I decided to volunteer for the Friendship Project at the end of 2017 as I realised I had quite a lot of spare time and felt that it would be good to use it to help others. I have always liked working with young people so the FP was really appealing to me. When the role of an Older Friend was explained to me my first impression was that it was going to be really hard and tough dealing with disadvantaged children from problematic families. It all sounded difficult, but also new and challenging. Exactly what I was looking for. On the first day I met H I realised how wrong I was.
Since that very first day, a year and a half ago now, H showed me that meeting him once a week was going to be really fun. He is a really sociable, kind-hearted, talkative, smart 10-year old kid. He loves telling jokes (every weekend we used to have a moment for “the joke of the week”), uses any occasion to speak with other people (he warned a couple not to play hole 5 in the mini golf as it was flooded), and is able to enjoy all sorts of activities (when I ask him what is his favourite activity with me he usually answers “all of them”). I also have the impression he is more articulate than normal for a child his age, as he often uses correctly complex vocabulary.
In the past 18 months we have done all sorts of things together: mini golf, library, museums, playing in the park, football, crafts, bowling, table tennis, eating out, bouncy castles, basketball (and I´m possibly forgetting a few). But definitely our favourite activity has been riding a bike – which by the way was very kindly provided by a member from the FP. When he saw the bike first time, he seemed really excited about it. The bike itself needed some repairs so we spent that day trying to fix it. I´m definitely not very good with tools, so it took a while. There was even a moment that it seemed we were not going to be able to fix it (H even said “we are not going to make it, but that´s fine”), but we persevered and managed to make the bike work. He seemed really happy riding it, although it was only for a few minutes. We spent the whole summer riding it around different parks in the Leamington area, which was great as it was a very good opportunity to spend time outdoors and do a healthy activity.
In September, H moved in with a foster family due to some issues with his mother. Since he has been with them, he seemed to adapt quickly and well. I have definitely seen him calmer than when he used to live with his mother, and although he misses her and his siblings a lot, he seems to worry less about things and focuses only on the things that a child should be thinking of: having fun, studying and telling silly jokes. In general, I have the feeling that it has been very positive for H to have an Older Friend, as he has been able to do a lot of different activities which he wasn’t able to do before. He has also met a person from a different country, which is always an interesting thing for a child (“are you polish?”, he asked me on our first day).
For me, being a volunteer for the Friendship Project has been a fantastic experience. I have learnt a lot from H and from the members of the organisation. I feel I have helped to help a child that maybe wasn´t in his best moment, and given him fun and interesting experiences that he will hopefully continue doing on his own (such as reading books or doing sports). I would definitely recommend contributing to the Friendship Project to anyone.