Here we speak to Liz Nabb, one of our amazing Volunteer Independent Visitors, as she tells us a bit more about her experience over the last ten years!
Hi Liz! What do you do as a volunteer at Bolton Lads & Girls Club?
I started volunteering with Bolton Lads & Girls Club ten years ago, back in 2009. In that time I have been a Mentor for three young people and I am now an Independent Visitor for another after switching volunteering roles in 2017.
How did you first hear about mentoring?
Before I retired, I used to work at Co-op and they had a volunteering scheme. Most people were only interested in volunteering for a day here and there, but I wanted something long term I could get involved in and would also give me some transferable skills. Volunteering as a Mentor with BLGC was one of the opportunities they offered, and it sounded like exactly what I was looking for.
What is the difference between being a Mentor and an Independent Visitor?
I haven’t seen much difference to be honest, I think they are very closely aligned, probably because I did the mentoring before, so I do use similar ideas and activities. I think mentoring is a bit more structured as it is a journey and the young person has goals we work towards, whilst being an IV is being a constant person who is there for them.
What is a normal volunteering session like?
Each time is different! All of my young people have been girls, but they all had different personalities and needs so we would do different things. My first young person was 8 years old, she had so much confidence but due to her home life was old beyond her years, and so we did activities that would remind her she was 8 and not 16! My second match was 11 and very quiet when we first started, so our activities focused on building her confidence and self esteem. ! Mentoring has clear objectives on what a young person wants to develop and so I tried to build our activities around those goals, but still making sure it’s fun. For example, they use maths when baking or playing a board game, but it doesn’t feel like an intense maths lesson. We’ve done so many different things together. In the winter we would use the club a lot and have indoor picnic or watch a film, do some reading or craft activities, all of them seemed to like creative things. All of my young people have also really enjoyed cooking and baking. It’s a real sense of achievement for them and you can see how proud they are when they can take something home and show everyone what they have made. Apart from that we also go to the park or have a game of bowling.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
The young people are really nice and they just want to spend time with you. It’s been great as I’ve been able to do activities that I wouldn’t usually get to do, like playing on the swings in the park or arts and crafts. I am realistic about what I can achieve, and I know I can’t change the world, but if we all do a small thing, we can make a difference. To hear and see that you are making a difference to a young person is special and so I find it very rewarding.
What has been your favourite moment?
When I first met the second young person I was matched with, she didn’t engage with people and most people labelled her as difficult and insolent. She wasn’t, she was shy, so we spent time together building her confidence and self esteem. When she performed at the club for a fundraising event, I was so proud of her as when I first met her, she would never have done anything like that. Seeing her and the other young people I’ve been matched with grow and achieve things like that, as well as feeling more settled and doing well in their life’s, is the best part. Most people would think that the match ends are sad, but they aren’t, they are just a lovely experience and some of my favourite moments. You’ve been on a journey together and at the end they have come out the other side and don’t need you anymore, and we are both better people for it.
What support have you had?
I’ve had loads of support, I can’t fault it. Mentors receive really good training and the Coordinators are always honest and make sure you are prepared. We have also had refresher training and additional training in mental health and disabilities and the support continues to grow. The few issues I have had, the Coordinators have always sorted it straight away.
What do you think the young people get from mentoring?
I have seen them turn from young girls into young women. You can see they are more confident and feel able make good decisions for themselves.
What do you think you have got out of volunteering?
I find it so rewarding. It was also a great way to make sure I had a work-life balance when I was working as I had to leave on time as I had a commitment, and gives me time away from work and family, doing an activity I probably wouldn’t normally do! I’m also a big believer in giving back to my community and I think when we help to improve our community, we are all winners.
Would you recommend volunteering at Bolton Lads & Girls Club?
I would definitely recommend it. If you are thinking of it, I say give it a go! You may think you haven’t got time or it’s too challenging or are a bit scared. But trust me, you find the time and you have the support from the Club.