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The Impact of Donations & Funding – Sophia Anwar

Sophia Anwar has been volunteering as a Befriender with Volunteer Glasgow’s Young Person’s Befriending Service for six years. We spoke to her about her experience, and the opportunities and challenges she has faced in her time supporting a young person.

Sophia was looking for a volunteering opportunity where she could experience the positive impact of her work first-hand and found that befriending was a perfect fit. “I think it’s the best thing. Not only do I enjoy myself week to week, but I can see the impact it’s having on my young person… when we started, he was shy and anxious. Now he’s the most wonderful young man. So compassionate, so considerate. He wants to own a barbershop and be a barber and run a business, which is wonderful. He’s very cheeky, but I like to think it’s in a very witty way, so he gets away with it!”

“I have had my own mental health issues and even throughout that this was great because I carried on with my young person and it was something to look forward to and brought a lot of joy and satisfaction. I absolutely love it and I get to be a kid again.”

Sophia also talked about the challenges that befrienders can face when sticking to a tight budget. Befrienders have £10 to spend on travel and activities with their young person each week, which means that making sure that time together is engaging and interesting can require a lot of creativity.

“It is very difficult, especially now,” says Sophia. “When he was younger it wasn’t too bad, because we could have a hot chocolate and a cup of tea and colour in, and I had board games I’d take in a backpack, but he’s now 14 so that doesn’t quite cut the mustard. I find I have to say no to a lot of things. […] These young people are from challenging and difficult backgrounds already, so they hear “no” a lot. The whole point of Young Person’s Befriending isn’t the money, of course, but spending two to four hours a week, you do need something to do. It gets boring quite quickly for them!”

Donations can offer befrienders and their young people more spending money and some relief from budget constraints, and the impact is profound. Sophia talks about the positive effect activities and outings can have on her young person –

“There are a lot of things we have to save up for, so we don’t tend to do “big days”, which is really just going to the cinema or crazy golf, until three to four months. It’s not so bad during the summer, but especially when it’s raining, or when the winter months come, we do struggle quite a lot. […] When we go and do something like crazy golf, his wee face lights up because it’s not something we’d normally do. And I do find that when we’re doing something, he’s a lot more open and he’ll chat a lot more. He’ll tell me what’s happening in school, he’ll talk to me more. I do feel it opens him up a lot more and those two to four hours he can just forget what’s going on and just be a 14-year old boy.”

For those who are interested in becoming befrienders but have any doubts, Sophia has some advice. She didn’t have any experience with young people but found that the training and support she received from Volunteer Glasgow’s support workers set her up to take on the role with confidence.

“You get a lot of training, and it covers everything,” says Sophia. “Because there’s a few of you, you can bounce off ideas and concerns and questions. You can meet a befriender and ask them about their experiences. […] I thought it was quite a big commitment every week, but I just set a day. Reach out to the support worker, they’ve had so many years of experience. They can talk you through it and they can be your guide. And the great thing is, the only thing you have to do is give the young person your time.”

We asked Sophia what she would say to anyone thinking of donating to Volunteer Glasgow’s Young Person’s Befriending Service.

“Don’t hesitate. Do it,” she says. “I was talking at an AGM a few years ago, and there was a man who said, “If I had had a befriender, I would be completely different.” And I think that’s what’s stuck with me. It just goes to show, it’s not just the impact of the week to week, it will carry right through this young person’s life. And when we were doing the training session, one of the volunteers signing up was a young person, and they said themselves how much of an impact it had on them, and that they wanted to pass that on. Whatever you can donate, please do. It’s such a wonderful cause.”

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