Make my day

Guaranteed, it will end up being the high point of your day   -  By Emma Bird

By Kierra Box, Team Mentor

"I had a great experience of Envision as a student myself 10 years ago and I wanted to give something back to the organisation that had given me so much.

I’ve been volunteering as a Team Mentor with Envision for three years now and it’s been a fantastic way to spend Monday afternoons. It’s a nice break from work and it’s a reminder of what inspired me originally.

Since leaving education I’ve always worked with young people. But as my career has developed my job has become a bit divorced from the actually working with them directly. Volunteering with Envision has been a chance for me to remember what it’s like to talk to young people face-to-face. 

Supportive environment

Being a Team Mentor there are lots of opportunities for training and to meet the other volunteers. There’s a strong volunteer network and it really makes you feel like you’re working as part of a bigger team, rather than just an individual.

Compared to some of the other volunteer experiences I’ve had Envision feels a lot more organic and relaxed. It feels like something that keeps developing while you’re involved in it and as you contribute. I suppose that’s why I really like the Envision volunteer experience. It’s not just about them saying they have volunteers and talking about support- Envision really makes you feel that your contributions are valued and that you’re an essential part of how the organisation runs.

I’ve been struck by how invigorating the training has been, how much we’ve learned and how interesting it’s been. Everyone brings different skills as a volunteer and everyone learns something new, from facilitation techniques to completely new ways of working. The training just really brings all the volunteers to a level together where we can all share different experiences. 

What I’ve really enjoyed this year is the opportunity to support newer volunteers. That’s why I think it’s good to have the training mixed between older and newer volunteers. It’s really nice to feel that as a volunteer you’re kind of part of the process of inducting newer volunteer.

Getting stuck in

In terms of the support you get while running a team, it’s great that there is a standard structure and established materials that you can use- but also that you’re given the opportunity to do other things that seem suitable like, introduce additional activities or opportunities that are really relevant to the teams development.

Kierra (far left) and her Envision team from Queens Park Community School

"I think what I’ve always really liked about Envision is that it doesn’t just say it’s a young person directed- it actually is entirely young people led, and the focus is on the process as well as the outcome. Envision really believes that what the students are getting out of the experience in terms of their own development and experiences is just as valuable as the practical result at the end.

Impact on young people

I had one student this year who turned up at the team meeting and began a debate about racism. Now, right at the beginning of the programme he would either say nothing at all or go off on a tangent, but on this occasion he really opened up and talked about these thoughts that are actually big social issues. And you could really see he was enjoying the interaction.  

I felt really proud that we got this guy to come out of his shell and talk about something serious and realise that he had something to say.

As Team Mentors I think we can offer young people an opportunity or an environment that’s a bit more questioning and open to debate - open to them sharing their ideas without fear of being 'wrong' or laughed at.

Finding the motivation

I’ve had many uninspiring days that really turned around by having the chance to talk to some really great young people and help them achieve something they’re really proud of. 

I totally understand that when you’ve been at work all day and you’re exhausted, or you’ve got plans that evening, that the last thing you want to do is go be enthusiastic at a group of young people. But I can guarantee you that that ends up being the high point of your day.

For an inspiring day

If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity that builds your career or skills, there are lots of those out there. If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity that makes you feel good about yourself then you can help old ladies across the road. But if you’re looking at getting all those things together and just have a really inspiring time, and coming out at the end of it with a number of really practical, tangible projects that you can point at and say ‘we did that’, then that’s why you volunteer at Envision."