The teenegers with time on their feet

OVER the past days, as part of Local Newspaper Week, The Evening Star has been taking a look at some of the voluntary work in which dedicated young members of the community are involved.

By Debbie Watson

OVER the past days, as part of Local Newspaper Week, The Evening Star has been taking a look at some of the voluntary work in which dedicated young members of the community are involved.

Here, a 17-year-old Claydon sixth-former explains the motivation and the benefit of regular volunteering.

JUST turned 17 and already up to his eyes in revision, exams and academic commitments, James Smith could probably find plenty of alternative activities with which to fill his time.

Instead, to his credit, he spends lunchtimes teaching sport to young children, and evenings and weekends refereeing


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Add that to an agenda of study, socialising, driving lessons, working part-time and playing sport himself – and perhaps James Smith would do well to claim a little time back for himself.

Such a suggestion is clearly not one that the Claydon teenager would want to entertain.

Instead, rather than kill time doing "nothing much,'' the sporting enthusiast is more than happy to put his time and energy in to his community.

"I get a lot of satisfaction out of the voluntary work I do," he said. "Both the coaching and the refereeing are rewarding and, even though they take up a lot of time, I wouldn't want to give them up."

The coaching – which he does with Year Six pupils at Claydon Primary School – forms part of a recently-created Community Sports Leadership Award (CSLA).

This fits in to the school curriculum for those currently completing A-levels, and encourages young people to gain new skills, develop leadership qualities – and a positive approach toward serving their community.

"CSLA is a great idea and it's certainly given me a lot of confidence," James said. "I feel I'm using a skill that I have in an effort to help other people improve their own skills – and I also get a certificate to reward the time I've put in."

Not only does James receive the certificate via CSLA, but he also gains an additional bonus through having enlisted the support of the Government-funded initiative, Millennium Volunteers (MV).

He said: "The volunteers came to school and explained how they could reward us for the hours we gave back voluntarily to the community.

"They told us the sorts of projects in which they could get us involved if we wanted them to – and also explained how we could count hours from voluntary work we were already doing.

"Because I was doing CSLA it made sense to include that as my own project within the MV scheme, and I've also included my football refereeing too."

A qualified referee, James is one of many young football enthusiasts who takes to the pitch at the weekend to help govern county games involving youth teams – and that's another voluntary activity for which MV pays him well-deserved credit.

"I love the refereeing part of my life, and I've been covering various matches around the county for the last three years," he commented. "Next season I start being referee for women's football, so I'll be giving up even more time.

"It's great that Millennium Volunteers accepts that part of my life too – it means that it's extra voluntary work that I can tally up and use toward gaining certificates."

James has already notched up the maximum amount of hours which he can be awarded as part of the Millennium Volunteers scheme.

Through his CSLA efforts – and together with his refereeing – he has amassed some 200 hours of voluntary work and gained the top-level MV certificate by way of recognition.

"I'm proud that I've gained the top award, because it means that I was able to get something out of a voluntary activity that I already enjoyed doing," he said.

"I would have done the coaching and CSLA without an award, but I think a lot of young people need some sort of incentive to give up their time and to help other people in the community.

"There are many assumptions made about young people and a lot of it is very unfair, because there are some very willing school-aged people who dedicate much time to voluntary work.

"At the same time, I do know from my own experience that there are others who live up to the labels.

"There are a lot who just can't be bothered to do anything outside their compulsory work."

In James' case, this latter type of personality is a far cry from his own.

Rather than do nothing outside his studies, he seems more than happy to commit his skill and time to others around him.

With more people like him in the Suffolk community, schemes like Millennium Volunteers can only succeed in producing more responsible and well-rounded individuals from its many projects.



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