Meet Pierce & Binit

“Their lives have been richer by being supported to get involved in activities by Me2 Club volunteers” 

Me2 Club is an inclusion charity for children and young people (aged 5-19) with additional needs and disabilities in the Wokingham and Reading Boroughs. Me2 Club’s work aims to tackle the social isolation and loneliness experienced by children not being able to access mainstream leisure activities.

Me2 Club works with over 100 children and teenagers each year and around 100-120 volunteers acting as buddies to support the children to take part in mainstream activities, having fun accessing a wide range of activities including sports clubs, uniformed groups and drama classes, giving them a chance to build independence and vital life and social skills.

Binit is one of these volunteers, buddied with Pierce to help him enjoy weekly swimming sessions. Binit, a 21-year-old second year psychology student at the University of Reading, got involved with the Me2 Club while looking for work experience as part of his course. Having experience of working with children through helping out with his little cousins he felt the Me2 Club might be a good fit, he explained:

“When I went to the [Me2 Club] induction day everyone who worked there was really nice and welcoming, there was a kind of energy that you don’t often see from people. They were really kind people and you don’t run into that everyday.”

Binit went on to be paired with Pierce to go swimming. Pierce has complex needs and is also non-verbal and Binit admitted to finding the first few sessions a challenge:

“When I started going to his swimming lessons it was a struggle for me because without verbal communication I had to learn to understand his gestures and his facial expressions… It was hard for me to direct him, he would walk around the pool a lot. The first few weeks it was quite a struggle.”

Despite these initial challenges Binit continued to volunteer and explains the support provided by the Me2 Club staff and Pierce’s mum, Nicola, helped him to start making progress, feeling more comfortable and building up his relationship with Pierce:

“Jess [Jessica Haycock – Senior Activities and Volunteers Coordinator] is always helpful and encouraging. She gave me a support plan for Pierce. A kind of profile of what makes him tick, what language to use to talk to him, how I can make sure he is on track. She reminded me to review those things and was really supportive. Jess will message now and again to see how I’m getting along and if I’m having any problems I can always talk to her about it.”

With the training and support Binit had received he soon started to feel more confident in supporting Pierce and also felt that Pierce had become more comfortable with him:

“By the fourth week I had learnt how to direct him, I have slowly learnt how to direct him, learnt the right language to use, how to pick up on things if he is uncomfortable and he wants to leave the pool. He trusted me a lot more”

As well as having gained valuable experience, which Binit feels will give him an invaluable boost in the jobs market for summer jobs relevant to his degree and for his longer term career prospects, he also believes that he has gained through broadening his perspective:

“Talking to Nicola I have started to understand how difficult it can be for parents who have children who have additional needs. She is always fighting the council about something to make sure that Pierce is getting the support that he needs. Learning about that side of things, what parents have to deal with on a daily basis it’s been really eye opening from my perspective as I have no experience of it, they are not things I know of.”

When asked what had surprised him most about volunteering Binit was keen to emphasise how the amount of time he had expected he would need to invest was less than he expected:

“I was expecting it would take 2-3 days out of my week but in fact it is only taking 2 hours… and for 2 hours a week you are going to get a lot more out of it than the 2 hours you are giving.”

Nicola was full of praise for the work that Binit in particular and the Me2 Club in general are doing. She has had three children supported by Me2 Club volunteers over the years and believes that the support received have allowed them to do things that they otherwise would have been unable to saying that:

“Their lives have been richer by being supported to get involved in activities by Me2 Club volunteers”

Thanks to Steve Hendry (Volunteer Development Manager) at Reading Voluntary Action for compiling and writing this case study.

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