Young people from East Herts describe their volunteering experiences

08 December 2015

Nehal and Bethany took part in the National Citizen Service run by Youth Connexions. They then volunteered as staff on the Duke of Edinburgh expeditions with other young people. Here they have written a blog of their experiences…..

"After having participated in the NCS programme through Youth Connexions as participants, we had been offered the opportunity to take part in the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award as members of staff. Here we saw the expedition process through the eyes of those we used to envy while on our own expeditions when we were the ones trudging along with our heavy rucksacks in our muddy clothes (of course, always worth it in the end!). Our newly appointed roles of responsibility involved meeting the participants at their checkpoint locks to see how they were getting on as well as generally monitoring their progress throughout the expedition.

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Canoeing along canals was one of the challenges undertaken by participants in the DofE Bronze award which Nehal and Bethany helped to run

"We found accompanying the young people rather interesting given that they had only been thrown together not so long ago and yet they seemed to be well gelled as a group. This is an important life skill which can be developed through participation in fun, engaging and active schemes such as NCS or DofE, to prepare for future situations whether it is in work or general life. We speak from firsthand experience so don’t worry, this isn’t a standard textbook answer! We noticed how much freedom was available on both NCS and DofE thanks to the youth workers from Youth Connexions who acted almost like invisible guides, if not friends or equals, when it came to making our own choices in an external environment, both in the sense of being outdoors but also outside of school. This encourages initiative and induces treatment as a young adult, as well as contributing to the shaping of personalities.

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A daunting climbing wall helps build confidence

"Furthermore the programmes are flexible, guiding young people to cope with the obstacles that life may present. For example, the DofE participants had their expedition moved to November when it was very cold, but they surprised us by how organized they all were when it came to keeping dry and warm. The Bronze DofE groups made full use of their opportunities to get involved in their canoeing expedition and they will see the benefits as they progress to further DofE awards and beyond school.

"We believe outdoor activities are one of the most effective ways of working with young people positively, as they are faced with very specific situations where they can gain transferable skills.  An example of this character building could be shown via abseiling (one of the many exciting activities you have the opportunity to experience on NCS). While it is a skill in itself, abseiling can also demonstrate supportiveness (for instance when someone needs encouragement to help overcome fear of heights), effective communication (listening to instructions and acting in a safe manner with potentially dangerous equipment) and general teamwork.

"Furthermore participation in these positive activities could help bridge the gaps between any stereotypes that the public may have about young people as they are involved in the projects mentioned which promote valuable attributes when it comes to employment, for example. In addition it seems unhealthy that many young people these days spend too much time indoors using computers/mobiles/tablets; we want to highlight the importance of being outside in the fresh air, engaged with physical activity working together with new people - who knows, they could find out things about themselves that they never knew or considered before, such as pursuing a career in outdoor activities. Perhaps they may find a new way of stress relief. Or maybe just want to challenge or enrich themselves with their environment. Young people could be inspired to make a change about something they see that they don’t like, for example litter. The ‘Social Action Project’ phase of NCS or the volunteering aspect of DofE offers the chance to get involved and give something back to the community that youths are passionate about.

"With both NCS and DofE, we have learned that while there are of course tasks to complete, the most important element is to have fun. Initially, the idea of being thrown together with a bunch of unfamiliar faces seemed incredibly daunting; however in the short time we spent together on NCS, friendships could not have felt more comfortable. We leave the project as a newly bonded group, that some of us may have never pictured to begin with, as well as many happy memories. It will be strange not seeing each other as often as we had been, but we look forward to meeting again at the NCS Graduation Ball. We would love to do it all over again!"

Find out about NCS

Find out about DofE