Tower Hamlets Summer Holiday Club – A volunteer’s perspective

The Parachute Game
The Parachute Game

Success in projects such as the Tower Hamlets Summer Holiday Club lies with the staff and volunteers who make it happen.

As the Holiday Club came to its conclusion, I spoke with volunteer Sabrina Simmen, 28 from Switzerland, who volunteered on the final week of the programme. We found out how she became a volunteer, discussed her expectations and what she learnt from the experience.

Why were you interested in volunteering?
My partner and I moved from Switzerland to London a few weeks ago and will stay till the end of September. While my partner is working, I wanted to take the chance and spend my time wisely in a different way.

How did you find out about the Sense volunteering programme?

What prompted you to enquire about volunteering on a Sense programme?
The described opportunity seemed to be exactly what I was looking to do: Working with children, enhance my personal skills but also giving me the chance to become part of the London community and giving something back.

Can you explain what a typical day would involve?
Preparation of the rooms before the arrival of the children, briefing with other volunteers and leaders, 1:1 all day support (incl. giving support during the different activities throughout the day, preparing food for lunch/feeding, supporting the children going to the toilet if needed), cleaning up and debriefing with other volunteers and leaders.

What challenges did you encounter?
I think communication was the biggest challenge I faced. However, overcoming that has been the greatest achievement. Listening carefully, being patient and trying new ways of communication helped to understand him better and create a strong bond with time.

Man playing the didgeridoo
During the didgeridoo session

What was your favourite moment while volunteering?
We had lots of great moments with the children; however my favourite moments were when the children were smiling. In such moments you instantly knew we were doing something good.

How did you find the other volunteers?
Great young personalities. I was surprised by how professional and dedicated the volunteers acted.

Did you feel that you had sufficient support?
Absolutely. At any point in time I felt well supported by our leaders Gilly, Roksana and especially Claire, but also the volunteers supported each other a lot.

Inside the parachute
Inside the parachute

Did the volunteering experience meet your original expectations?

Did you learn anything during the volunteering programme? 
This volunteering opportunity opened my eyes. These children face massive challenges every day (much bigger ones then I ever did in my life) and it is just incredible to see how happy they are and how much positive energy they have.

Will you stay friends with any of the other volunteers?
Absolutely. With today’s technology should be easy to stay in contact with everyone even across the different countries we are living in

Would you recommend volunteering with Sense to other people?  Definitely! With only a little bit of your time you can make a huge difference to the children’s and your life.

What attributes do you think make a good volunteer?
A good volunteer is probably someone who is open minded, able to respect everyone’s differences, caring, patient with a good sense of humour.

Read all about Karen’s volunteering experience.
Read more about the Tower Hamlets Summer Holiday Club.
Q&A with Tower Hamlets Summer Holiday Club leader Claire Farris

Matthew Farrand

Author: Matthew Farrand

Digital media officer at Sense

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