Our volunteers are an integral part of our organisation, without them we simply would not exist. We strive to ensure our volunteers have the right roles, and that we make their contributions feel valued.
Michelle is involved with the Exploration and Actvities Programme and helps with transport.
Clare is involved with the Exploration and Activities Programmes and helps with fundraising.
Make a difference.
We are looking for people of all ages and backgrounds to help us support young carers and their families. We have a number of different roles for people to get involved with...
Our Exploration Programme empowers individuals with the skills and confidence to manage the challenges faced by being a young carer.
We meet Wednesday evenings during term time 4pm to 6pm and 6:30pm to 8:30pm
The longer I volunteer and hear their stories I realise just how important coming to the project is to them, its a place they can be themselves, talk openly about their lives and make new friends who understand.
I enjoy seeing the young people grow in confidence, make friendships, feel safe and accepted, learn to share difficult feelings and gain new life skills and having fun - that is what is most rewarding and i feel very proud to be a small part of that journey.
I have never had one second when I have not felt pleased and privileged to be a volunteer. It is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
I can’t imagine anyone coming to volunteer and not enjoying and learning from the experience.
It is really rewarding, you meet lots of amazing youngsters who really need Winchester Young Carers in their lives and its great to feel you can help in a small way.
My journey with Winchester Young Carers started four years ago when I met a friendly volunteer fundraising outside Sainsbury’s Badger Farm. I had been looking for a local community project to volunteer for, preferably with children, so this charity seemed like a great fit. On and off during my adult life I have volunteered in a number of different capacities; my view is that we all need help at some point in our lives and I believe in giving help back.
When I found out more about what WYCP do through the website and through my induction training and shadowing, I thought to myself, I wish I’d had access to a young carer’s project when I was a child. And that is a thought that has been voiced by a number of people I have proudly talked to about the project – struggling parents or adults who were once young carers, who had no access to support, or were previously not aware of such projects. So, from the outset I knew that this charity provided a much needed and extremely valuable service.
The more I learnt about the project the more I was impressed by its scope and reach – the Winchester Young carer’s model works because it is multi-faceted and multi-targeted. It not only works with the young people individually but systemically within their families and schools. As volunteers we support the young people both in groups and at an individual level through The Explorer Programme as well as befriending, through a wide range of activities and residentials, and by working closely with other children’s services.
When I first joined, I was also delighted to find such a great bunch of volunteers and project team, who I’ve continued to be in awe of – Ben, Anna, Alison and Tana – between them, they work miracles every day. Us volunteers bring to the table our different personalities, backgrounds and skills – and even though people come and go – all of us are united in one purpose, to help the young carers as best we can.
My particular volunteering role involves working with the Upper group – the 14 to 17-year-olds, mainly on the Explorer Programme. Over the course of the 6-7 sessions, we work with the young people to help them better understand their caring roles, the impact it has on them and to help them develop coping strategies and tools, such as the popular Wellness Tool Box, to overcome difficulties and manage challenging feelings.
My role involves getting the young people, who have no means of tranaport, to the project in the first place, making them feel welcome, taking an interest in them and their lives, listening, sharing with the group, supervising and encouraging them to share or try something new. I also get involved in as many activities and fundraising events as I can. The activities provide much needed respite, particularly from the worries the young people carry, and provides the opportunities for them to just be children. WYCP also put a lot of effort into looking after and showing their appreciation of their volunteers through training, volunteer drop-ins, end of programme wrap-ups and fun socials.
Working with children and young people in this context, can sometimes be hard when you see particular individuals who are consistently dealing with highly challenging life experiences and situations but I always think, thank goodness, they have the young carer’s project. One challenge I’ve found is when young people leave the programme suddenly because of circumstances beyond the control of the project, and you don’t get to say goodbye; but it’s just one of those things you have to deal with when working in such capacities. Talking to the other volunteers and project leaders always helps. But one of the best comforts is knowing that Winchester Young Carer’s door is always open if the young person can or needs to come back, which some of them do.
The young people I’ve worked with have and continue to inspire me – to be even more open, to be vulnerable and to face my fears; I am someone that has always shied away from public speaking but when the opportunity to speak at the AGM came up, I wanted to overcome my fear to share my experiences with you, and to honour these young people who are brave every single day. One of the tasks we ask them to do on the programme is to give each other advice on a particular challenge – it’s phenomenal what these young people come up with and I’m usually taking a few tips away with me myself! Equally they have a lot to teach people about kindness – not only in terms of their caring roles but they are also very respectful, caring and supportive of each other, which is also reflected in them taking the “no put downs” rule very seriously. It’s a joy to hear the positive messages they give each other at the end of the programme, and certainly brings a few tears to the eyes.
With any kind of organisation, whether it’s private sector or a charity, there has to be some form of measurement, and this is something WYCP are very good at. For example, there are feedback forms after every session or activity and at the beginning of the programme the young people fill in an Outcome Star, rating themselves on areas such as confidence, aspirations and learning. At the end of the programme they fill them in again and look at where there have been shifts and improvements.
But these metrics rely on self-report and if a child is anxious or self-critical, for example, their view of themselves may well be skewed. So, sometimes the leaps and shifts they make can only be seen by actually being there with them. Such as the young person who for several sessions has passed on sharing something with the group, about how they feel, and one session suddenly finds their voice, or the young person who has been distracting rather than engaging within the group – which is often used to mask their own insecurities – who one day starts engaging, taking the lead and taking pride in themselves, or the young person who has been sat apart from the group shy and quiet who one day you see chatting with others and laughing away because they have found a sense of belonging in their tribe.
Trust, feeling safe, acceptance, support, friendship, kindness, fun, gaining confidence, being themselves – these are the things the young carers say they have found from being at the project, and I feel honoured to play a small part in these special young people’s journeys.
When my son was in year 9 at Kings School he had a friend who unbeknown to all of us was caring for his mum. When things took a turn for the worst and she was admitted to hospital, he came to live with us, it was during this time that a teacher at Kings School made aware for the first time of Winchester Young Carers, explaining to me that had they known this young boys situation, they would of referred him to Winchester Young Carers for support.
At the time I remember thinking what a fantastic charity this was and so a couple of years ago when I found myself with the time I became a volunteer.
I now volunteer alternative Wednesday evenings at Unit 12 working with the older group to help deliver the ‘EXPLORATION PROGRAMME’ this gives the young carers an opportunity to share their feelings, concerns and needs which they have in their caring roles, we in return give them the tools to help cope and support them.
When I first started volunteering I felt really daunted, hearing about the lives/issues the young carers faced on a day to day basis and was slightly nervous about heading up one of the smaller groups which is when we go through topics in more detail, not knowing how I should best respond, advise etc. But I was supported in the early weeks by Anna/Tana and the other volunteers who were great, until I felt confident enough to lead a group on my own.
As a volunteer I still continue to find it very humbling and emotional listening to the day to day issues a lot of these young people have to deal with, but I also now know, how much Winchester Young Carers helps them, and equally how important it is to these young carers lives. Seeing the young carers come through the programme, watching the positive changes in their personalities and confidence, is amazing, here they feel safe and welcomed, in an environment where they can freely discuss how they are feeling, discuss issues they are worried about knowing they will never be judged and equally importantly knowing that this is a time just for them.
As a volunteer I realise that probably LISTENING to these young people is a really important part we can play.