We currently have over 30 Independent Visitor volunteers supporting children & young people living in care across Teesside. Recently we caught up with Leanne and spoke to her about her experiences with the role.
How many years have you been an IV for?
I’ve been doing it for 4 going on 5 years now and thoroughly enjoying it! I am currently matched with a young girl from Hartlepool, I started with her when she was 17 and living in care, she now lives independently. I was initially matched to be with her for around 1-2 years as she was becoming a care leaver however that match is still going strong. Like I say, I thoroughly enjoy it, we have such a good relationship and to see her now living independently, it's fantastic.
What made you decide to be an IV?
I have a couple of friends who were volunteering at Changing Futures, as mentors or as an IV. I just thought that’s something I would really like to do, although I work full time I do have free time and the IV role really suited me and my circumstances because it's so flexible. I arrange a time to see the young person that suits us both. We meet up a couple a times a month and spend a few hours together each visit. I just felt I’ve got something to offer a young person, just to be with them, spend some time with them and help them with transitions in their life.
When you are out and about with this young person what sort of things do you get up too?
She’s quite an active young person, she’s really interested in animals which suits me, it’s a good match there! She wanted to go horse riding so we’ve done that, which initially I was a bit apprehensive about as I did horse riding as a kid but nothing since then! But I thought I'll get myself out of my comfort zone and we will go do it together and it was a really good bonding exercise. It was really good for her, she has a lot of experience with horses and she was telling me how to do things and how to look after them, she got a lot of confidence from that. As well as doing that, she wanted to go go-karting, which again was out of my comfort zone and I thought right well I'll be brave. And again such a lovely bonding experience! On other occasions we go for food, shes a big foodie, as am I, so we go to restaurant together, sometime we might just pop to McDonald's. It’s lovely to go out for a few hours and have a chat over some food. I let her direct me as to what she wants to do. Obviously if there was something really uncomfortable to do, we’d have to compromise on that but as it were, we're such a good match that we just go off and do things we agree on together. So sometimes quite active things and sometimes maybe a little bit more relaxed, I just kind of take her lead.
Building Lasting Memories....
The great thing about the IV service is that the young people get to do things they wouldn’t normally get to do in their everyday life. It's taking them away from whats going on from their everyday life. It’s a little bit of escapism I suppose but supportive. It's great for the young person to know that for these few hours a month when I am meeting up with my IV we are doing something completely different. It's an opportunity for them to get away from the day to day and have a really good experience. Hopefully I am creating really good memories for her to look back on.
What would you say to other people thinking about doing it and wondering why they should become an IV?
I would say it doesn’t matter how old you are, what experience you’ve got, everybody will have something to offer a young person. Young people coming through the care system, care leavers and so on they need a variety of positive influences in their life. I think put aside any worries you may have , you’ll definitely have something to offer. As long as you can commit to being there for that young person and seeing them a couple of times a month for 3-4 hours. You don’t need to have any special skills or experiences, everybody has something to offer a young person definitely .
We’ve seen an increase in the need for this support since lockdown.
We need so many people for some many different backgrounds to volunteer because we have so many young people from different backgrounds wanting this service and help. Coming through this Covid situation it's more important then ever that young people have IV's to talk too and spend time with.