It's national Volunteers Week - and what a great time for us to say a big THANKYOU to our 300 plus volunteers who give up their time to ensure babies, children and young people grow up to be healthy and happy. 

It's a chance for us to big up what volunteers do for us - and to hopefully recruit more like them to join us in giving more young people a helping hand.

Supporting young adults

There are so many ways to volunteer with us. Just one of our projects is CAN. 

CAN, which stands for Confident Adults Newcastle, is aimed at addressing social isolation amongst young people aged 18-25 who aren’t in education, training or employment, perhaps because they either lack a reliable support network or have mental health issues.

Set up with money from the European Social Fund and from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the CAN project is looking to recruit people over the age of 18 to support young adults to build up their confidence and help them lead more fulfilling lives.

Picture: Omar enjoys helping out on the Children North East allotment with CAN co-ordinator Lucy Ward.

Lucy Ward, who coordinates the CAN project from the charity’s Young People’s Service on Westgate Road, said:

With the start of Volunteers Week we’d really like to get across what a huge difference giving up a little of your time to help young people who need it can make

Omar Akram, who’s 24, found moving out of his parents’ home into a one-bedroom housing association flat difficult until CAN volunteer, Kim Ross, came along.

Omar explained: “It was stressful – there was a lot of hard work to do at the start. For example, I didn’t know how to operate the washing machine when I first moved in.”

But volunteer, Kim, was on hand to help Omar settle in and learn how to live independently by meeting up once a week over three months.

'It's a really nice experience to know you've helped'

She said: “Omar had recently got his own place but he had never looked after himself before so he wasn’t sure how to cook. I helped him learn how to make a stir fry, to do pasta and even chicken dinner.

“I also explained the washing machine. Omar brought the instruction leaflet along to one of the sessions and I underlined the bits he needed to know. He’s a really nice lad. He was desperate to get a job so some of the sessions I went round town with him handing in his CV and we’d do fun things too like going bowling, having a coffee or seeing a film.”

Both Kim and Omar were delighted when he got a Christmas hospitality job at Gosforth Racecourse. Kim added: “It’s really nice to see how the young people progress. They might be starting from a place where they feel stuck and can’t move forward and then they make these little steps – it’s a really nice experience to know you’ve helped them in that way.”

Omar added: “I’m getting used to living on my own now. Can you imagine if I didn’t move out until my forties and still didn’t know how to operate the washing machine!”

Kim, who has a son and daughter and three grandchildren, is studying counselling. She had completed a year at North Tyneside College when she heard about mentoring for CAN and feels volunteering has helped her skills. “I’d say it’s probably a 50-50 relationship where the person who’s volunteering is getting as much out of the experience as the person they’re working with,” she added.

Picture: Lucy and Kim at an event celebrating Children North East volunteers.

We're looking for more volunteers!

CAN coordinator, Lucy Ward said: “The young people we’re working with might find it hard to leave the house, they may have low self-esteem, or suffer from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues that are barriers to them taking part in daily life. We’re looking for people who can relate to young people and gradually build their confidence. We offer training which leads to a level 2 accreditation ‘Mentoring skills for Volunteers’ and lots of support.

“CAN is a fantastic initiative and without our supporters like ESP and players of People’s Postcode Lottery, people like Kim and Omar would never get the chance to spend this valuable time together.”

People are referred into CAN by job centres, other charities like Barnardos or young people can self-refer. For more information about volunteering with CAN, you can email Lucy at [email protected]

Click here to volunteer!