Young Volunteer Of The Year: An Inspiration To Us All
Lauren was considered the best young volunteer of the year and we went to meet her to find out what is so special about her. A real inspiration for all of us, Lauren believes joining Cranstoun charity was the best idea ever.
Lauren Charles-Spenceley is the best example and a true inspiration to anyone who’s thinking about starting a career in the volunteering world. The 24-year-old from Houslow, West London, spends four days every week helping others since she left education.
“I have always enjoyed helping others but I think that’s something to do with my upbringing as my mum was always helping people out,” Lauren says.
Recently, Lauren won the prize Young Volunteer of the Year for the ages between 16 and 24, given by Voluntary Action Islington. Every year, the organisation awards individuals who stood up throughout the year in different categories. This year, Lauren deserved to be the chosen one.
So how did Lauren start her journey into volunteering?
“When I left university, I really wanted to get a job within the substance misuse field but due to my lack of experience I thought it would be a great idea to volunteer with an organisation to gain some hands on experience without the pressure of being a paid member of staff and having to know everything right away.”
The young graduate believes volunteering can be a great option for people who don’t really know what to do after they leave school. It’s also a way to gain experience to deal with different people and learn how to work within a team.
Lauren was able to find volunteer work in the field she studied, which will help her in the future while looking for a paid job.
Since Lauren started volunteering at Cranstoun, a charity that help people with alcohol and drug problems, she’s been able to carry out and gain experience in a lot of different areas like facilitating groups, one to one work with clients, working with criminal justice clients, visiting prisons, courts and detox centres.
“All these experiences are vital to have when working within the substance misuse field. Volunteering at Cranstoun has also allowed me to carry out training whilst gaining experiences,” Lauren says.
Every year Crantoun helps over 15,000 people who are affected by alcohol and drug misuse. Lauren works in the Change@28b initiative, which is open to Islington residents who are willing to participate in a treatment programme for their drug or alcohol problems. The programme provides group work, psychosocial interventions and one to one counselling.
Lauren’s one of the volunteers who offer counselling to people in need and these one to one sessions have been equally challenging and rewarding to her.
She believes her biggest achievement so far has been “managing a case load of clients by myself and having a successful outcome. This was a great achievement for me as I knew that with my support and guidance they had managed to turn their lives around.”
With such a commitment to this important cause, how does she manage to have a normal social life?
“It can be difficult but I’m an organised person so I try to manage my time to the best of my abilities and always make sure I have my time to relax, see friends and socialise.”
In the future, Lauren wants to keep volunteering. Despite of her great achievements, not everything has been easy for the young volunteer. Lauren admits that sometimes people are not comprehensive with young people and that might be a cause to many problems the youth suffers nowadays.
“[The worst problem in society is] the lack of opportunities given to young people, as well as the lack of support and guidance when it comes to gaining education and a career. I feel that the pressure put on young people contributes to the many of today’s problems such as binge drinking, crime, drug use and lack of community.”
Lauren gives a few tips for young people who are thinking about starting a career in volunteering.
“I do believe that anyone who’s not too sure what career route they would like to go down or is struggling to find work should dedicate even a small amount of time to volunteering. I believe it allows you to do something you enjoy, gain great experiences and train to build a long career.”