Castle in the Community
Having just completed its fifth year the Castle in the Community student volunteering scheme between Thornbury Volunteer Centre and the Castle School Sixth Form is growing in strength and success. The scheme encourages year-13 pupils into volunteering as part of their Extended Curriculum and helps students volunteer in their local community for two hours, once a week, during term time.
The scheme aims to enable young people to become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens. The goal of this part of the curriculum is to develop student capacities such as resourcefulness, confidence, enthusiasm, participation, engagement, awareness and achievement.
Students are placed within different community organisations in the Thornbury and district area, and carry out a wide variety of tasks, from shop work to befriending, marketing to fundraising, gardening to maintenance work, from supporting children and adults with disabilities to maintaining our heritage.
The benefits to students and organisations are immense. The students gain valuable work experience and life skills and the organisations increase capacity and gain additional volunteer help. The awareness of the work carried out by the Volunteer Centre is enhanced and Castle School’s links with the local community are strengthened.
Many of the students who have participated in the scheme over the past five years are continuing to cite their experiences on their CVs and they all feel that this experience has been invaluable in helping them to progress their further education and career choices.
One year-13 volunteer describes her experiences with taking part in the Castle in the Community scheme:
I decided to volunteer at Age UK South Glos as I liked the idea of working with older people, especially helping to relieve their loneliness through telephone befriending.
On my first afternoon I was given a full induction which was helpful because it meant I wasn’t thrown in head first. I was then paired up with a client. During the first call I was slightly nervous but it was really interesting to talk to her and I looked forward to calling again; however, because of her circumstances this was not possible.
So I then undertook a variety of admin tasks, such as data inputting and spreadsheets, and was taught how to use the Charitylog management software, all of which I found interesting.
The two tasks I enjoyed most were sorting the “Big Knit Campaign” hats (because they were adorable) and writing Christmas cards to clients and thank you cards to volunteers. Everyone I met was really friendly and helpful and it was fascinating to find out how the charity helps older people in South Gloucestershire.
This experience has helped me develop my communication and organisational skills and made me aware of issues I didn’t know existed, such as the number of older people who are living alone and desperately want someone to talk to.
News & information
Volunteer managers’ meeting: Meetings allow volunteer managers to meet and share good practice and experiences. The opening meeting is on 7 November. More information.
Experiences: Michele tells how a local company restored her confidence and helped her back into work.
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