Twenty two year old Steven Curtis from Antrim who is studying language and linguistics at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown, is one of a number of students taking part in a Barnardo’s NI student volunteering scheme to help migrant and refugee children integrate into their new communities by helping them develop their English.
Language Made Fun! is a play based language programme that supports children whose first language is not English.
Steven has been volunteering with a six year old girl from Sudan since last autumn. Arranged and supported by Barnardo’s NI he visits her home once a week for an hour and uses play to help her language development.
“It’s been really interesting and challenging. We do improvised games which are a great way to learn. I’m amazed at how far she has come since we started. The family speak Arabic at home but just the one hour extra week seems to really help with her language skills.”
“It’s been a real eye opener to realise how difficult it is to come from a different country and not speak the language, you realise how important language is.”
The volunteering is one hour a week and Steven says he is well supported by Barnardo’s NI: “Before we met the children Barnardo’s NI provided safeguarding and cultural awareness training.
“The staff are also on hand to provide advice and guidance and suggest new games and books we can use in the lessons.”
Barnardo’s NI has over 200 volunteers of all ages, including many students, working in a variety of capacities across its children’s services.
Many more students volunteer in Barnardo’s charity shops and are involved in fundraising through Barnardo’s supporter groups in schools and universities.
This year’s Student Volunteering Week from February 24 – March 2, supported by the National Union of Students, is a chance for Barnardo’s to celebrate our student volunteers and thank them for giving their time freely.
Steven said: “I would advise anyone thinking of volunteering to go for it – you never know what it could open up to you – so many pathways and things you mightn’t have thought of.
“It’s been a real eye opener, also to see the range of things Barnardo’s does.
“I get so much out of it, the children are just so energetic and enthusiastic and that just makes you enjoy it all the more.”
For further information about student volunteering opportunities with Barnardo’s NI please visit www.barnardos.org.uk/get_involved/volunteering or contact our children’s services Volunteering Advisor Helen Connolly or our Community Fundraising and Volunteer Manager Karen Kerr on Tel: 028 9067 2366.