News Article

REBECCA CHIVERS

Member of Lend a Hand

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During my 1st year (2016)I knew I wanted to get involved with a project, but none of the current projects really spoke to me. So I reached out to vteam asking if there were any projects that involved education, and focused on supporting disadvantaged people. It was Alex at the time who reached out to me about the first stop Centre. We visited and the people were so friendly! I spent that first year as the only volunteer and session leader, delivering lesson plans and taking the bus to Braintree every Sunday- I named it ‘lend a hand’. In my second year I became project leader and recruited some volunteers, a social media person and a session leader to support me with it. In total I think it was 2 years, in my final year I focused on my studies but kept in touch and occasionally visiting. I have been keeping in touch since.

It connected me to people I would never have met otherwise, and taught me just how little I knew about teaching and education! Especially teaching people who had significant learning problems. It inspired me to get further into education, and my passion now lies in how do we teach for neurodiverse students, and focusing on well-being, to boost self esteem and confidence. It helped me secure my masters in pedagogical sciences, and my job now as a researcher in education! it gave me practical skills and real life insight that you can’t necessarily get through reading about it.

Some of my fondest memories are the smallest, the cups of tea when I arrived and the plate of biscuits. I also fondly remember spending a few minutes each session getting everyone to remember how to spell a word, I can’t remember the word, but it was tricky! And I think by the second or third lesson we all knew how to spell it! I also fondly remember making Halloween decorations with everyone.

I also enjoyed recruiting volunteers at the Essex fair alongside the session leader at the time, Morgane. I enjoyed our team meetings and learning from the others who started to take on the project in the second year.

It was a really loving environment! They always fed me at first stop, and gave me gifts for Christmas and birthday. I was really spoiled, and I really came to love the group of learners. I also grew to seriously admire Jan and Rachel- they are absolute superstars and so committed.

I also won a couple awards for volunteering with lend a hand, and it felt really special getting recognition for something you simply enjoy.

I absolutely recommend it in your first and second year, it may feel like there’s not enough time but it adds depth to the Uni experience. My recommendation is to volunteer with a project that speaks to you. It doesn’t have to be in the same field as

your study, but it is a great way to test the waters of what you may be interested to pursue as a career or otherwise. It also is a great thing to add to a CV, it shows future employers you’re passionate and take initiative. Any added experience makes you a more interesting and well-rounded candidate for a position!

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