Leading children’s charity needs your help to support young care leavers across the local area.
Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) is calling for volunteer mentors, to help young people living in their local community. Anyone interested can sign-up online to find out more at www.voypic.org/volunteer by Friday 4 March.
VOYPIC has almost thirty years’ experience of working with young people in care, and care leavers, right across Northern Ireland. Annually, the charity works with over 650 young people, supporting them to be involved in decisions and have their say about their life in and beyond care.
Each year, over 500 young people, aged 16-19 years old, leave care in Northern Ireland.
With funding from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, VOYPIC recently launched two new programmes which will support young care leavers in their local communities.
The See Me, Hear Me programme provides mentoring to young people aged 16-25 and will help groups of young care leavers establish their own networks of peer support.
The Move on Up scheme offers a bursary and mentoring to young people who have left care and have limited support. The scheme can help young people with education and training, to get involved in local activities and groups, or to learn ways of managing stress and the challenges of life after care.
One young person that has already benefited from the Move on Up Scheme is Paul, a care leaver living in Belfast.
As a care leaver, Paul found it difficult to adjust living independently without ongoing support, leaving him feeling isolated and lonely. This has led to him feeling anxious about going out and trying new things.
With support from a VOYPIC volunteer mentor, Paul has been encouraged to look at opportunities to get involved in his local community.
“My mentor talked to me about what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to get out more, to try new things, like joining and gym or taking up a sport,” Paul commented.
“With his support, I started to see ways I could get involved. He helped me find a gym where I felt comfortable, and I’ve been going there, starting to get fitter. He’s also helping me think about courses, and what I can I do when I’m ready.”
Stuart, a 24 year old care leaver living in Ballymena, has also had support from the scheme.
With support from VOYPIC, he has been able to explore new employment opportunities and undertake further training. A bursary has helped to cover the fees of his course, as well as the purchase of essential equipment for his studies.
Stuart has also had support from a volunteer mentor.
“I was going through a bit of a rut in work and wanted to see what opportunities were out there for me, but didn’t know where to start. With the help of my mentor I was able to get some funding to get onto a course and start to explore other ways for me to progress my career,” Stuart commented.
“I bought some equipment to help me with that and was able to meet regularly with someone who could support me on my employment journey. Now I’m really happy to be working somewhere that I really love, and learning along the way.”
Also benefitting from the Move on Up scheme is Caitlin, a 19 year old care leaver living in Strabane.
With support from VOYPIC, she is now studying to be a nail technician. A bursary has covered the fees of her course, as well as helping towards the purchase of essential equipment for her studies.
Caitlin has also had support from a volunteer mentor.
“My mentor helped me with reassurance when I was struggling to figure everything out about getting my nail course all set up. She helped me with guidance throughout our time together,” Caitlin commented.
“Sometimes I felt stressed in the process of completing my course and getting the equipment that I needed, but my mentor was there to be a listening ear and to help me overcome any problems or issues that I had. She helped to make me feel accomplished: she was my cheerleader, and was always there cheering me on.”
Calling for more people to volunteer as mentors, Alicia Toal, Chief Executive of VOYPIC said:
“Young adults leaving care live in of all our communities. As a society, we have a collective responsibility to support them to thrive, to become active members of our communities, right across our society.”
All volunteers at VOYPIC are provided with training, to ensure they are prepared before starting their role as a volunteer mentor. Ongoing support is provided by one of VOYPIC’s team of Youth Rights Workers based in the local VOYPIC office.
“Volunteers play an essential role in how we, as an organisation, support young people in and leaving care,” Alicia Toal continued.
“Our volunteers come from all walks of life, and no prior experience or special skills are need- just a desire to support young people.”
For more information about volunteering at VOYPIC, visit www.voypic.org/volunteer.