Volunteer Stories – Don’t Be a Couch Potato, Be a Volunteer

We continue our occasional series of Volunteer Stories with Nigel’s Story, a leader at the 18th West Kent, based in South East London. If you are a leader within The Boys’ Brigade and would like to share your story, please email us at enquiries@thebbinlondon.org.uk

The Introduction

As a child I went to Cubs and progressed into Scouts. I didn’t particularly like it and after some 6 weeks (half a term), I left. I was already playing lots of sport both for my school and at a local golf club, so was interacting with other young people and didn’t give it a second thought that I had been a Scout for a short period.

When I was 18, I was involved in a road traffic accident. During my time in hospital, I met a young man, and we began chatting about how we came to be in hospital. It transpired he had broken his ankle whilst playing in a local park with a youth group he was leading. That youth group was the 5th Mid-Surrey Boys’ Brigade Company, based in Epsom.

I had some musical background, having studied music at school and played the piano. The leader from the Boys’ Brigade group was the Bandmaster, so one thing led to another and he invited me down to see what they did on a Boys’ Brigade meeting night. I began to learn to play the bugle and in due course I was able to assist on the teaching side. The Band was reasonably successful, and we enjoyed several social activities. I was never particularly religious but had Christian values, so fitted in quite well and I ended up going to a couple of summer camps and became hooked.

Stepping Back & Re-joining

As time progressed, I moved out of the area having got married and effectively left The Boys’ Brigade.  It wasn’t until I had children of Juniors age that I began to look for a place for them to go and enjoy youth activities. I found a local Boys’ Brigade group and took my son along to join.

On one occasion when dropping off or picking up my son, I was speaking to one of the leaders and let slip that I had been a leader previously at another Boys’ Brigade group. Having found this out, she told the Captain, and the rest , as they say, is history!

I have spent the last 25 years or so involved with the 18th West Kent Boys’ Brigade & Girls’ Association and whilst now I’ve effectively retired from active participation on a meeting night, I am still the Company Correspondent, am involved at Battalion level and also have a small role at London District level. There have been some great times and some fantastic camps, not least of which was a trip to Switzerland to celebrate the group’s 90th anniversary.

Why Volunteer?

At times it has been frustrating and sometimes you wonder why you do it as the young people can be difficult to work with. However, I wouldn’t have changed my time in The Boys’ Brigade & Girls’ Association as overall I’ve made lots of friends and know that I’ve influenced the lives of the children & young people for the better.

One story which sticks with me relates to one member who regularly mis-behaved and the leaders found challenging to work with The member didn’t have a great home life so we tried to do our best at Boys’ Brigade to give him guidance and certain values that he could take into adult life. In a way, it made our lives easier when he left at the age of 16 to go to work. A few years later, to my surprise this young man returned to Boys’ Brigade and brought his 5-year-old son to one of our weekly meetings. He asked if his son could join, as he remembered with great affection the times he had spent with us and wanted his child to benefit from the values he had learned. It was great to see what an influence we had on his life albeit at the time he was a challenging member of the group!

I believe that quite often you don’t realise that volunteering can be very rewarding, and I would urge everybody to consider helping in your local community. Whilst I would promote volunteering in youth work as very important, I would add that in my experience, it’s not just youth work that needs help. Being a volunteer in any walk of life is so rewarding and came make a big difference to many vulnerable people.

“Don’t be a couch potato, be a volunteer!!”

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