Volunteering at Focus Surrey enables you to be a "big kid" every Saturday
Updated: Jun 2
After volunteering with Focus Surrey for 7 terms professional accountant Tom Rasey explains what attracted him to volunteer at first and what keeps him coming back year after year.
I did my first term with Surry Focus back in February 2017 and fell in love with it straight away. I have autism in my family and at the time I was trying to look for support groups that help young adults. Doing so inspired me to give up my time to help the cause. I put a profile on Volunteer Centre Sutton and was contacted by Focus Surrey asking if I would like to volunteer at a Saturday club where I would be paired with an autistic child and use ABA methods to help achieve their goals. In preparation I was given a 3-day training course on methods to use in the class and positive handling.
The first day was very daunting. Especially when we started to do introductions and I learnt many other volunteers were parents of autistic kids, carers or students studying a relevant area, whereas I'm an accountant. On that morning we were all briefed about the child we had been assigned, with information on their likes and dislikes, what to be cautious of and what the overall targets are. I had been assigned a very cute non-verbal child that loved cuddles. We were split into our groups and our starting room and would wait for our child's arrival. This was and still is a very nerve-racking moment for me. It feels like waiting for a first date, not knowing how it is going to and wanting to make good first impressions. When my child walked in the door, I wanted to do everything I could to make him like me but luckily the whole room wants that too, so you are well supported by other volunteers, your room lead and those running the club. While it didn't happen immediately, I eventually befriended them and we then started working on his targets to get him to ask for things, as he was non-verbal. My most memorable moment at Focus Surrey was when he made his first request which was to put his arms out and he said "hug". I gave him the biggest of all the hugs. It was from that moment I saw the benefit of the club and I was hooked.
I've returned each term and been paired with various children with different needs and targets. I've built up some really strong connections to some of these children and their families and have even seen some of them outside the club. No matter which child I've been allocated, I've always had fun, but also have been exhausted at the end of the day. I have been able to see how the returning children have developed over the years and the benefit the club has had. I've also been able to be part of a beautiful community of volunteers and parents and want what is best of the children. Though I am a full-time accountant now, I don't foresee this to be that case forever especially as this club has shown me where I have a passion. So, I also believe I've made valuable contacts that will be of use to me in the future. I've been doing this for 4.5 years now and though it was sold as using ABA methods to help children achieve their goals, I just see it as being a big kid for the day and using play to help children improve their communication skills. 5 stars* Would recommend
If you would like to volunteer for Focus Surrey in September 2021 you can register here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Focus2021
If you would like to volunteer with fundraising, grant writing, marketing, photography, administration or any of the other vital jobs that help Focus Surrey run, then please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org