How volunteering at Bristol Drug Project helped me choose a new career path

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A picture of Lainie

Lainie-Jayne Smith, Criminology BA (Hons)

My reasons for volunteering

After finishing my second year, I became aware of how valuable my time is and started to realise how much I needed to take advantage of summer break. I also wanted to get an in-depth, hands-on understanding of roles that were available in my area. 

How I got involved

Once I started looking, there were roles everywhere. Social media was one of the biggest platforms for volunteering advertisements. I searched keywords such as “young people”, “volunteering”, “vulnerable people” and I was presented with a variety of roles. Each application process was similar, I had to fill out some information about me, hobbies, experiences, etc. Once I heard back, I would go to an interview and started my role at soon after! 

My role at Bristol Drug Project

At Bristol Drug Project, I worked with children that came from families whose parents had addiction problems and required interventions within their homes. Once a week, I would collect the children on a bus from all around Bristol, and then we would play games, have open conversations, eat together and overall make sure they were happy and content. We offer a safe space for children to express themselves when things are a struggle at home, this also gave the parents some personal time too. The aim is to create a happier environment within the home, so all parties can be happy and content.  

What I have learnt

It helped me realise, after speaking with experienced people that work with vulnerable young people, that there are so many routes to take and so many different careers to explore. I found that maybe the industry isn’t how I thought it was, I found that in certain positions the amount of help you can give is limited. This was a struggle for me but also led me to understand that supporting individuals at any stage of their life is important and essential. So, this has led to my new career choice of hopefully getting into probation work which is something I hadn’t thought about before. 

It has dramatically aided my confidence, interview skills and has given me a lot of experience that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t spend my summer with this organisation!

Just offering my help one day a week, I feel like I have made such a difference for the children I worked with. I also got to understand and appreciate the young people. Listening to them and applying this to my module helped me to develop a deeper understanding of what exactly youth face in this day and age. It really got me thinking about what could be done to ensure stability in their lives. 

My top tips

My advice to a volunteer would be don’t be too specific, and don’t limit yourself to one role. There are so many roles out there, with organisations willing and waiting – you can set your availability, find groups and organisations that are flexible, and this way you can delve into a variety of roles.  

In terms of your application write everything down on a document and refer back to this when filling them out. This way you don’t waste time repeating yourself. Also, I found that some organisations want to get to know you! It doesn’t need to be overly formal, express yourselves in your applications… you never know where you could end up! 

Most importantly, remind yourself you are there by choice, even if it’s 1 hour out of your day, you are making a difference no matter what role you are in – and that in itself is priceless. 

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