Sam Cooke tells us about his full time volunteering experience

In January 2013, aged 19, I moved from just outside Bristol 400 miles north to North Lanarkshire to do full time volunteering for a year. I had recently finished my A-Levels, and I was interested in volunteering as I felt I needed to give something back and to make people’s lives better in any way I could. At the time, my voluntary placement was intended to be a gap year at while I decided on the university course I wanted to take but now, through Volunteering Matters, I’ve got the confidence to do bigger and better things.

I moved up to Scotland and lived in a flat provided by Volunteering Matters with another volunteer. My time was spent as a full-time befriender working with disadvantaged children in the local community taking them on social outings – things like bowling, lazer tag or to the cinema etc.  I was there to provide a friendly face and be a positive male role model, I’ve been told that I contributed a huge amount to the lives of the young people I worked with – fulfilling my role as their befriender in the most positive a way as I could.

But I benefitted just as much, if not more. I learned a lot about other people, their backgrounds, living independently  – all of this boosting my social confidence tenfold. One of the best things about being a volunteer was meeting so many different people and making new friends in Scotland, who I continue to keep in touch with now. Since volunteering I have been to China to teach English for three months, and on leaving I  went in to a role with an IT firm in England, working in schools providing IT Support and I love it! I would definitely recommend volunteering,  it is something I will be forever grateful for – giving me confidence to try new things and take a new direction in life.

Want to change your life? Find out more on full time volunteeering with Volunteering Matters.