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Aimee discovers volunteering at Flare at The Bridge

We recently caught up with Aimee who volunteers at The Bridge, supporting our Flare provision. Flare provides alternative learning for 16 to 18 year olds.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I have three children aged 13, 16 and 20. One of whom I have only had with me for 6 years (special guardianship). My daughter is autistic with ADHD and I’m autistic with ADHD. I have previously had a lot of bad health, I had to give up working in 2008, due to my health and my family requirements. For my health and my daughter’s health I left work, so hobbies and interests went out of the window, because my focus was my family and when I wasn’t being Mum, I was too ill to do anything else. 

How did you get into volunteering at Flare at CLIP 

I didn’t know much about CLIP, until my son was finishing school. He left with only  a BTEC in P.E. In my journey of trying to find somewhere for him to continue his education and continue learning Maths and English I found the Flare programme. We decided to give it a try. During his enrollment and speaking to staff about his history, they said they would love to have someone with my experience at The Bridge. Originally it was to get me out of the house. I didn’t know if I would enjoy it or what it would be like supporting learners with various needs. I didn’t know if they would take to me. But I thought just give it a try and let’s see what happens. 

How long have you been volunteering and what is your role? 

I started quite early on this academic year, but because of my son’s health his attendance was low. The beginning of 2024 was when I came in and pulled my sleeves up and got to it. I was here more to get to know the learners and the staff.  Everyone thinks of me as a Teaching Assistant, but with learners with extra needs there is a pastoral element to everything I have to do. If a child is having a panic attack and needs to leave the room, I go with them and allow the Tutors to teach. I fit in wherever I’m needed, whichever subject or whichever class needs me.  

What is the most rewarding thing about being a volunteer? 

I walk in here and it doesn’t feel like work. There’s times that are challenging for the learners and for yourself in all sorts of aspects. The staff team here, and the other volunteers and myself are a strong team. We’re all communicated with, and all feel appreciated. The most rewarding thing is when a learner comes to me and wants to talk. Some of our learners have been through a lot, and knowing that they feel they can come to me makes my time here worthwhile. As an autistic person it has been difficult to find somewhere I feel I fit in life. I fit in here and I’m hoping that by being here I can help a young person find where they fit. If I can help one person understand themselves better, then I’m happy. 

What advice would you give to anyone looking to volunteer? 

Try it, you don’t know if it’s for you if you haven’t tried it yet. When I started, I didn’t believe I could be that person that could make a difference. I didn’t believe I had anything to give, but I have found who I am by helping these learners and helping them find where they fit. I have gained a lot of qualifications in and around what I do here and it has helped me find a path for what I want to do for my future. Doing voluntary work is a great way of trying something you haven’t done before and if it doesn’t work nobody is put out. 

What are your next steps? 

Flare is where I want to be going forward, if a position came up I would apply for it. But if it doesn’t I will happily stay volunteering.  

I love being here and I know that I want to work in the special needs side of education. Being here has given me the confidence to know that I can do it. Coming in voluntary meant there was less pressure on me and I was able to test myself and my own abilities to get back into work. When you do something voluntary you can dip your toe in without diving straight in. If you said to me a year ago I would end up wanting to work in education I wouldn’t have believed you or that I had the ability to either. 

Being here six months has changed my outlook and changed me as a person. My family have noticed I’m happier and calmer. It has made me more human. 

Lucy Yexley, Lead Tutor for Young People, shared her gratitude for Aimee and her efforts 

“Aimee has become an invaluable member of our team. She’s cheerful, capable and caring. She brightens the day for staff and students. Aimee goes above and beyond to be as helpful as possible, and has the ability to soothe troubled waters with grace and generosity of spirit. Myself and the whole team are very proud and grateful to have Aimee as part of CLIP’s journey.” 

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