“Educators need to have more confidence in volunteering opportunities”

CW+, the charity at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital reflect on their visit from the #iwill Fund Leadership Board and the opportunities and challenges of working with schools and colleges to promote youth social action.

“Work experience by nature can be passive, whereas volunteering is a dynamic and live role affording volunteers the opportunity to build interpersonal skills and confidence.”

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and our charity CW+ were delighted to welcome the #iwill Fund Leadership board for a project visit on Tuesday 3 September. The hospital receives funding for its young volunteers programme from the Pears #iwill Fund.

We welcomed the Boards’ Chair Amanda Jordan, alongside CEO of Step up to Serve Rania Marandos, and Head of #iwill fund at the National Lottery Community Fund Helen Whyman. In addition, there were two young board members Haroon Ahmed and Jenny Raw, and partners from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Pears Foundation.

Katie Thomson, Youth Volunteering Manager at the Trust, led a guided tour to key areas at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital which hosted youth volunteers for the first time this summer. She was joined by volunteer Salma who has been a part of the youth programme for nine months. The Board heard about Salma’s experience and how volunteering has enabled her to gain key life skills and support her future university application.

The discussion which followed focused on the importance of being part of a learning network and difference this has made for volunteer managers and coordinators working within the NHS. Katie commented that information from other Trusts has supported business cases at a strategic and senior level and for her it has “been a crucial platform through which we can bounce ideas off each other, ask questions and seek support from peers who may be experiencing similar issues. Additionally it is an online platform to share successes.”

With schools across the country returning this week, Katie wished to draw the Boards’ attention to language which is being used in schools to promote opportunities – “…traditionally schools talk about and promote work experience. As a provider of a meaningful youth social action opportunity, I would like to see more confidence in, and support of, volunteering opportunities from our colleagues in education.” Katie believes that if careers advisors, head of years and teachers who support and raise aspirations within their students were to take time to understand the value of volunteering, it may mean students would engage in volunteering opportunities at an earlier age.

“They would see the tangible skills which are learnt as part of volunteering where roles are created to allow young people to be part of a multi-disciplinary team. Work experience by nature can be passive, whereas volunteering is a dynamic and live role affording volunteers the opportunity to build interpersonal skills and confidence.”

The Board were delighted to have seen and heard first-hand the progress which is being made within health and social care to create meaningful opportunities for young people to engage in something they are passionate about – both giving back to their communities while also gaining new and important life skills.