Over the last few months Youth Volunteering Coordinator Harry has met some of our star volunteers and talked to them about why they first got involved in volunteering and what they get out of it…
Naz, 21, Mile End Spotlight, Adult Youth Support Volunteer
Harry: Why did you choose to volunteer?
Naz: I chose to volunteer because I wanted to give back to the community, especially within this area. I was part of the Leopold Project, so I have the seen the impact that a local youth service can have, and I know about the impact I can make myself. I also know a lot of the youngsters from round here, and I wanted to help them make the right choices – that they don’t have to be out there doing the wrong stuff, and that we are here to help them if they need it.
Harry: How is the Spotlight Team at Mile End helping local young people to make the right choices?
Naz: What we’re doing now for the young people is helping them to avoid the dangers of peer pressure, drugs, gangs, and falling into the wrong crowd. [Mile End Spotlight] is a nice place to come, a nice environment. A lot of young people of all ages come here, and when I was younger it wasn’t like that… you couldn’t be hanging around with people two or three years older than you… so I see the way the world is developing and changing.
Harry: I’ve definitely noticed how mixed the age range is at Mile End… older young people hanging out with younger kids and vice versa. I think that’s really positive because the older young people have sometimes got that responsibility which they enjoy passing down to the youngers.
Naz: Definitely! That’s another reason why I do this! I’m still young – I’m only 21 – but there is an age gap between me and the young people who come to the centre, and I can give my personal opinions on things… even little things like stuff at home because a lot of them are Bengali. All of these little things just add up, and it’s made me realise that it’s definitely something that I love doing because I feel like I can make a difference.
Harry: Definitely man, that’s really cool! I wanted to ask you what you think are the best things that Mile End Spotlight has to offer to young people? What’s unique about this centre, and about what Nahim’s done here with his young people?
Naz: Mile End Spotlight feels really homely and united. Just before I came up here I was with a couple of young people who are in Year 7… they were playing FIFA with some 19 year olds, which is a five year age gap! And they’re talking to each other… not just sat there in silence. So I think a lot of the young people here are really close to each other.
Harry: I’ve definitely noticed the calm atmosphere when I come to Mile End – it always seems like the young people are able to relax here and be themselves in an environment which isn’t too hectic or crazy. What do you think are the main things that you gain from volunteering at Spotlight? Why would you recommend volunteering to other people?
Naz: Personally working with young people has been really rewarding. I’ve always been a confident individual, but this has been a way of me putting that confidence into action. Giving advice to young people recently who come here after school when they’re stressed about exams, and just telling them that they can only do their best… that’s the sort of stuff that I really enjoy.
Harry: Great, thank you!
To finish up, tell us about the maddest thing you’ve ever done!
Naz: Okay! The maddest thing would have to be scuba diving, which I’ve done for four years in a row, every summer in Turkey. Whoever’s reading this, I would definitely recommend that you go scuba diving. What’s crazy is that I’m scared of water and I can’t really swim. So imagine the first time I’m doing it… I’m really scared of water… and I jumped in and I was panicking in front of the instructor, but he was just like ‘stay calm, you don’t need to be able to swim to do this… you’ve got your oxygen, tank and your mask… that’s all you need’. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life… you become a fish for half an hour!
Samad, 19, Bromley South Spotlight, Spotlight Rep
Harry: Okay, so firstly can you tell us about the type of volunteering that you’re doing at LINC Centre?
Samad: So me and a friend of mine called Iftekhar, who’s one of my closest friends in life, we run a football session together on Mondays from 6.30 – 7.30pm. Once we’ve done that, we both come back into Spotlight and help out by doing interactive activities with the other young people, and we help Yemi and the team here supervise them, as Spotlight Reps.
Harry: Wicked. And why do you choose to volunteer, when it’s not compulsory?
Samad: Some people say to me ‘why do you volunteer when it’s not paid?’, and I just think that it’s a good experience at the end of the day, even if you don’t get paid for it, because it shows that you’re committed to something. You’re also helping out other people and you’re doing good. I’ve benefited from it through seeing the enjoyment that other young people get from our football sessions, and through having a laugh and a bit of banter with them!
Really and truly, it’s to help the community though. I’ve grown up in this area, but I only came here twice before starting to volunteer here. I heard about the LINC Centre because Dizzee Rascal came here once – although I never saw him!
Harry: Given that you’ve known about LINC Centre for a quite a while then, what part do you think it plays within the local community?
Samad: I think that even though LINC Centre doesn’t have a massive social media presence or a flashy website, young people from the local area still come here because they know they can revise here, they can play PS4 here, play pool, interact and talk with their friends… it’s a place to socialise.
Harry: Definitely – there’s a lot going for LINC Centre!
What are some of the things about volunteering that you enjoy, and would recommend to your friends to get them into it?
Samad: Volunteering is therapeutic in the sense that you are giving back to your own people and that naturally makes you feel good about yourself because you’re doing something useful and productive. This is far better than lingering around on the streets or starting at your phone screen the whole time! You get to meet new people, it’s a good experience, you can put it on your CV and it allows you to build different links with other people from lots of different places.
Harry: What’s the best place you’ve ever been?!
Samad: I went on a three day residential to Italy when I was in Year 10… we went to Naples, Pompeii and we climbed Mount Vesuvius. I was with some of my closest friends too. We also had the best ice cream I’ve ever had in Naples!
Jacob, 19, Bromley North Spotlight, Spotlight Rep
Harry: How long have you been volunteering with Spotlight, and what has your volunteering involved?
Jacob: For Spotlight I’ve volunteered for nearly three years, and I’ve mainly been a Spotlight Rep helping Suzanne out with bits and bobs!
Harry: Great! And why have you volunteered?
Jacob: Basically I used to come to Spotlight as a normal young person, and the staff said that Spotlight Repping could be fun and so I gave it a shot!
Harry: What have you enjoyed about Spotlight Repping?
Jacob: The thing that’s kept me doing it is hoping that it will help me to get a good job in the future, especially one that pays well!
Harry: Volunteering is a great way of building up your employability, so that’s a great incentive.
What do you enjoy about being a Spotlight Rep? And what do you like about Bromley North specifically?
Jacob: Bromley North’s got a chilled out vibe and a lot of the young people here have got their own mind set and follow their own path. I would also have to mention the workers – Tolu, Suzanne and Lindsay!
Suzanne: The thing that’s been really useful about Jacob is that he’s got the ability to anticipate what we need. I’ll need a hand with something and he’s usually already done it. He knows the centre really well and just knows what to do. He’s been a really functional and useful member of the team here!
Harry: What do you want to be when you’re older?
Jacob: There’s loads of things I’d like to do… working as a musician with vocals and maybe working in events as well. I’m studying a Level 2 course in vocals at college at the moment. I’m already DJing and doing events promotion outside of Spotlight too [with a bit of help from Lindsay], and I want to aim for events companies like Road Runner.
Harry: What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
Jacob: All of the gigs I’ve been to are my favourite, but I would have to say seeing the band Ignocide at the Plow & Arrow in Leytonstone. They did a lot of tracks about racism, sexism and politics, and were actually really heavy. I ended up getting whiplash because of them! They ended by doing a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name’ and a Christine Aguilera tune!