Westminster Befriend a Family

Helping others can help you too

WBAF

Helping others can help you too

About Roopa

Originally from India, 23-year-old Roopa completed a Master’s Degree in Development Studies at the London School of Economics before becoming our volunteer event organiser and fundraising intern.

Why volunteer with Westminster Befriend a Family?

“I want to pursue a career in development studies hopefully working for a not-for-profit organisation or an NGO or any organisation that works directly with development issues,” she said. “I also wanted to get some experience of how the charitable sector works here. As WBAF works with vulnerable families and young people who are socially disadvantaged and living in poverty, this charity fits very well with the kind of career I am interested in.”

What do you do here as a volunteer?

“I work in the charity’s office researching potential sponsors and donors who will help the charity continue its work. It involves lots of online research finding out information on local businesses and the contact details of the people best placed to help us. So far I have made contact with about 200 businesses, hotels, restaurants, pubs and spas etc., and I’m hoping we can build up more relationships so they can help us in any way they can, whether it’s through direct donations or by providing raffle and auction prizes.

What have you learned from your experience?

“Volunteering has been really useful for expanding and improving my research, communication and organisational skills. I’ve been meeting and talking to all kinds of different people, explaining what we do and trying to gain their support. I’ve been able to gain a lot of invaluable experience. When I go back to India, working for organisations that don’t have much in the way of resources, these skills will be of great value.”

Roopa also believes the experience has helped her grow up. “Being here, in London, without my parents or any family around, I’ve had to take care of myself.  I didn’t have any idea of how to navigate this place or about volunteering before, but now I do. It’s been like starting life from scratch at age 22. It’s made me grow up, be stronger and be much more independent,” she said.

If you would like to volunteer, make a difference and help yourself, click http://www.befriendafamily.co.uk/volunteer-8/ to find out more.

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November Volunteer of the Month: Ali

A bit about Ali and his mentee Joseph.

Ali, 27, has been mentoring 17 year-old Joseph (not his real name), for five months. As one of Westminster Befriend a Family’s volunteers he plays a crucial role in helping Joe realise his potential. Joe doesn’t have his parents around, only his siblings. His family has been fractured and his background has been severely coloured by the whole experience.

What was Ali’s biggest challenge?

At first, Joe’s experiences made it hard for him to trust people, said Ali. “When I first met him, Joe found it very difficult to find the right words when trying to explain himself. He wasn’t doing anything with his life. He wasn’t in education, he wasn’t working. He never took anything seriously and, at such a young age, he had kind of given up on life. His background has been very difficult and I would say he was a bit ‘broken’ in a way. But soon he began to trust me and we developed a connection.”

What was the result of making that connection?

“Now, he’s taking things a little more seriously,” said Ali. “He enrolled in and is going to college, so he’s getting up and out of the house, at least. He’s able to explain himself more clearly and he’s grown in confidence. And while it’s still too soon to see where he is headed – there will be time for him to work that out later – he’s much more optimistic about his future than he was.”

How has mentoring Joe helped Ali?

Ali’s own life has benefited from his mentoring, too. Even though he has completed his studies in architecture and an internship at an architecture and design company, Ali still wasn’t sure of his abilities to be a mentor and to communicate clearly.

He said: “Now I feel I am a much better communicator. I am more confident in my abilities to show Joe, or any young person, a way forward than I was when I started. In the beginning I didn’t know whether what I was doing with him was helping or not. Five months on I see that my methods are working and that has made me much more certain of myself.”

More about our mentoring scheme

Westminster Befriend a Family’s mentoring and befriending programmes only last for six months at a time during which volunteers spend two to three hours on the same day every week building trust and lending their support. This way, families get the support they need while they take crucial steps forward. However, they are also given the space to manage their own future and become more self-reliant.

What’s next for Ali?

When Ali finishes his time with Joe, he’s considering being a mentor for another vulnerable young person, referred to Westminster Befriend a Family, who is in much need of support.

From all of us at Westminster Befriend a Family, thank you Ali for all your hard work and continued commitment to helping support vulnerable families in Westminster.

If you’d like to volunteer click www.befriendafamily.co.uk/volunteer-8/ and find out more.