very good chance I’ll end up as one of those lovely but lonely people one day, and I’d like to think that someone would do the same for me. I hope in a few years I find enough strength to re-evaluate my choice and walk that path.

So next on the hit list was animals. My husband was the first to try and talk me out of this option. Knowing my weakness for any animal in need of some love he had visions of me turning into a Dr Dolittle, bringing home all sorts of random and raggedy animals, or getting too attached and being upset when they were homed (or worse…). A friend of ours volunteers in a shelter and she told me how hard it was plus, yet again, it meant a very rigid commitment. So another choice off the table.

I had originally omitted children from my research because, frankly, I don’t know an awful lot about them. At the time not many of my friends had them (this has since changed – I think 95% of everyone I know on Facebook has had a baby in the last couple of years – something which throws up its own separate challenges) and I thought that, of all the options, it would probably require the most commitment. But I decided to research it nonetheless, particularly when, through work, I met an inspiring man from a charity called Norwood and one of the children they supported. My research brought me to several organisations, one called NYAS, who were looking for Independent Visitors (IVs) and who I ultimately decided to go with. IVs are a bit like the US big brother programme I suppose. You are matched with a child in the care system and simply spend time with them and act as a good, stable influence on their lives. Unlike most kinds of volunteering, working with children requires an epic amount of training and checks. It took the better part of 8 months to be trained and cleared to work as an IV. Eventually though, I was matched with a boy.

For obvious reasons I can’t tell you much about The Boy. But I can tell you he’s a fantastic character who I love spending time with. He’s done nothing to deserve being where he is today; his situation is entirely a consequence of other people’s actions and his life is not always an easy one. In the six or so months since I met him he’s been moved homes, moved schools twice, had a new key worker, had a new social worker… You name it. NOTHING stays the same in these children’s lives.

So my blog post today is about a boy. It’s about a boy who showed me that, for some children, Christmas can be a challenging and sometimes sad time. It’s about a boy who has very little stability in his life and yet still manages to bounce back every time and make do with the situation. He inspires me constantly and has a truly profound and positive impact on my life.

Christmas is a wonderful, happy time for most people, but not for everyone. So my cheesy Christmas wish is that you spare a thought for those who won’t be laughing and fighting round the dinner table this year, but who are unable to spend it with their families, who are homeless, who are alone, who are giving their time to others, or who are unwell and having a really tough time of it.

And if you are able to do more than spare a thought then please also think about sparing some of your time. My commitment is 4hrs a month plus the odd text message and phone call. It’s tiny in terms of time (and incredibly flexible) but big in terms of impact. And if you can’t do something regularly then help at a Christmas shelter or even just ring up that great aunt who’s on her own and invite her round for dinner. Your time is so very much more valuable than your money and, while money will of course help any charity, the rewards you reap from giving your time are ten fold and the impact so much greater.

I hope your 2013 has not been my 2011. For some of you it will have been and for some of you it won’t have been the first awful year you’ve made it through either. There is always so much to be grateful for though, so however your year has been I hope your Christmas is a happy one and wish you all the best for the new year.

Merry Christmas!

-Wendy


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About Me

Over ten years’ recruitment, employability, HR and sales experience in both the private and public sectors. I've worked in construction recruitment, FMCG headhunting, and in higher education on the employability agenda.

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