When Serena Burgess saw one of the young members of Hipp!!Bones smiling and laughing on a bouncy castle it moved her to tears.
‘She’s in a wheelchair and had to be hoisted up on there,’ explains Serena, a volunteer at the club.
‘She does not communicate much so I don’t know how she’s feeling. But that day I just cried because it was so lovely – you could see that she was happy and that was the first time I’d seen that. It’s about making those differences to people’s lives,’ she says. ‘It’s a very rewarding experience.’
Serena is one of the volunteers at the Hipp!!Bones youth group which meet at the Gillingham Youth and Community Centre off Cemetery Road on the first and third Saturday of each month and is for young people with learning difficulties, disabilities, autism and/or additional needs and who live in North Dorset and surrounding areas.
The group currently has around 40 members with up to 20 attending on any given Saturday morning. Most members are from 11 to 19, however it will take members up to the age of 25.
Though the group provides some respite for parents and carers one of its main roles is to give its young members a social life.
‘We work on independence skills we offer a variety of things from arts and crafts sports to cooking and it’s also a social opportunity for many of the young people,’ says Jeni Green, the youth support worker in charge. ‘It’s a vital opportunity for them to socialize outside school with friends.’
The group currently has half a dozen or so volunteers but Jeni and Serena say they are very keen to get more.
‘We are very stretched,’ admits Serena, who is also the group’s secretary.
Jeni says that volunteers need to have some ‘affinity’ for the work but need no specialist skills and training in safeguardng is provided.
‘You don’t need to have experience – I had experience of working with children but not special needs children – you just need to have to want to join in,’ adds Serena.
Jeni says: ‘I think that’s what makes the atmosphere of the club, everyone is here because they really want to be here. That’s what makes it special.’
She says that the club attracts members from Wiltshire, Blandford and even Bournemouth. ‘There is a strong need for it.’
Both women point out that that the club would provide great voluntary experience for any person looking to work in the care industry and also for anyone doing their Duke of Edinburgh award.
‘I brought my daughter Kiera along to volunteer when she was 15 or 16 and now she’s 20 and we are both still here,’ says Serena. ‘I’m really proud of her.’
If you would like to help out as a volunteer or find out more then please contact Hipp!!Bones via their website: https://www.hippbones.co.uk/contact-us or contact Jeni on 07983 674719. .