Natasha Walker, from Belfast is a volunteer with the NSPCC.
Q1. What does your volunteering involve?
My role within the NSPCC is a ChildLine Schools Service Programme Volunteer. This involves visiting numerous primary schools across Belfast and delivering assemblies and workshops to P6 and P7 children. Our aim is to make children aware of our service and to make sure they know that ChildLine is there 24/7.
Q2. When did you first begin volunteering?
I did my training last April (2012), observed in a few schools after that and then started presenting in schools in the new term in September. Since then, I have been in lots of schools spreading the word.
Q3. What inspired you to get involved?
I have always loved working with children and I strongly believe in the importance of getting various messages across as soon as possible. The messages we are spreading are vital! Every child has the right to safety, security and above all, love. I saw the advertisement for the post, applied and was absolutely delighted when I passed the interview stage. In addition to this, I am a full time student at Jordanstown and it is an excellent addition to my CV, highlighting the fact that I work with a highly sought after professional body.
Q4. What attracted you to the role?
Working with the School Service is not only fun, it's extremely rewarding. Right from the beginning when I read the role description, I knew it would be something I'd enjoy doing! I enjoy helping people and putting others first. This position was perfect for that. The opportunity to meet new people and improve my skills at the same time were two main attractions.
Q5. What skills or qualities are required for your volunteering role?
Since volunteering for ChildLine, my skills have greatly strengthened. Being able to present an assembly or workshop in front of a class or more of students sounded quite daunting at first, however the staff at the NSPCC are extremely supportive in helping with this. Through the service, my confidence has grown and I have absolutely no qualms regarding the delivery. In addition, it is important to have a listening ear and the training provided allows you to be prepared for various situations that may arise. I also believe that it is vitally important to be non-judgemental and have a strong sense of empathy whilst in the school setting. Communication, organisation and most importantly, compassion are significant aspects of the service.
Q6. Why do you volunteer?
I volunteer because I know I am making a difference by doing so. In recent years, television and the media have been informing us of too many sad and often horrific cases involving children and/or abuse and there is never any excuse for it. Abuse of any kind is through no fault of the child and it is important that we get that message across to children in order for them to have the courage to speak out.
Q7. How often do you volunteer?
On average, I would volunteer 1-2 times a week. I am a full time university student as well as working part time and carrying out other voluntary roles too - so I'm very busy, but that's what I prefer! I normally volunteer for the Schools Service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, however this may change depending on my university timetable. It is a fantastic role as it is highly flexible, allowing you to dedicate as much or as little time as you can.
Q8. What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
That's a tough question as I enjoy every bit of it! I love waking up in the morning knowing that I'm going to be visiting primary school children to tell them all about our service. It's brilliant being in the school carrying out the various activities as they are interactive and it's great to hear all the children's answers. Personally, the most enjoyable part for me is knowing deep down in my heart, that when I walk out of the school doors, I could possibly have made a difference to a child's life forever… even if it's just one.
Q9. Why would you encourage others to get involved?
I would strongly recommend others to get involved as it is an absolutely fantastic role. Each day you volunteer, you are delivering the message of ChildLine and making children aware of various types of abuse and what to do if they are worried about anything at all. It has been a massive learning curve for me and not only have I discovered things about myself through this position, I see the world in a whole new light now. I believe in optimism and hope for the future and volunteering with ChildLine is certainly fulfilling this ambition.
Q10. What has been the highlight of your volunteering?
There have been many special moments during my volunteering experience, however, I would have to say that my highlight is quite simply being able to make a difference. There are never two days the same as a ChildLine Schools Service Programme Volunteer and it is exciting to see what each new school brings.
Q11. What advice would you give someone starting to volunteer?
Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the experience. There are lots of new skills to be discovered and this programme will certainly find them. I would also say that if you have ANY amount of free time at all, volunteer - it's a decision you will never regret.