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CEO blog: The Volunteer Takeover: A Decade of Impact at Wigan Youth Zone

8th May 2023 by Jamie Masraff, Chief Executive, Onside

Thousands of charities across the country are coming together today for The Big Help Out, raising awareness of volunteering and celebrating the incredible contributions of volunteers to causes both local and national. Volunteers are an integral part of any Youth Zone. They generously give their time to make a difference to the lives of young people, and each Youth Zone couldn’t exist without the power of volunteering. In celebration of The Big Help Out, I wanted to use my blog to share the story of Paul Morgan, a volunteer at Wigan Youth Zone who has been supporting Wigan’s young people since doors opened a decade ago – over to Paul!

I wanted to volunteer at Wigan Youth Zone, as I was looking for an opportunity to give back to the community. I watched the Youth Zone being built and was inspired to sign-up once it opened. I received some volunteer training, as it wasn’t anything I’d done before, and the rest is history! It’s a fantastic thing for the young people of Wigan, and I’ve had lots of fun since the day it has opened.

I volunteer on the junior session on Tuesdays and Sundays. I’ve done all sorts of things, from coaching boxing and self-defence, I’ve done sports all my life, and represented my country in boxing, so was glad to have the opportunity to use my skills. I’ve even renovated the outside space to make a gardening plot. A few years ago we introduced 5 chickens with a hen house for egg collections for our kitchen to use. There’s a real sense of respect between young people and the volunteers and youth workers, they’re so keen to learn which is really inspiring.

It’s something I’m proud to be part of, I gain a lot out of it as do the kids – you find they can’t wait to come back to the Youth Zone.

The friendships that I’ve built with the members over the years are certainly a highlight. When I’m walking around the town and see a young person with their parents or grandparents, they often come over to say hi – one young person even asked for my favourite cake so she could bake it for my birthday!

I’ve also won a couple of awards over the years for my volunteering, though I don’t give my time for the recognition, it’s always a nice thing to feel valued, and really blows me away.

We have some brilliant young leaders at Wigan Youth Zone who volunteer to support junior sessions and holiday clubs. It’s so valuable for them and gives them a great start to build their life skills. It shows their personality, their abilities and how responsible they are, which can be helpful when they’re applying for their first job. It’s also good for the community, they have a responsibility and know they’re making a difference.

Wigan Youth Zone, and Youth Zones in other communities across the country couldn’t run without volunteers. I’d tell anyone to go along with an open heart. The people are amazing and friendly, it’s a warm atmosphere where you learn a lot. As a volunteer our responsibility is to ensure that the young people have fun, learn, and grow in a safe environment. One day that young person will look back and remember what you taught them – so you’re creating a legacy.

You’ll also gain so much from doing it because you really see that what you’re doing benefits a lot of people. I get such a kick out of it, and I can honestly say that I look forward to every volunteer session. I’d highly recommend it! Come along and have a go, it will enhance your life skills.

Huge thanks to Paul for his decade of supporting Wigan Youth Zone, and to all volunteers across the OnSide Network who are committed to making a difference in young people’s lives. If you’re feeling inspired and want to give your time to a good cause, find out about volunteering at an OnSide Youth Zone: www.onsideyouthzones.org/get-on-our-side/youth-zone-volunteering/

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