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Volunteering saved my career and made me a better person

Blog posted by: , 2 August 2017 – Categories:GDS teamPeople and skills.

Hard times

In 2007 I’d been in a dead-end job for 5 years. I kept applying for other work, but was rejected repeatedly. My mental health was declining and the promise of my 20s was fading away.

I’d never been keen on the idea of volunteering. I’d thought that I should probably make some money before I started giving my time away for free.

A friend of mine was a volunteer at  Westminster Youth Offending Team(YOT). They pressured me into going. At around the same time, a regular customer where I worked had been talking about restorative justice. The YOT showed me a video about a man who had escaped a life of violent crime by being confronted with the effects of his actions. I was convinced that restorative justice made a difference and signed up to volunteer.

An upstanding member of my community (panel)

My first role at Westminster YOT was that of a community panel member. I represented the local community in meetings between young people who had pleaded guilty to crimes in court and been given a referral order.  For 2 months, I attended training every weekend. We covered topics such as tackling prejudice, active listening and understanding how the youth justice system worked.

My role was to ensure that young offenders took responsibility for their crimes. I worked with them to agree how and for how long they should recompense society or their victims. Sometimes I participated in mediating between the two parties.

All of this resonated with me. I’m lucky to have grown up in an environment which was relatively privileged. I didn’t face the barriers and problems other people my age did. I had opportunity and support. I know that my life could’ve turned out very differently and I felt I owed these young people something.

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