Befriend a Child Volunteer reaches 25-year milestone and urges others to get involved. There are few opportunities where you can truly make a direct impact in a child or young person's life, that is why volunteer Fiona Forbes joined Aberdeen-based charity Befriend a Child 25 years ago and is still with the organisation to this day. In August 1998, Fiona began looking for a volunteer opportunity where she could work one on one with a child in need of extra support and guidance. She was signposted to Befriend a Child, joined the charity’s befriending programme as a volunteer befriender and has never looked back since. Fiona said: “I have befriended four children, and I’m currently supporting my fifth, their ages have ranged from 5-13 years old and each of my befriending experiences has lasted 4-5 years. The whole experience has been really rewarding. Ensuring these children have the opportunity to just be kids. I love that I get the opportunity to take them to something fun that they wouldn’t normally get the chance to do.” Fiona continued: “My outings with each child have been so different, one of my befriendees loved fishing so we did that a lot, and another loved the sessions Befriend a Child hosted at their HQ. We’ve done a lot of indoor play activities, trips to the cinema and also lots of trips to the park! It’s important for the child to choose what they want to do and don’t be afraid of repeating the same outings as if they are having fun and getting out of the house, that’s all that matters.” Befriend a Child supports children and young people living in difficult life circumstances across Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire through 1:1 and group befriending and mentoring programmes. Over the years Befriend a Child's services have grown and today the charity supports approximately 250 children annually. The charity’s waitlist is ever growing, with a current waitlist of 49 children meaning they are in desperate need of volunteer befrienders for local young people growing up in difficult circumstances across Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire. The charity asks volunteer befrienders to take their befriendee on outings that are fun and engaging, once every two weeks, with a minimum commitment of a year. Each befriender receives full training and support from an experienced staff team as well as expenses for their outings and travel. Fiona added: “I can’t recommend befriending enough. It is such a worthwhile voluntary role, and you get so much out of it yourself. To be that constant and confidant for a child is so vital, especially if that child is going through a difficult time. You also get support whenever you need it from the Befriend a Child team. I’d say for anyone on the fence about just have a chat with the team, any concerns you have you can chat it through with them.” Children and young people can be referred to Befriend a Child for several reasons such as a lack of confidence or self-esteem, social isolation, lack of a positive role model and substance misuse in the family. When asked how she has felt when a befriending relationship comes to an end Fiona said: “It’s really not a bad or sad thing at all. It means you have done your job and they don’t need you anymore. You should be proud of what you have brought to that child’s life.” Head of Operations Jean Gordon said: “Without people like Fiona these children wouldn’t have the opportunities and experiences they get. We are truly grateful for her commitment and time over the past 25 years. She has been an individual we can rely on always. We really hope that others will be inspired by Fiona's journey with the charity, we are in constant need of volunteers to match with our constantly growing waitlist.” If you think you could be the positive influence a young person needs, get in touch at [email protected] or visit https://www.befriendachild.org.uk/Listing/Category/volunteer-with-us for further information.