I have spent a significant chunk of time this past year contemplating what I am going to do come September. This has been a novel situation for me as I have always known what the next stage of my life would look like; yet June 2015 has been, for a while now, the moment from which the black hole appears and a feeling of panic invades my thoughts. In an effort to stem the sense of doom regarding my lack of life direction, I decided to organise some work experience. As a current volunteer in the kitchen at Catching Lives, a homeless shelter in Canterbury, I was interested to find out about the work of another community charity called Porchlight. The two-week placement I have spent with Porchlight has allowed me a much greater insight into how a charity works, something I was really keen to learn more about as I am considering a career in the charity sector.
I was placed in a project which focuses on supporting adolescents and young people within Kent and so needed to reflect on the way I was speaking to them and using a style of communication to which they would best respond. This is a skill which will be really helpful in the future should I want to work with people from within this age group again, and I believe a capacity and willingness to adapt to the audience one is speaking to is really important and creates a much more receptive environment.
During the two weeks, I was also asked to lead a number of activities for the service users. These included cooking, CV writing, and job hunting sessions as well as running a gardening activity and a session which aimed to improve their presentation skills. It was really important that I was supportive and encouraging throughout these sessions whilst also demonstrating responsibility for the safety and behaviour of the service users. In this way I was able to develop my leadership skills which will be useful in the future of I need to run any activities or sessions.
A really crucial skill to demonstrate when working with young people is an ability to challenge disruptive or unacceptable behaviour. Before the work placement, I had some experience with working with teenagers but never felt really comfortable in an authoritative position. However, when I was leading activities with the service users, I needed to ensure that they behaviour of the participants was fair and enabled me to lead an effective and informative session. In this way, I had to confront any negative behaviour whilst also ensuring the situation or behaviour didn’t escalate as a result of my tone of voice or words. This can be a bit of a balancing act; however, I think this will be a really helpful in the future if put in a circumstance where a situation needs to be calmed down or when unacceptable behaviour needs to be challenged. Overall, I believe this work experience has helped me to develop a lot of new skills and improve the ones I already possessed.
– Rose is a 3rd year English & American Literature and French student