One of the first things I signed up to after finishing uni was AFIA (Away From It All). It wasn’t something I’d ever heard of before and when I first started going to meetings before the residential trip, I dreaded it.
If you search “AFIA” in Google, it doesn’t come up with what I became involved with. Most notably on the first page are food charities and an insurance company (if we’re excluding the link to some poor lass who studied neuroscience in a different country). It is a charity, though not registered by the looks of things. It’s connected to the Mother’s Union and supports disadvantaged/troubled families nominated by local charities or communities to go on a special holiday.
If you know anything about the Mother’s Union, you could probably guess why a 21-year-old agnostic was dreading it. Luckily for me, religion had very little to do with it. Despite that, I still went to bed nearly every night half wondering if I had made the right decision in going. It wasn’t until I got home that knew I had done.
If I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have seen that terrifying side of working with children, where they are on that borderline of neglect and abuse. I would have dawdled along volunteering with kids who had nice parents who encouraged them to join extracurricular clubs and supported them as much as they could. It basically forced me to see the part of youth work which genuinely upsets me.
I went into this trip not sure as to whether I wanted to become a fully-fledged manager in a bar/restaurant or whether I wanted to work with kids. This trip, along with my return to work the next day, proved to me that I was right in applying for a PGCE (even if I wasn’t successful).
In all honesty I think the major issue with it appeared to be that enthusiasm was down and disorganisation was up. This sort of opportunity was definitely a benefit to me, however it is the volunteers who need to add the organisation and enthusiasm. If the other volunteers can’t offer at least the enthusiasm, I’m going to try to make sure I’m offering twice as much from now on.