Over the past seven years, Sovereign Health Care is proud to have donated in excess of £4 million to good causes. These include organisations that work to improve the wellbeing of people in Bradford and the surrounding area, such as Centrepoint.
In 2015, Centrepoint received £4,420 from Sovereign Health Care towards the cost of a new minibus. The charity provides accommodation services, independent living support and works with more than 300 people in Bradford every day. The minibus will allow them to support accommodation moves and transport young people to in-house workshops and other group activities.
Volunteers are vital for the success of Centrepoint and in this blog we hear from a member of their team in Bradford about the important work they do.
Hi, I’m Diane Richards, and I have been a volunteer mentor with Centrepoint for just over a month. My main role is to support young people to achieve their goals, whether this be in education, training, employment or a combination of the three.
My main reason for becoming a volunteer was to show young people that anything is possible. I know how hard it can be when you’re growing up, having experienced difficulties of my own when I was younger, but with support and self-belief I’ve been able to become an Events Manager.
The application and selection process was understandably very thorough, given the role involves working with vulnerable young people, and so I was delighted to be selected.
The volunteer training itself covered areas I’d never even contemplated, ranging from safeguarding to establishing boundaries, and was instrumental in truly opening my eyes to the role and potential needs of young people.
The first meeting
Following the application and reference checks, you are matched with a young person to mentor, who is either interested in a career or industry that you have experience in, or who generally has a similar background, character or interests to yourself to give the partnership the best possible chance of flourishing.
I was matched with Sophie, who is not currently working or in education or training, but has an interest in retail and would like to pursue opportunities in that sector. Given my experience working in retail and interest in fashion, we immediately had some common ground.
Meeting a young person for the first time is a nervous experience for both parties, and my first encounter with Sophie was no different, but thankfully we quickly settled and began conversing naturally.
We met at the Centrepoint training centre and discussed everything from my past to Sophie’s future. She explained that she suffers from anxiety, particularly around people she is not familiar with, and so it was important that we looked at examples where she had overcome this.
Sophie currently helps out at the Centrepoint Boutique, which is based at the training centre, and really enjoys it, so our next step was to identify opportunities for her to transfer this enthusiasm to a more public environment.
We agreed that volunteering at a charity shop could give her experience and also help build confidence, and found some positive stories about people who had done exactly that.
After requesting further information about pursuing this, we looked at potential college courses and settled on the part-time Certificate in Retail (Level 1) at Bradford College, which includes two functional skills: maths and English.
Between the second and third meetings, Sophie researched the course and charity shop volunteering opportunities, so that when we met again she was ready to begin her enquiries.
Her aforementioned anxiety still proved a stumbling block for her, so I tried to reassure her by explaining how confident she had been during our first meeting and discussing situations in which she felt comfortable.
A key part of being a mentor is helping the person you are mentoring to adapt to new situations, and a great way of doing this is to relate it to something positive they have experienced.
After conducting two practise calls, with myself in the role of the charity shop manager, Sophie made the call for real and handled it brilliantly, which left her beaming with pride afterwards. The manager promised to send out an application form, which I can then help Sophie to complete.
Next we conducted practise calls with Bradford College, with Sophie then making the call unsupervised during the week building on the positive experience from the charity shop call.
We now plan on having our fourth session in a new environment that will mirror the experience of going to a new place and interacting with unfamiliar faces, and as such we have chosen to visit the National Media Museum, which Sophie has never visited before.
Ahead of the session, Sophie will think of some questions to ask the museum staff to practise interacting with strangers, and already I can see that the work we have done has paid off, as she is enthusiastic about something that would previously have made her nervous.
She is already more relaxed during our sessions, and although there is a long way to go, it is immensely rewarding to see her being so open to things outside of her comfort zone and viewing the future in a far more positive light. Seeing this change and development in Sophie is the reason I became a mentor in the first place.
To find out more about becoming a Centrepoint volunteer, click here.