Volunteering as an independent visitor, or a 'befriender', can be a deeply rewarding experience, both for the volunteer and the young person they are matched with. Independent visitors provide young people in care with an opportunity to form a positive relationship with an adult outside of their care setting, which can be invaluable in helping them to build resilience and self-esteem.
However, when volunteering as an independent visitor, it is essential to recognise the importance of diversity. By diversity, we mean the recognition and acceptance of different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. It is not enough to simply match a young person with a volunteer who shares their cultural background; rather, volunteers must strive to understand and appreciate the diversity of the young people they work with.
One of the primary reasons for the importance of diversity in independent visitor volunteering is that young people in care are a diverse group. They come from a wide range of backgrounds, gender identities, cultures, and experiences. Some may have experienced trauma or abuse, while others may have additional needs or disabilities. By recognising and valuing this diversity, independent visitor volunteers can ensure that they are better equipped to support the young person they are matched with.
Diversity also plays a critical role in challenging stereotypes and promoting social inclusion. Many young people in care face stigma and discrimination because of their care status, and they may feel isolated or excluded from mainstream society. By promoting diversity and inclusion in their work as independent visitors, volunteers can help to break down these barriers and promote a more inclusive society.
Finally, diversity is essential in ensuring that independent visitor volunteers can provide the best possible support to the young person they are matched with. By valuing and respecting the young person's cultural background, experiences, and needs, volunteers can build stronger relationships with them, providing the support and guidance they need to thrive.
Diversity is critical in independent visitor volunteering. By recognizing and valuing the diversity of young people in care, volunteers can help to promote inclusion, challenge stereotypes, and provide the best possible support to the young person they are matched with. So, if you are considering volunteering as an independent visitor, remember to embrace diversity and recognize the unique value that each young person brings to the program.
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