Befriending is 'an amazingly empowering experience'

Monday, July 23, 2012

Liam Mackin was named Worcester Young Citizen of the Year earlier this year. He is a student, works in the voluntary sector and has raised an estimated £150,000 for a range of charities. Here, he writes about the influence of befriending work with our LEAP programme.

Liam Mackin with his Worcester Young Citizen of the Year awardBefriending has had big effects on my life

In 2010 I received a befriender from The Children's Society's programme in Bradford. The service allowed me to go on group activities with lots of other young people, or to go on an outing of my choice with someone other than family.

As a person who is deafblind this was an amazingly empowering experience, as it gave me both choice and control to decide what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go – my favourite being a music gig that I went to with my befriender.

However, when Bradford council decided that they were not going to fund The Children's Society's work, I thought I would no longer be involved with them and their befriending service.

I was wrong.

Helping adults realise what is so important about befrienders

About six months later I got a phone call from Nola from The Children's Society's LEAP programme in Leeds, asking if I wanted to help with facilitating for the charity.

She explained that the role involved running courses for people who want to volunteer with children or young people with a disability. I would teach about and discuss issues of terminology, communication, behaviour and child protection.

I happily accepted because I wanted to give something back to The Children's Society after my previous positive experiences with their befriending team.

Nola and her fellow facilitator Megan worked really hard to get all of the notes and information I needed into Braille, and gave me complete choice over how and when I was involved with the sessions.

I ran each of the three days of the course on two separate occasions and thoroughly enjoyed it. I spoke of my own experiences, led themed group activities and explained some of the ways in which The Children’s Society works with young people.

Setting a career path

As a result, I was given some fantastic feedback from the volunteers on the course, saying how valuable they felt it was to have someone with a disability as part of the course and they gained knowledge and understanding from me. I felt that my opinions were being heard, which as a disabled person very rarely happens.

I also received a written reference which I hope will be able to help me to get further opportunities in charity work.

Facilitating is something I have never even thought of trying before but after my experience with The Children’s Society I have realised it is something I would like to do as a career.

By Liam Mackin, Worcester Young Person of the Year and volunteer with our LEAP programme

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Schools urged to protect kids from sun

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Schools should be doing more to protect children's skin in the sunlight, according to new research.

A survey carried out for the Teenage Cancer Trust revealed that 70% of school students have never been encouraged to wear sun cream before a sports lesson, yet 83% of pupils said they would wear it if they were asked to do so.

More than half of young people never use sun cream while doing sport, the survey of more than 1,000 13 to 24-year-olds also found.

It could mean that there are lots of children at risk of damaging their skin when playing outdoors.

University of Glasgow Professor of Dermatology Rona MacKie said that damage to skin from sunlight when young can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.

And Teenage Cancer Trust chief executive Simon Davies pointed out that now is a good time for schools and clubs to help with the education of young people about the dangers, given that several big sporting events are taking place this summer.

"By working together, we can help protect the future health of young people," he added.

Copyright Press Association 2012