Hi, I’m Emily! I’ve been volunteering with The Matthew Project since October 2020 after I met their positive activities engagement worker, George, at a careers event at the University of East Anglia.
When I first joined the team I became a volunteer at Hangout. Hangout is a youth club for 10 to 16 year olds that aims to provide support to young people who are affected by substance misuse issues. The young people and volunteer team get together every Friday night to play card games, take cooking lessons and occasionally even throw eggs off the balcony in home made parachutes.
Aside from all the silly games, Hangout also provides time and space for the young people to talk openly about their mental health. As a team we always aim to make Hangout a fun and safe space which the young people want to come back to again and again.
Working with the Hangout team has been one of the best things I did while at UEA. It has been so incredible to watch the kids come out of their shell, and grow in confidence week after week. By the time I graduated and left Norwich it felt like we were a close knit family; I felt like the young people had really opened up to me and trusted me as someone who would be there to listen without judgment.
It didn’t feel right to walk away from so many amazing kids and have no contact with them going forward. So that’s when George and I began planning a new role for me as the Hangout’s digital befriender. As digital befriender I now have ongoing contact with the young people that attend Hangout. The aim is for them to not ony have the youth club to look forward to on a Friday night, but to also have a contact who they can reach out to if and when they need during the week.
Though I’d be lying if I said this new role was entirely for the young people’s benefit, because it also has such a positive impact on my life. Volunteering with The Matthew Project is incredibly rewarding and humbling, and is a genuine honour. Even though I will no longer be able to get dressed up in a bin bag and strut my stuff on a Friday night (yes that really did happen) I’m so happy I get to continue to be a small part of so many wonderful young people’s lives.
If you'd like to find out more about how you can become a Matthew Project Superhero, click here. We'd love to have you on board