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Volunteer It Yourself (VIY)

PLUMBING, carpentry and tiling - along with teamwork and problem solving - are not the kind of skills most students learn in a typical school classroom.

Smiley Team

3 weeks ago
But for many young people who have been excluded from school, or those who have disabilities or special educational needs, these skills can be an essential asset when it comes to finding a job and getting on in life.

Which is where the team at Volunteer It Yourself (VIY) come in. They link up young people who have typically struggled to thrive in mainstream education with tradespeople to mentor them and projects in their own communities, which are in desperate need of repairs or refurbishment.

And the result, according to Imran Younas, a lead mentor at VIY, is both inspiring and beneficial to everyone involved.

Imran explained: “At VIY we work with young people, aged mostly 14 to 24, who have not done well in a traditional school classroom. A lot of them will have been excluded multiple times or could be young offenders. They are not engaged with school, college or wherever they find themselves in the system, and they are seen as not really having achieved anything.

“We also work with kids who have disabilities or special educational needs which have meant that they haven’t had the chance to get involved with a practical project.”

VIY matches up these young people with trade skills mentors, like Imran, and a community project in need of their help.

Imran, who owned a maintenance and plumbing business before becoming a mentor at VIY, said: “It could be a hospital, a youth centre, a football or cricket club or a school. Many of the organisations we help are in a situation where they cannot carry on unless they can fix whatever the issue is. That means the work of our young people and volunteers is extremely important.”

One such project is a garden designed specifically for dementia patients at the Rowley Regis Hospital near Halesowen in the West Midlands.

In June a team of 15 students with special educational needs and disabilities, together with Imran and another mentor, spent a day transforming the garden. They built planters to be filled with flowers and plants which will reflect the changing seasons, and painted the garden furniture blue, a colour found to be calming for those with dementia. All tools and materials for the project were donated by the local Wickes store as part of the DIY chain’s ongoing partnership with VIY.

Imran, who is from Birmingham, said: “Seeing the smiles on the young people’s faces at the end of the day was brilliant. They had really achieved something which will benefit many people in their community.”

VIY have so far completed more than 350 projects across the UK since they started in 2011, and would welcome tradespeople who could volunteer as mentors for their projects.
For more information see volunteerityourself.org.

By Jenna Sloan
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