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We invited our colleague Ellie Stone from UCLU’s Marketing team to write about her recent experience volunteering for Chance UK every week for the past year.

What do you do as a volunteer? Describe your typical session.

After completing the initial training, I was paired with my mentee and once a week, we spent 2-5 hours doing an activity in and around London, that is both fun and often geared towards learning or behavioural development. This has been cooking classes, trips to the park, swimming, bowling and a visit to Buckingham Palace among other things!

What were your first impressions when you started volunteering?

The children who are referred to Chance are typically having difficulties, either at school or at home, so I was nervous. However, as soon as I met my mentee and saw how keen she was to engage with the programme and what a fun character she was, I knew it would be a great year.

How do you feel about it now?

Sad that it’s coming to an end. Mentoring has been an incredible chance to make a difference in an individual’s life, but also one that has added value to my life. That said, I am looking forward to my first Saturday morning lie in in a year!

What’s the best thing about volunteering?

My connection with my mentee – she became something like a little sister and I feel extremely lucky to have that unique relationship. We have enjoyed some great experiences together and I will miss her very much at the end of the mentoring. Seeing her develop in confidence and improve her behaviour has been a privilege.

And what’s the most challenging thing?

The children referred to Chance UK really can be challenging, and getting back on the horse after a session with difficult behaviour can be really tough. I also found it difficult to accept that I couldn’t fix everything in my mentees life, but eventually I was able to see that the impact I was having was better than not helping at all.

How has volunteering changed you?

I have a better understanding of how to get the most from people and help them overcome the boundaries that their own negative self image can impose. Of course this project deals specifically with children, but I do think it’s taught me a lot about why people act the way they do sometimes and the importance of fostering an environment that encourages people to grow and be their best. I also know what to do if a child is going to throw a tantrum now!

What difference do you feel you’ve made by volunteering?

I have seen my mentee’s confidence and self esteem improve, and I hope she will take that on with her. If nothing else, I feel I have given a child who hadn’t had many experiences a year of happy memories and a glimpse of what the world could offer if she aspires to reach out and take it.

Would you recommend the project to anyone else? If so, why?

Without a doubt. In fact, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who likes children. It is a big commitment, and it requires tenacity, but my volunteering has been a truly incredible experience and a great way of experiencing London as well!

If you feel inspired by Ellie’s story check out Chance UK’s current roles and visit our directory to see all the active vacancies we have with our partner organisations from across the capital.