Louiza, Place2Be Volunteer Counsellor
26 July 2017
I know you’re supposed to say this, but I really do love working with people.
In the past I’ve been a summer camp counsellor, a support worker at a neuro-disability clinic and a customer services advisor for a bank, so it surprised no one when I decided to study the most people-focused degree possible: Psychology. It was my course director who first recommended Place2Be, the children’s mental health charity, where I would soon begin one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.
Even though my university was in the West Midlands, the Volunteering Team was able to arrange a counselling placement at a school near my home – hundreds of miles away in Glasgow!
It turned out that Place2Be works in 280-something schools across the UK and I got a chance to be in 4 of them, all of which had slightly different needs and expectations for the service.
Needless to say my first few weeks were a blur of learning and new experiences but my ‘School Project Managers’, whom I had met during training, were so warm and supportive during supervision and outside it.
Above all, I felt – and still feel – an overwhelming sense of mutual respect between Place2Be and the school. Teachers just don’t have the time or resources to adequately support the child with challenging behaviour in their 30-strong class, to investigate what’s going on underneath, so – I’m proud to say – they can turn to us.
I still think back to the first boy who came for one-to-one counselling with me. There were substance abuse issues in his family so he lived with his grandmother and couldn’t see his mum and dad. As a result, he was struggling with angry, rebellious emotions and running away from home a lot. For months, he said very little in the Place2Be room and just sloshed about paints, sprinkled glitter everywhere and threw toys around while I sat with him.
Gradually, as we built up trust, he began to talk to me about his parents and his self-esteem and even made art specifically for his mum. I heard from his teacher that he was focusing a lot more in class, while he was calmer at home, eagerly talking to his grandmother about Place2Be and even tidying his room.
What Place2Be does is not only life-changing for children but the adults who support them. I never feel alone or unable to work out what to do. There’s always a person, resource or training opportunity to help me meet a challenge and develop my skills. Even though I’m leaving Scotland, I hope to volunteer again near my new home and I’ve even been encouraged to apply for a School Project Manager role.
In the near future, I like to think I’ll be helping other Louizas on their own volunteering journeys.