This Volunteers Week we are thanking every single one of our volunteers who have helped to make WECIL’s services what they are today. Without each of you, we wouldn’t have been able to support the lives of so many Disabled people across the UK, and our volunteers remain such an important and central part of the organisation.
WECIL volunteers have been at the heart of what we do since 1972 as part of our Time2Share befriending service, where Disabled children receive 1 to 1 support from a dedicated individual. We recently celebrated the 50 year anniversary for Time2Share, and the service continues to have an incredible impact on both volunteers and Disabled children alike. Here’s to each of the volunteers that make it happen, and to many more years of making a difference to Disabled children’s lives!
History of volunteering with Time2Share
Time2Share was founded by a group of medical students form Bristol university who realised that there was a need for more 1:1 support for Disabled children. The service has been running in Bristol and BANES for over 50 years, and merged with WECIL in 2019. The service links Disabled and SEND children and young people with a designated volunteer based on similar interests, and together they do activities that they both enjoy. Not only does this support socially isolated children, but gives parents and families a break from caring responsibilities. From a day out to the park or cinema, to playing football or visiting a gallery together, no day as a Befriender is the same!
Our volunteers are reliable, positive and open minded. The role is flexible and is a great opportunity to get out and about in the world doing something they enjoy. For example, one of our volunteers had a passion for climbing so was able to share this and take her young person to a Disabled climbing group. Volunteering is diverse and can be directed by the individual. It can sometimes be hard for parents to give their children new experiences, but as Befrienders can bring new influences, perspectives and activities to these young people.
Not only will they be making a person feel special and appreciated, but they will be providing respite for their family too. As Peter, one of our volunteers, says, ‘you get to be part of someone’s life who needs you and get to do things that you love doing – what’s not to like!’
The role is rewarding, enjoyable and an opportunity to develop valuable skills. We only require 2 hours a week, or 4 hours a month, as the time is flexible and designed to suit your schedule. Ideally, our volunteers commit for a year to really develop a strong bond with their child or young person. You don’t need any qualifications or experience working with young or Disabled people either, as all training is delivered by WECIL. This includes Disability Equality Training, safeguarding, challenging behaviour, WECIL’s history and roles and responsibilities. You just need to be physically able, patient, willing, adaptable and a good listener!
Hear what Chelsea has to say about her experience of befriending: ‘It has been lovely to be welcomed in by their family and to know that my support not only benefits the young person but helps other family members out too. My young person and I have done some fun activities together over the years such as seeing shows, heading on days out shopping and going on some lovely walks…The staff at Time2Share (WECIL) have always been supportive and have always made me feel valued. They put on some great events for volunteers and source events for you to get together with other volunteers and befrienders on days out. They are also great at sharing any free training that they believe will be useful too.’
The power of volunteering
Volunteering as a befriender is an amazing opportunity to make an impact in your local community. By giving just a couple of hours a week, our volunteers help Disabled and SEND young people build independence, develop confidence and have fun. Our careful linking process means that our Befrienders build meaningful connections with their child and their family, so much so that these relationships often outlast the duration of WECIL’s facilitation of that link.
Discover what some of our volunteers have to say about their experience of being a Befriender with WECIL and Time2Share:
Dan: ‘A few months ago I decided to join befriending to help the community and be part of a great project that helps the young kids and their families. Spending time with my young person means a lot to me. We enjoy our time together and it’s the best feeling to see him waiting for me and to give him the opportunity to do activities and to make him feel special as much as he makes me feel’.
Hannah: ‘I volunteer because I want to make a difference and give back to the people and community around me. I have grown some much as a person from my role as a befriender. I’ve learnt so much about myself and gained so many valuable skills for the future. Volunteering brings me a lot of joy, it’s the thing I look forward to every week and I’ve made some friends for life by doing so.’
Nicky – ‘I feel I have made lovely bonds with the family and we have a lot of fun together. I am really happy I chose to do this and it has enriched my life, and hopefully theirs too! I highly recommend starting on the befriending journey, it is really rewarding and enjoyable.’
From that feel good factor, to gaining valuable experience in the sector there are so many reasons to volunteer. Connections are made for life, and your contribution makes a genuine and lasting impact on children and families across the region. We couldn’t do it without you! If you’re not already signed up, then check out our 10 Reasons to Volunteer blog for more information.
What does the future hold?
Befriending with Time2Share will continue for years to come, and we hope to expand the service across all 4 regions of North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Bristol and BANES. We plan on developing the focus on the local community to include trips further afield, like AirHop or football games in Manchester or Liverpool. As the world and people’s interests change and develop, we will adapt the service to suit these and continue to break down barriers around what Disabled young people can do and achieve.
This Volunteers Week is the perfect time to not only thank all our current volunteers, but to sign up as a new volunteer today! As Sam recommends, ‘if you have some spare time to give and you are patient, understanding and kind, I’d recommend signing up to be a befriender. It’s a wonderful community to be part of.’
To get started and find out more, visit our volunteering page now.