Volunteering at Dost – Elhum’s experience

Ever wonder what it’s like to work as a volunteer in a charitable organisation like Dost? Well, our volunteers love it, and often return to us whenever they get the opportunity. Some even enjoy it so much they apply for full-time roles here as soon as the opportunity arises! But don’t just take our word for it…

Dost volunteer Elhum Shakerifar shares her experience of working as part of the education programme, and later with the youth club (we told you people return!):

I first started volunteering at Dost in 2007, running photography workshops as part of the education programme. Later, I became a Trustee of the Trinity Centre, where Dost is based, and then worked as Assistant Director of the project for several years. When I left in 2011, I wanted to keep a connection with the project and the young people I’d known over the years so I became a volunteer again and I now volunteer at the Youth Club on a weekly basis.

Dost is a fantastic, vibrant and important project. Through its child-centered projects, it gives local children and young people and newly arrived migrants a sense of belonging and resilience.

Working there, I have learnt that time is probably the most valuable resource you can offer a young person, particularly where there is consistency. As a volunteer, I commit to both of these things – I am known for sometimes being late (!) but unless I am out of the country, I will be at Youth Club every Tuesday evening.

Elhum volunteering blog_Oct14

Why volunteer?

I think to begin with, I can relate to the idea of being new somewhere, of feeling different and out of place. I volunteer because it only takes a smile and a few words (sometimes sign language) to lift someone out of that place, and being able to do that is a humbling experience.

I also believe in the importance of role models and I think it’s important to be clear about being a reliable adult in a young person centered space – I’m not there to be cool but to be responsible.

Youth Club is a space for children to learn, to have fun, to switch off from the worries they might have at home, at school or in life – so responsible can also mean fun! My sporting credentials are poor to say the least… but I’ve learnt how to play ping pong over the years and a chat in broken English over a very disjointed game of table tennis is a great way of welcoming someone new to the club. Generally I am to be found making tea or food or walking around the club chatting. I also sometimes accompany the group on theatre or cinema trips.

For me volunteering is also a breath of fresh air – engaging with a different perspective than the one I see in my everyday life. I work in film and I have never enjoyed seeing Spiderman as much as I did when we took a group to the IMAX and the 12-year-old I sat next to excitedly told me every plot point just before it was going to happen.

For all of these reasons, I look forward to coming to Youth Club every week – it’s rewarding to see children grow up, to see them learn and become active members of their communities. Not every day is a happy day, but central to everything is being a young person’s champion.

If you’re interested in volunteering at Dost, head over to our volunteering page to find out more and download an application form today!

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