Blog – Jane & Big Hearts Befrienders: “The feedback is really positive”
This month Jane Forrester, Big Hearts Befrienders Project Worker, reflects on the first year of the programme, the main challenges in recruiting volunteers and how the young people in kinship care benefit from their trusted role models.
Today, I am very proud of what Big Hearts Befrienders have achieved. It’s been over a year since the project was launched and it feels fantastic to know that every week there are 11 young people around Edinburgh who will go home feeling happy and more confident, simply because they’ve had a brilliant time with one of our volunteer Befrienders.
So what is Big Hearts Befrienders? Well if you are a regular visitor to Tynecastle Park, you may have seen posters in the ClubStore or articles in the match day programmes about us. Big Hearts Befrienders is one of the family programmes from Big Hearts, the Club’s official charity.
The aim of the project is to help and support an isolated and vulnerable young person in Kinship Care and their families. Kinship Care means living with a grandparent, aunt/uncle or family member. Since 2015, Big Hearts provides supported activities for kinship care families.
With the Broomhouse Centre’s expertise in befriending, we launched this Befriending Service in 2017 to offer additional support for the kinship young people between 7 and 14 years old.
Main part of my job is to promote this to the Hearts fans. Why? Because we need volunteers! You have a couple of hours to spare every week? You want to volunteer with children? Make a difference to someone’s life? Then consider becoming a Big Hearts Befriender!
“FUN. That’s what it’s about. The Befriender organises activities with the young person to have fun, which in the longer term will improve their confidence and self esteem”.
What is befriending really? It is taking a young person out once a week and giving them an opportunities to enjoy activities they have never experienced before, or would love to do more often. Our volunteer befrienders act as a positive role model for the youngsters, a person they can trust and talk to and have FUN with!
That’s what it’s about. The volunteer befriender organises activities with the young person to have fun, which in the longer term will help improve their confidence and self esteem.
In the last 12 months, I’m delighted to say we have built a fantastic team of 11 volunteers, who are all matched with a young person in kinship care. The feedback is really positive on both sides.
The families involved noticed some changes in the children’s behaviour: they are more open to try new things at home or at school. Some of the volunteers clearly found the experience more fulfilling than they expected which I think is also 100% positive.
“Volunteering on a 1:1 basis can seem a bit overwhelming at first. My role is to train and support volunteers all the way, providing full training and weekly check-ups”.
Now that I have reached the landmark of my first anniversary as Big Hearts Befrienders Project Worker, I’m celebrating what we have achieved so far, but I’m still pushing forward to support even more of these young people who need so much our help.
We have currently a referral list of around 10 kids waiting to be matched, so there’s still work to do! Recruiting volunteers last year has been more challenging than we thought. Volunteering on a 1:1 basis can seem a bit overwhelming at first.
My role is to train and support volunteers all the way, providing full training and weekly check-ups. I spend time getting to know the volunteers, visiting the families and the young person on a number of occasions to know everyone quite well. So by the time volunteers get matched, everyone is happy and ready to go!
Post written by Jane Forrester, Big Hearts Befrienders Project Worker, February 2018.