In East Anglia, young volunteers are helping adults with learning disabilities to volunteer! The project Supported Volunteering, by Volunteering Matters Norfolk, helps adults to engage within the local community and boost their confidence thanks to European Voluntary Service (EVS) participants.
Projects like this can now be supported by the European Solidarity Corps, which funds opportunities for young people to volunteer or work in projects in their own country or abroad, benefiting communities and people around Europe.
Assisting with using public transport or processing a sale through an electronic till in a shop, the participants support upwards of 40 adults in total – all of whom need support to engage in volunteering.
Volunteering Matters Norfolk has been hosting EVS and Erasmus+ volunteers for over 15 years.
Project manager Helen Cooper says:
Our volunteers provide our beneficiaries with a consistent and valuable source of support and are an integral part of our projects’ ‘engine’.
“It is very difficult to pick out any one volunteer, as they all come with their own skills and experiences to share, and all have made a difference to both our beneficiaries and our project”, says Helen.
For that reason, we share below examples of four volunteers who had an impact on the lives of people they worked with:
Jan Dieken from Germany
Jan helped a male volunteer within a residential care home, supporting him to clean wheelchairs, prepare tables for lunches, cleaning afterwards, and to socialise with the residents. This brought benefits not only for the volunteer assisted by Jan, but for the home’s residents as well.
Jan’s support was instrumental to give the volunteer confidence to perform these tasks alone. It made it possible for him to attend the voluntary placement, where he was able to give back to the community while building confidence and self-esteem.
Katja Bittner from Germany
Katja helped a young adult with autism at a charity shop every week. He had one-to-one support from Katja during this placement (unlike other places he attended), and both were volunteering, side by side.
“This gave him an opportunity to have ownership of his tasks and to engage in social inclusion, as much as his autism would allow. He also got the chance to talk and to be listened to. This was so very important for him, as he has siblings who also have learning disabilities, so life at home can be somewhat chaotic. The benefits that Katja brought to this young adult cannot be measured or put into statistics, as they needed to be seen and appreciated for the full impact”, emphasises Helen.
With Katja, the young man was able to focus and manage his timetable, which enables him to maintain the voluntary placement.
Giulia Savoia from Italy and Florine Gabant from France
Once a month, Giulia and Florine supported three young men to going out in the evening in the local town. Although going out may sound usual for young people, Helen reminds that many individuals they work with have had very limited social lives and often only venture out with their parents and families.
The volunteers offered an opportunity for these three young men to enjoy an evening out with people of their own age and to experience an evening out without feeling vulnerable or afraid. They provided a safety net for those moments where they may be unsure or unable to find the words when ordering a drink. Both volunteers gave support for these young men into the community and to an enjoyable evening, which otherwise they would not be able to experience.
Helen mentions the impact the volunteers bring to the community in Norfolk:
“Without our EVS volunteers, many of our beneficiaries would be far more isolated and not have positive and focused placements where they are able to increase their skill base, confidence, self-esteem and become the best person they can be.”