We speak to Josh Stone, 23, who volunteers as a Volunteer Youth Worker as part of a Student Placement.
Hi Josh! So how did you first hear about Bolton Lads & Girls Club?
The Volunteer Coordinator came into the University to give a presentation, but I also had BLGC in mind as it was in the module guide.
Why did you decide to volunteer your time?
I volunteered in the first place to satisfy the minimum 60 hours needed for my Applied Experience module at University, but I have since stayed on just because of how much I’ve enjoyed it.
What is your normal volunteering session like?
It can be quite hectic at times as we change the activities every hour which keeps it interesting and fun. We set up mini assault courses with blind folds, crab football, and balloon volleyball, which is a popular one at the moment, and a few prizes for those having the best time! However, I don’t think it’s really about the activities, one minute you could be running the activity, the next you could be consoling a young person whose might have a problem at home. Over a couple of weeks of volunteering, you start to realise that you’re actually playing a lot of different roles and that it’s about more than just running some activities.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
The whole role is really enjoyable which is why I’m still here. My favourite part of the role is kind of a double-edged sword. Sometimes you’re faced with some quiet difficult situations where a young person might be crying, and that’s really disheartening to start with, but when you turn that around, and they leave the Club a lot happier when they first came, because of the impact you’ve had, that’s the most enjoyable part for me.
What support do you get from the club?
I got lots of support. The shadowing opportunities that I’ve had have been amazing, especially the team I volunteer with in the Senior Club. Everyone is so skilled and diligent that I learn something every time I’m here, from Tia, Beth, Leon and the others. A few weeks ago I was shadowing Leon out on the Astroturf and throughout he was explaining how to deal with each and every situation, and clearly demonstrating it to me, which then allowed me to do the same when another situation came up recently. The opportunity to develop my own skills through that support has been great.
How does volunteering fit into your life?
I also have two part time jobs, so it fits well between the two, and also whilst I was at University.
What has been your most rewarding experience whilst volunteering?
We took a young person to a Young Council meeting to discuss issues with other young people. The young person was really anxious to start with and didn’t know what to say, but I had spoken to her in the Club on numerous occasions building a relationship, getting to know her, and slowly she had started to open up to me. I do phycology and we had had quite a few conversations about that because she seemed really interested and enjoyed talking about it. So during this meeting, when I noticed how nervous she was and getting worked up about what to say, I just pointed at my head, and straight away you could see her light up as she started to talk about phycology and how passionate she was about it. Just to see someone go from being so shy and timid, to this confident and passionate young person, with no stuttering or anything, was incredible to see.
What has been your biggest challenge?
It has probably been around the mental health of the young people in the Club. My first session, I noticed a young person with cuts on his arms that he had self-inflicted and was trying to hide. It was obviously a shock and very serious, so I straight away knew it was my responsibility to let a member of staff know, and I knew the right procedure from the training we did before starting. We took him into another room and we started talking about his home life, and school, and the problems he was dealing with, and it was really upsetting and saddening to hear that from a young person. There’s a lot of great stuff around mental health and the Club already, but I want to be a part of developing that further and supporting the young people as best as we can.
How has this helped your future career aspirations?
From volunteering I actually got a job in the Club, and I’m excited to get more involved especially around the mental health side, and see where my career takes me in the Club!
Why should other people get involved with the club?
I think from a student’s point of view, many of us have very little experience working with young people. This was the case for me anyway, as this was my first opportunity working with young people, and when I first started it was quite daunting going over and approaching a young person. Volunteering at BLGC has given me a great opportunity to build confidence, which I think is great for students who want to overcome that nervousness, anxiety, and lack of confidence, which can be applied in other situations too.
Would you recommend volunteering with BLGC to other people considering it?
It’s definitely an amazing experience, and it gives you a great opportunity to build your confidence, and get a sense of reward out of it. You can see the effects of your work within minutes. Once you’ve spoken to a young person, they go away happy, and you go away happy too, because you’ve just changed their day around, which can have a long term effect, helping young people achieve their full potential.
Thanks Josh, you’ve been a fantastic volunteer, and we are so glad you’ve now joined the team as a member of staff!