Volunteer mentors helping troubled or struggling young people get on the right track have been celebrated for their good work.
Somerset County Council’s Buddy Project gives vulnerable children and young adults the support they need to pursue education, employment, or training. The project has a ‘secret force’ of some 140 county-wide volunteers, who have helped hundreds of children in Somerset.
Last month the project was given the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation’s ‘approved provider standard’, in recognition of the service it provides.
Buddies offer young people someone to have honest discussions with, emotional support, advice and practical information, and a guide to help the young person reach their potential. It might be support to build self-esteem or confidence, instil structure or a work ethic, avoid offending, help with family relationships, or managing debt.
A young person might be referred to the service by their school or college, by the leaving care or young carers’ service. Generally buddies and the young people they support will see each other on a regular basis, such as once a week.
One of the ‘graduates’ of the project, 25 year-old Charlotte, has now gone on to become a buddy in her own right.
She said: “The project gave me a friend, someone who I meet regularly, made me laugh and talked to me. She also encouraged me that it would be okay one day. These sound like simple things, but to me these were things no one had ever offered me. To this day she is a big part of me and my son’s life.
“I’m now working with a young woman, 17 years old. I really enjoy being her buddy. She’s lovely most of the time. Sometimes she can be moody or angry. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about. But then I remember that once I was like her. Now this is my turn to help turn someone’s life around. I am going to give it my all. Because I once was like her and my buddy always believed in me.”
On Thursday evening (24 September) volunteers came together for a celebration of their achievements at Monks Yard, Ilminster. In addition to the Buddies, these also included volunteers who work with young people who have offended, or are at risk of offending, to help turn their lives around.
The event was formally opened by Director of Children’s Services, Julian Wooster, followed by an inspiring, personal speech from Charlotte, and a series of workshops.
Mr Wooster said: “I would like to thank all the volunteers for the commitment, time and energy that they dedicate to our young people in Somerset. All of the work they do contributes greatly in helping to improve services for children and young people in Somerset.
“The work currently being done centres around nine priorities, one of which is embedding Early Help services across our partnership agencies. Every volunteer is making a massive contribution to this work in particular by ensuring young people get the right support at the right time before issues in their life escalate to a point where we need to intervene with a statutory service. Thank you again for providing all of the advice and support to your young buddies, and for helping them reach their full potential.”
The Buddy Project is looking for new volunteers to join its ranks. If you’re interested, please email YPSvolunteers@somerset.co.uk or phone 01458 440820.