Thursday 12th December, 2019

Volunteer Len's Story

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Volunteer Len’s story

There are over 70 volunteers who actively support Romsey Mill’s work with young people and families. We couldn’t do all that we do without them!

Len, who volunteers with Romsey Mill’s youth workers in Cambourne, said of his role: “It is a huge privilege. I love the fun of it, and I also enjoy the sense of responsibility that goes with the role. Young people need to feel secure in the knowledge that you are there for them."

Prior to his retirement, Len’s career included working for the Youth Offending Service and a Pupil Referral Unit; teaching young people with challenging behaviour and ensuring opportunities for engagement with education, employment or training for offenders and those at risk of offending.

However, he did not have a lot of experience of practical youth work

Ten years ago, Len became a trustee for Cambourne Youth Partnership, a local grassroots youth organisation that partners with Romsey Mill.

As a trustee, Len wanted to know more about how youth work was delivered on the ground. He had heard about Romsey Mill in other contexts and had heard good things about the work and was impressed with the way that they respond to needs in the community.

He spoke with Jonathan Buwert, Romsey Mill’s Youth Development Worker in Cambourne, and soon began to volunteer with various youth groups and activities.

Speaking of his role as a volunteer, Len said: "The experience has been one of real life. It's so refreshing that the young people are willing to engage in a normal conversation. It's not parent to child or teacher to child, nor is it an exchange on the same level. Nevertheless there is a sense of freedom to be able to talk and share what’s on their minds and happening in their lives.”

Len added: “My very first session was with the younger group. It was a huge group. One particular group of girls were in and out. I stood near the entrance and said ‘Hello’ to each of them but nobody spoke to me. The second session, the same thing started to happen. Then one of the girls got all of the others into a side room and they were looking out of the window. Then she burst out and said 'Right we're going to call you grandad!' and it's been like that ever since.”

I love that sense of fun, and also enjoy the sense of responsibility. Young people need to feel secure in the knowledge that you're there for them. It's a chance to test out boundaries for them, and it feels like a natural, organic interaction. It can take a while to build the relationships, but as they are learning, what they are learning they know they can trust.”

Len enjoyed volunteering with the groups in Cambourne so much that he enrolled in a training course delivered by Romsey Mill’s team, gaining a Level 2 Award in Youth Work.

Speaking of what he learned from the course, Len said: “It has provided me with a more acute awareness of the stresses and strains that young people are subjected to nowadays. It brought me into a way of understanding, the way that relationships happen and develop.”

“For example, yesterday, one young person felt that she had been ostracised and was not welcome quite so much in the group. However, the female youth workers handled the situation really well and resolved her concerns quickly.”

He hadn't realised previously how deeply social media affected young people, but the course helped to show him that the pressures on young people have intensified in scale and complexity.

Len also enjoyed how a sense of community grew amongst all on the course.

He said: “Everybody got on and I think that has almost been as valuable as the course itself. It was refreshing to know that other people were in the same boat as yourself and needing that kind of learning, but because of that everybody helped one another. That came from the group itself but fostered really well by Mike and Jon, from Romsey Mill who delivered the course. The whole course was a joy to be part of.

Summing up his experience, Len said: “Being a volunteer youth worker, especially after having done the Level 2 youth work course, frees me from the prejudices that people usually have about young people being boisterous, running around and being cheeky..

He concluded: “It brings light into your life and experience the serious joy or the joyful seriousness of youth work."


"HOPE. Your gift, our presence."

 Nearly one in five young people disagree with the statement that life is ‘really worth living’.* For them hope is fragile.

 Throughout the year, the team at Romsey Mill is present and alongside many disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, in places across Cambridge city, South Cambridgeshire and in Hampton, Peterborough.

 Across all of Romsey Mill’s work, our presence with young people and families helps them to:

• Overcome isolation and challenge

• Develop relationships and skills

• Grow more resilient communities and

• Build hope for their future. 


How you can help

Making a donation would help us to maintain our presence with vulnerable young people and families in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and help them have real hope for their future.

Any donation that you can make will help to make a positive impact the lives of all those with whom we work. Thank you!

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