This week, during Student Volunteering Week, Helm is shining a spotlight on Sonny!

Sonny, tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m Sonny, and I’m 22. I’m from the Shetland Islands but moved to Dundee in 2020, I’m in my 3rd year studying Community Education at the University of Dundee and at the moment I’m doing a volunteer placement at Helm.

Originally, in Shetland I got involved with a lot of volunteering. I started volunteering with the Scottish Youth Parliament, where I got elected as an MSYP for two years. I was responsible for youth engagement and participation for the Scottish Parliament which led me to sitting on the Youthlink Scotland Board. Through that position, I did a lot of volunteering and I worked with disengaged young people as participants for the Youth Department to help get them more involved.

I really enjoyed it and it led me to see the beneficial side of community education – I was on the receiving end of community education and I really enjoyed that type of work, which led me to change my career. When I started at university I was studying Business and Events and I changed to Community Education after my experiences.

For me personally, I’ve known first-hand the benefits of youth work and it really helped to build my confidence.  Also, it opened up so many doors for me and I got to meet so many amazing people through it.

The other thing that’s really important to me is I think the whole third sector is starting to be underfunded which will have a huge impact on the services available to young people. I’d just like to be there to make sure that charities can keep going and I’m part of whatever is next within the world of youth work.

This week is Student Volunteering Week, what are the positives and highlights of volunteering and why do you think people do it?

Shetland is quite a small island and you don’t get a lot of opportunities. I wanted to go and do more things, see more things and that led me on to going further afield.

My volunteering work opened up so many opportunities to me. It also helped so much with my confidence, and it looks amazing on your CV, to be honest! It shows employers that you’re dedicated and willing to work. It.

But volunteering isn’t just about things like your CV and jobs; it gives you opportunities and you can get a lot of enjoyment from volunteering which is why I think it’s so valuable. 

You’re currently volunteering at Helm as part of your university course, tell us a bit more about what you’re doing and how your background helps with that.

I’m on my third-year placement at the moment with Helm and my focus is working with the Instructors to deliver life skills for young people and to hopefully engage them to further their career before they go on placement.  I help make sure they are ready for employment.

The experiences I’ve gained through volunteering in the past have had such an impact on how I engage with young people. Within my role, I think it’s more about being young people’s support rather than a tutor or teacher to them. I think my experience has had such a big impact, and I’ve learnt a lot about engagement with young people from volunteering opportunities in the past.

I’ve found that everyone is that much more ready to open up to you if you’re there for them rather than just seeing them as another box to tick. Volunteering has totally informed my practice in terms of how I speak to young people.  For example the language I use which is quite informal and friendly, and less assertive. I think it works, at Helm young people do come and engage which is fantastic!

What’s the best thing about Helm and volunteering with us?

I think the best thing about volunteering at Helm is the people. The staff are amazing, and everyone’s really lovely. Plus I love working with the young people too. You never know what you’re going to get from one day to the next. It’s never repetitive. Every day is different, and I think that’s why I enjoy the most about it. The space is that amazing too, the building itself is cool. But overall it’s definitely the people!

Thank you for talking to us today Sonny during Student Volunteering Week and for doing your placement at Helm!