VOLUNTEERS with Warwickshire Friendship Project have spoken about how rewarding supporting the charity is.
Once a week people of all ages offer their time to take out a vulnerable child as part of the project – set up some 30 years ago and which has since has helped some 1,000 children aged six to 16 who are often referred through their school or children’s services.
Volunteer Helen Yendall from Stratford said: “The 12-year-old boy I befriended through the project always wanted to know what was coming up on our regular Saturday morning outing – even before we’d had that week’s activity. And I must admit, his enthusiasm was infectious.
“As a volunteer myself, the most fun I had was seeing my younger friend enjoying activities he’d never done before – often simple things, like collecting conkers and picking blackberries. Other volunteers have taught their younger friends to ride a bike, to knit and to bake cakes – the kind of things that many children take for granted but that disadvantaged children may miss out on.
“Many of the children referred to the charity are isolated and lonely. Some have been bereaved or bullied, others have disabled siblings, so, sadly, their parents have less time for them or they might be a young carer, looking after a sick family member. For these children, even playing in the park or going to the cinema is a rare treat and having some time out from often difficult home situations really does improve the child’s self-worth and confidence.”
And volunteers say along with being a positive experience for the children, it is also rewarding for them too.
The charity’s longest serving volunteer, 82-year-old Joan Bolton, said seeing a younger persons’ confidence and self-esteem grow was the best reward.
The retired teacher from Warwick said: “Myself and my younger friends have pedalled along a cycle route with my Yorkshire terrier running alongside, played hide and seek and walked up a secret path with a surprise at the end – the Stratford Canal – where invariably a boat would be approaching the lock and the children were invited to help open the lock gates. It’s been great seeing the children develop and become so much more confident. The past 20 years has been a real pleasure.”
Visit www.friendshipproject.co.uk or call 0845 8382098 to find out more.