Carmen is a volunteer at the Carers’ Centre in Bath and North East Somerset. She has recently completed her A Levels and is now studying Liberal Arts & Sciences with a major in Psychology to degree level.
Why did you decide to volunteer?
There were multiple factors and inspirations about how my life could be improved if I did things for other people. I realised that being of service to others actually makes you feel better. It’s certainly helped me recover from an illness and you improve your life, become a better person and can let go of a frightened way of thinking. It’s also helped me grow and develop and I think become a better version of myself.
What sort of role were you looking for?
I looked online for volunteering, and through that process of just trying things, I’ve discovered what I’m actually good at. Interacting with people and particularly kids which I find very fulfilling. I feel that I’m growing and developing in those situations.
There was a point in my life where I was quite isolated so I’m challenging myself to learn how to listen, make connections and be a friendly and loving presence to these kids.
What was it about the Carers’ Centre that made you want to volunteer for us?
It helped that it was near to where I live and it’s a cause that I think is really great. I’ve done some research since I started, watching documentaries about young carers, which was so much outside my radar, and people really need these services.
What sort of activities have you helped us with at the Carers’ Centre?
I’ve gone on a few carers’ breaks such as outings to Weston-super-mare and Westonbirt Arboretum. I found them very enjoyable and you get to meet lots of new people. I’ve also done lots of stuff with young carers, like Arts Awards evenings where the kids create art and chill out and I’ve made some food and chatted to them. Last week I went to Bushcraft Fun, which was really great, probably the best young carers thing I’ve done. We learnt about John Muir, who founded the national parks and how to make a fire. I also got to have interesting conversations with some Yr7 – Yr8 kids, helping to see the world from their perspective which was great.
How easy has it been to fit volunteering in with the rest of your life?
When I was doing my A Levels, it was tricky, but this summer I’ve had lots of opportunities and it’s been a great way of using my time. It will take more planning when I go to University but I do see having some kind of volunteering in my life as a priority. It helps me so much.
What’s the thing you’ve enjoyed most about volunteering at the Carers’ Centre?
Probably spending time with the kids, when I’ve been able to sit down and have a long conversation with them. Just finding out what’s going on in their lives, I feel I can be myself around them and that’s a very refreshing thing.
What do you think you get from volunteering generally?
Doing something because I’ve said I’ll do it, will very often change the way I’m feeling. After you’ve done it, you feel so much better.
What have you learnt about the lives of young and adult carers as a volunteer?
I’m not a carer at the moment and I’ve been able to appreciate things I don’t currently have to face. For instance, someone who has to care for someone with a disability will say it’s much more difficult to go on holiday. In fact, it’s unlikely they have been on holiday. And I realise I’m in the lucky position that I can. I’ve also learnt a lot more about young carers. I had no idea some carers are so young, sometimes 4, 5, 6 years old, taking on carer roles and that’s kind of amazing to me.
Has your volunteering given you any ideas about your future direction in life?
Working with young carers has definitely opened up ideas and I’m thinking about going in to the areas of psychotherapy and counselling. It’s made me want to help and treat children so that has definitely shaped the direction of where I want to go.