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From the 27 to 31 December 2019, ten UCL volunteers participated in the Xmas Social Development Project for Kith & Kids at Hornsey Vale Community Centre.

Before starting the project, all the volunteers attended 2-3 training sessions by the Kith & Kids management team and we learnt about the members we were going to volunteer with. All the members on the project had autism or a learning disability, and some of them also had a physical or sensory disability. By attending the project, the Kith & Kids members could develop useful skills and help improve their quality of life. 

The most impressive and moving part of the training for me was when the trainer encouraged the volunteers to discuss the question “When do you feel insecure and anxious?” and the volunteers shared their personal experiences with each other. Answers included walking in a dark place alone, going to a new country where everyone else speaks a different language and starting a life in a new city without any known family or friends. After the discussion, the trainer said, “That’s how the members feel most of their life”.

During the five-day project, the volunteers were linked to different members separately and supported the members to learn some new skills and go out to socialise with other people. With the help and support from the volunteers, the members took part in drama, dance, massage, art, and music classes, as well as helping in the kitchen. As for the outings, each member was accompanied by two volunteers and went swimming, bowling or watching movies.

All the volunteers were friendly and supportive as we helped each other and faced difficult situations together; it was a big surprise to know that the Volunteering Service has worked with Kith & Kids for a long time and UCL volunteers have a good reputation for being loving, kind, warm-hearted and supportive towards the Kith & Kids members. For me, this was a great opportunity to have a better understanding of people with autism and learning disabilities, because although of the members may have said “go away” to the volunteers or call the volunteers “trouble”, they didn’t mean to offend the volunteers, they just acted in a different way to express their love and appreciation and it is important to be understanding towards those with autism. 

Throughout the process, we had so much fun and met so many interesting people. We also learned many skills like communication, teamwork, and time management, as well as becoming more open-minded and having more empathy towards vulnerable people.

Written by Bixue Wang - One-Off Volunteering Ambassador.

Although the festive season has passed, there are plenty of amazing one-off events where you can have fun whilst helping those in need. If you’re interested in volunteering at these events, take a look at our One-Off Volunteering Programme for other time-light opportunities where you can make a real difference!