Saturday, 12 May 2012

V is for volunteering

When I was younger, I enjoyed dancing, swimming and gymnastic lessons and when I moved to London a few years after Uni I was aware that I had no discernible hobbies to keep me busy. I found Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden and went with my housemate for a one-hour Tap lesson each Saturday morning.

Before long, though, the idea of volunteering started to appeal, whether this was with the elderly, teens, children… anything. I think I wanted to feel part of the community I’d moved in to, and I wanted to do something with my free time as I was fed up with going home every night after working late and procrastinating at the weekends.
I remember the A-Z Guide to Lambeth coming though the letterbox and I immediately turned to the ‘V’ section as I wanted to see what volunteering opportunities there were in the area. I was constrained by my busy day job at PwC at the time and was looking for something I could do for an hour or two at the weekend.

Anyway, I found the Baytree Centre in the book which is just a 5 minute walk from my flat and was built after the Brixton riots especially for women and girls from families not originating in the UK. They offer supportive courses for mums (English, Computer Studies, Literacy etc.) and all kinds of clubs for the girls -cooking, street dance, maths club, science club and loads more. I’ve been mentoring on Saturday mornings for two years and adore it. I love having something to get up for on a Saturday morning.

I have a wonderful relationship with my mentee. She is 11, on her way to high school, and absolutely hilarious. Her family is originally from South America, although she was born in the UK. She struggles a bit with Maths, so we mainly concentrate on her homework or practice SATs papers. She’s funny without even realising it. It’s been so amazing to see her grow over two years and become more comfortable in herself and confident in her work. When I met her she was a shy little squirt with High School Musical glasses and a love for gel pens. Now she proclaims that ‘boys are stupid’ and is totally over glitter and sequins. She has high expectations of herself and loves times tables tests at school. I’m so proud of her!

I often get the feeling that she sees me as really old, which makes me wonder how I would have seen myself at that age. At 11, someone of 27 would have seemed so grown up and it scares me how quickly time passes. I think, from about aged 20 onwards we feel much younger than we are, and I don’t think that feeling changes for the rest of your life!

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