One of the strengths of the Youth Chaplaincy project is our team of volunteers. The diverse nature of this work means that we need all sorts of different people, with different skills and backgrounds, so that we can work most effectively with the range of adults and young people we meet across the city.
With that in mind, we thought it would be great if some of our fabulous volunteers could share their stories in their own words, about what it means to work with the Youth Chaplaincy project.
This article is the first in a series called ‘In Their Own Words’. Each article is written by a volunteer, describing their own experience of engaging with staff and students in a local setting. Perhaps when you’ve read it, you might feel inspired to become a volunteer yourself, or you might know someone who’d be really suited to this work. Don’t be shy! Drop us an email, or ring Julie in the Deanery office with your details and have an informal chat with us about what volunteering involves – we’d love to hear from you!
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My name is Paul and I have been involved with the project for nearly 3 years. When I began it was two separate projects – the Youth Project and FE Chaplaincy. I had not long retired from working as a Community Therapist within the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Southampton, and was looking to fill my time utilising the skill set I had acquired over the years as a therapist.
Under the Youth project I volunteered as part of the Reading Resilience programme for years 7 and 8 at Mayfield School. I would attend the school each Monday morning at 8.10am and make my way to one of the rooms where the programme was being run. I would be there for around 30 minutes and listen to 4 or 5 pupils read to me from the books they had chosen under the programme. These books ranged from the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinny, The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth to Paper Towns by John Green.
As I visited the same class over a 2 year period, it was so rewarding to see the development of their reading abilities. I commented to one pupil that I had been very impressed with the improvement of her reading prowess in the time I had been with her. Her face lit up and she thanked me. She then said that this was the first time that she had received any praise of this kind.
I continued in this role until December 2015.
Alongside this I was also a volunteer with the FE Chaplaincy Project. I attended Portsmouth College where I offered my services as a counsellor on Wednesday and Thursday morning, seeing 4 students on each morning. The range of issues presented by those students range from Exam Stress to Relationship issues, Bereavement to Domestic Abuse, Depression and Anxiety to Anger, Deliberate Self-Harm to Suicidal thoughts and much more in between.
In this role I also offered Clinical Supervision to the Support Staff within the Student Support Services unit at the College.
I was also delighted to have been invited to share my views about how each of the two projects could be taken forward. I am not sure how much my views influenced the subsequent amalgamation of the two projects to form the one new project, namely the Youth Chaplaincy Project.
It was also a privilege to support the leader of the Youth Project in interviewing some of the potential volunteers for the project itself.
Under this “new” project, Mayfield School became aware of my counselling skills and in January 2016 I let go of supporting the Reading Resilience Programme and now offer counselling on a Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon, seeing 3 pupils on each of those sessions. Some of the issues presented at the school have ranged from Transgender to Self-Harm, Low mood and Anxiety to teenage pregnancy, and much more.
I also continue to offer 8 counselling sessions to Portsmouth College, and some clinical supervision to Support Staff within the Youth Chaplaincy Project.
This means that the total time I offer the Youth Chaplaincy Project amounts to at least 14 hours a week during School Terms.
In all the “work” (I have put work in inverted commas as I love what I do, and it doesn’t feel like work) there has been a lot of rewarding work alongside hearing some very distressing and difficult stories the young people have presented. There is one student who I worked with at Portsmouth College who stands out for me. She came to me presenting in a very low mood, very conscious of her body image, lacking in confidence, very little self-belief, social anxiety, and self-harming. We worked together for the best part of two years, and she is now in her third year at college. She popped in to see me a few weeks ago to say thank you for all I did for her. She hasn’t self-harmed in over 18 months, has been out for meals with groups of friends she has since made, something she never thought she could ever manage. She has a new boyfriend, a small part time job and has a guaranteed place at Bristol University to study Graphic Design. In thanking me she said that if it had not been for me she sincerely believes that she would have given up college and spent all her days under the duvet cover. She is now a very happy confident young lady who, I am pretty sure, will, in years to come, make a valuable contribution to society. It has been a joy and privilege to share a small part of her journey through her education at Portsmouth College.
I feel that the “work” I do can make such positive differences and it is so rewarding to receive the kind of feedback I had from this young lady.