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The Benefits of Volunteering – A Perspective

07th June 2019

At CXK we welcome a number of professional volunteers to our programmes every year. These are individuals who take time away from their daily jobs – in the Police, fire service and other sectors – to volunteer with us; and in doing so we benefit from their professional knowledge, insight and experience. Meanwhile, our volunteers are given the opportunity to develop their skills, gain experience in a different sector, and give back to their local community.

Here, we talk to Pippa, a Sergeant at Sussex Police, about her experiences as a current volunteer on the Prince’s Trust Team programme.

How did you come to volunteer on our Prince’s Trust Team Programme?

I’m on a two year rapid promotion programme with Sussex Police. As part of that development I undertake community work. Although I’d worked with young people before through the Cadets and Duke of Edinburgh schemes, I hadn’t worked with young people from challenging backgrounds. That’s why I chose to volunteer with CXK’s Prince’s Trust Team programme.

What have you been doing in your time with us?

The Team programme is a 12 week programme, and I’ll be volunteering for the duration of that. I spent two full weeks with the team initially – planning the residential trip, and then going on the trip with the team. From then on I’ve been volunteering for two days a week. My role is as an extra Team Leader, and I just slot in wherever I’m needed.

Being a police officer I was obviously unsure initially how the young people would react to me, but I was open and honest from the beginning. I think that broke down barriers, as they could ask me whatever questions they wanted and get them out of the way.

They treat me just like a full-time Team Leader. In my day-to-day job I work as a police officer in custody, and some of these young people may have been in a situation where they’ve been held in custody before. So being able to work with them in a different environment – being able to do things like sit down and play cards – helps to humanise my profession.

What challenges have you faced during your time volunteering with us?

The role is entirely different to what I’m used to. These young people don’t have to do what you tell them. In the police there’s a command structure and an expectation of behaviour. With the Prince’s Trust team, you have to earn the right to tell them off and to tell them what to do. You even have to earn the right to praise them – they don’t necessarily want to accept it.

That’s something I’ll really take back with me into my job – the approach, when I go into new teams, of spending the time earning the right to command them.

How do you feel volunteering has benefitted you?

Socially I’ve learned so much. I think, as a Police Officer, there can be a tendency to believe that when we have contact with people in crisis, their situation is fleeting. That life isn’t normally like this. I thought I was worldly, but now – having this opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds – I realise there are whole set of social dynamics you don’t usually see.

I have worked in safeguarding, child protection and domestic abuse; this experience adds another dimension to my work. The understanding of the types of environments some of these young people are in, and the challenges they face every day, will enhance how I approach my safeguarding work in future.

I’ve learned so much from seeing how John and Sladja (the Prince’s Trust Team Leaders) manage the team. They have a relaxed approach and roll with the team, and through that have earned so much respect. I can appreciate a different way of managing people – it’s not desirable to always fall to command. It’s better for people to make the decision themselves. Give them the choice, and they make that choice and live with it. That way the power still sits with them.

How do you feel your volunteer work has benefited the young people?

As I said before, it’s definitely helped to dispel myths around the Police.

In terms of the direct benefits, I have the opportunity to work 1:1 with the young people. This can involve proof-reading their work and helping them to tailor their goal setting, for example. I’ve also been able to help one team member with her career aspirations. She’s interested in joining the Police and so I’ve arranged for her to join the Ride Along scheme in Hastings for her work experience placement. I’ll also be working with her to work out her route in to the job. Currently she doesn’t have the necessary qualifications, so we’re going to work out a plan for how she can achieve those so that she can apply for a job next year.

I’ve also introduced a number of the team to meditation techniques, to help with their anxiety. On our residential trip it really helped them to get ready for the day. Some of them are now using meditation techniques day-to-day to cope with stressful situations.

Explain why this type of volunteering is so important to organisations like yours.

It helps to broaden the horizons of managers in the Police, and maximise their understanding of all social backgrounds. It helps staff to develop their knowledge of safeguarding, and to experience different, perhaps softer, approaches to working with the most vulnerable. In a way that achieves the best holistic outcome for the young person. It’s also invaluable experience of different leadership styles; it’s certainly opened my eyes to different ways of leading people who don’t necessarily want to be led.

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