Volunteer Stories: Karen Groome & Richard Davitt

Karen and Richard volunteer on the OASIS programme. OASIS supports young people to achieve their full potential in all areas of learning and development with specific emphasis on preventing early school leaving.

Posted on Friday 13 December 2019 in Volunteering

Karen Groome volunteers in Ladyswell National School, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15:

Hi! My name is Karen and I am a volunteer with the Barnardos Oasis Programme based in Mulhuddart in Dublin on a Monday and Wednesday afternoon. The Oasis project focuses on the problem of early school leaving and does so by addressing the issues that may drive a child to want to quit education. As I’m coming to realise those issues are as diverse as they are complex in nature and include social, emotional and learning difficulties.

The project team works specifically with 6th class students who are in the transitional phase into secondary level schooling. My role is to support the excellent team, led by Sandra and assisted by Dervla, who have already worked on the ground for many years. More specifically, I lend a hand with setting up the room in advance of the student’s arrival and clean up on their departure.  I support homework time by offering assistance to the young students when required and by providing positive reinforcement at times when the students are struggling with their workload. The team also incorporates time for a snack to ensure high energy levels are maintained. This is particularly important in this age range as some pre-teens are not eating the lunch provided to them during school hours. Others are learning for the first time how to become independent in making their own snacks and learning cooperation and teamwork with such tasks as laying the table and cleaning up.

From a personal perspective volunteering for this specific role has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made. As a mother of two teenagers my mothering role has evolved, as it naturally should. While my children still need me my days of sitting down and being present while they undertake their homework are now long gone. However, our afterschool debriefing and quite simply asking how their day went never grows old.

Volunteering for Barnardos at this point in my life seemed the natural thing to do now that my children are older. That coupled with my desire to work with children and to undertake a role that made a difference in a young person’s life led me to apply for this position.  Sandra’s team are amazing. What stood out for me first and foremost was their passion to be a positive influence in the young people’s lives. I have watched the students engage with their emotions, control and alter their perspective of themselves and in turn modify their behaviours towards other students in the course of one and a half hours. In this role I have met an inspirational group of people. I have also met an inspirational group of young preteens who have bowled me over with the welcoming attitude and kind words since I joined in September. This is not volunteering for altruism’s sake, I have got much more out of this experience than I can ever hope to give back. I drive home every Monday and Wednesday evenings with a smile on my face. Who could ask for more?

Richard Davitt volunteers in St Patrick’s National School, Corduff, Dublin 15

My volunteer role is with Barnardos assisting the project workers on the OASIS programme. I originally worked as a volunteer tutor for 2 years with Barnardos on the WOW programme in Finglas. The children were 7/8 years of age. I thoroughly enjoyed that experience, helping to improve the children's reading skills and endeavouring to build their self-confidence. As a result I decided this year I would volunteer on the OASIS programme where the children are 11/12 years of age. I am an extra pair of eyes, ears and hands in a room of 8 children. We assist with homework. We then have a food experience, challenging the children to try out different foods, prepare their food and clean up afterwards. This is followed by activity time where the children get involved in a number of different activities e.g. board games, art work, cooking etc interacting with each other and the project team. Every day is different and the energy and fun exuding from the children is fantastic. I often feel like I am the ninth child in the room, having as much fun as the other 8 children.  The supervisors (Sandra and Dervla) are extremely professional, dedicated, empathetic and are always willing to guide and advise me (and the children) when needed. I would encourage anyone who has some spare time on their hands to consider volunteering with Barnardos. The rewards in helping children grow, learn and develop their life skills are immeasurable, not to mention the fun I am having on the journey! 

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