How volunteering can help you reach your potential

To recognise the incredible impact that volunteering has in communities across Scotland, we caught up with Beth, a volunteer mentor for Bridges Project.  

Supported by £9,000 of National Lottery funding, Bridges Project run a pilot peer mentoring service called Listening Peers, which help young people aged 13-21 from East Lothian who are affected by family substance abuse. Their mentors have lived experience of family substance abuse and each one is paired with one young person. They meet on a weekly basis to help them open up and offer some respite from challenging living conditions at home. 

Through volunteering, Beth has gained the confidence to pursue a career in helping young people in care, overcoming the barriers that were present in her childhood. 

Chloe pictured left and Beth pictured right are smiling at each other as they stand outside in a woodland area. They are out for a walk.
Beth, pictured right, with her mentee Chloe, back when they met for the first time in person

Beth’s Story

Nineteen-year-old Beth, has been living in foster care since she was nine years old. As she grew up she often felt like there was no one to talk to that could relate to her situation or show the right compassion. 

Her mum is an alcoholic, which meant she couldn’t take care of Beth and her six siblings. She has not lived with her siblings since being in care. 

Beth explained:  

“My mum would often be too hungover to look after us, so I was put into foster care. After not being able to settle into my first place I was moved to a different home and I’ve been here for 8 years now.  

“Although it was tough to be in that situation I think it built my resilience, it made me want to help other people going through what I went through.” 

National Lottery funded Bridges Project

Beth was first referred to Bridges Project during high school, where they helped with her college application and gave career advice. It was later that they asked her to become a Young Ambassador. 

Beth told us: 

“I was so excited to become a Young Ambassador, It was a great chance for people like myself to get our voices across to see how we could change the Bridges Project into something more meaningful. I got to share my views on what support should be available for young people.” 

Continuing her volunteering journey with Bridges Project, Beth trained as a Peer Mentor, as part of their National Lottery funded project Listening Peers Support Group.  

Beth said: 

“I was really interested in becoming a Peer Mentor for Bridges because being I wanted to be that support for someone from the same situation I came from. I know how important it is to have a good support system around you.” 

“Apart from my social worker I didn’t have anyone there to confide in, which was difficult. I think if having someone closer to my age to talk to would have made a difference growing up, or someone who could relate to the thing I was going through. I think that’s why I feel so passionately about helping young people who have been affected by family substance abuse.” 

Alongside the benefits of having a mentee, the mentors involved in the Listening Peers project have a brilliant support network within Bridges Project, meeting other mentors every two weeks where they can talk about what issues they are facing and their experiences.  

How volunteering helped Beth reach her potential 

Through volunteering, Beth has gained the confidence to pursue a career in helping young people in care, overcoming the barriers that were present in her childhood. 

She explained: “Volunteering as a mentor has increased my confidence so much, I’ve actually just managed to get a new job as a Participation Assistant for Champions Board, working with Food Care Scotland. 

Champions Board is a group that all young people in care can go to share their opinions on the care system. In her new role, Beth will be helping those young people to voice their opinions and change the system into something that’s more helpful.  

“I really think that my time as a mentor has helped me gain experience and made me realise what path I want to take. I’d love to become a family support worker or mental health worker and I don’t think I would have come to that realisation as quickly without volunteering to mentor young people affected by substance abuse.”  

Feeling inspired?

For more information about Bridges Project visit their website.

Volunteering can help you gain valuable skills and experiences as well as boost your confidence. Many National Lottery funded projects are looking for volunteers, so why not visit the Volunteer Scotland website to have a look to see what volunteer activities there are in your area.

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