Derry volunteers needed to mentor young people leaving care

Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) is calling for volunteer mentors, to help young people living in Derry.

VOYPIC has been working with young people in care and care leavers for almost 30 years. They work with over 650 young people annually, supporting them to be involved in decisions and have their say about their life in and beyond care.

Each year, over 500 young people, aged 16-19 years old, leave care in the north.

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With funding from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, VOYPIC recently launched two new programmes which will support young care leavers in their local communities.

Local charity, VOYPIC, is calling for volunteer mentors to help young people leaving care in the local community.

The See Me, Hear Me programme provides mentoring to young people aged 16-25 and will help groups of young care leavers establish their own networks of peer support.

The Move on Up scheme offers a bursary and mentoring to young people who have left care and have limited support. The scheme can help young people with education and training, to get involved in local activities and groups, or to learn ways of managing stress and the challenges of life after care.

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One young person that has already benefited from the Move on Up scheme is Caitlin, a 19 year old care leaver living in Strabane.

As a care leaver, Caitlin struggled to continue her education after school, and found it difficult to adjust to living independently without ongoing support.

Alicia Toal, Chief Executive of VOYPIC, says volunteers play an essential role in supporting young care leavers across the community.

With support from VOYPIC, she is now studying to be a nail technician. A bursary has covered the fees of her course, as well as helping towards the purchase of essential equipment for her studies.

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Caitlin has also had support from a volunteer mentor.

Caitlin said, “My mentor helped me with reassurance when I was struggling to figure everything out about getting my nail course all set up. She helped me with guidance throughout our time together.

“Sometimes I felt stressed in the process of completing my course and getting the equipment that I needed, but my mentor was there to be a listening ear and to help me overcome any problems or issues that I had. She helped to make me feel accomplished: she was my cheerleader, and was always there cheering me on.”

Calling for more people to volunteer as mentors, Alicia Toal, Chief Executive of VOYPIC said, “Young adults leaving care live in of all our communities. As a society, we have a collective responsibility to support them to thrive, to become active members of our communities, right across our society.”

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All volunteers at VOYPIC are provided with training, to ensure they are prepared before starting their role as a volunteer mentor. Ongoing support is provided by one of VOYPIC’s team of Youth Rights Workers based in the local VOYPIC office.

Alicia said, “Volunteers play an essential role in how we, as an organisation, support young people in and leaving care.

“Our volunteers come from all walks of life, and no prior experience or special skills are need- just a desire to support young people.”

For more information about volunteering at VOYPIC, visit www.voypic.org/volunteer.