The 17-year-old student volunteers at Unity, Norwood’s recreational, play and youth service for children with disabilities. She is based at Hendon at the Kennedy Leigh Centre and Pears Wing for Children
I started working for Norwood because a close friend of mine, who suffers from Rett Syndrome, was a member of Unity as a child and loved it so much that I had to go and see what was making her smile. Unity is one of the friendliest environments I have ever experienced, and the staff and children do not fail to bring a smile to my face.
What does your volunteering involve?
Upon arrival, the volunteers are given a child to work with for the afternoon/morning. I see it as my job to have fun with whoever I am working with. With some members it involves being active, being chased around the building, going wild in the ball pond, or playing an imaginary game. With others it involves reading a story, listening to music or just talking. At Unity we try to get the children involved in activities like art and cooking, as it is always nice for them to have something to take home to show their family, as a way for some of them to say, “Look what I did today!”
What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer?
The thing I most enjoy is finding a way to get through to a child who is difficult to engage. It may be singing “If you’re happy and you know it” or talking about their family, and their face lights up because, suddenly, they understand you, and you can understand them.
What is your most memorable volunteering moment?
My most memorable Unity moment was on a trip to an adventure playground. I was working with a child who found walking quite difficult but really wanted to climb up a spiral staircase of over 100 steps. I explained to him that this would be a difficult task, but he really wanted to try. So we did, and without stopping, we climbed the entire staircase. The look on his face when he got to the top was priceless. Coming down was a lot less easy, but the cheer waiting for us at the bottom of the steps was worth the effort for both of us.