Safe and Sound officially recognises the work of volunteers

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Derbyshire’s specialist child exploitation charity, Safe and Sound, has celebrated Volunteers’ Week (June 3-9) by recognising the work that individuals do to support its work across the city and county. Volunteers' Week, which marks its 40th anniversary this year, is a national celebration of the amazing contributions volunteers make to communities across the UK.

More than 50 people volunteer their time to Safe and Sound in various capacities to enable the charity to maximise the impact of its work to support and protect children, young people and their families whose lives have been affected by child exploitation. The charity has also, for the first time, presented an award to a particular volunteer in recognition of the work that they have done.

Julia Hodder, who lives in Burton-on-Trent, has been aware of Safe and Sound’s work throughout her career of supporting vulnerable young people. So, when she gave up her full time job to set up her own business Paladin Education to provide safeguarding and mental health advice to the charity sector, she was also keen to volunteer for Safe and Sound.

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Julia has supported the work that Safe and Sound does to raise awareness of child exploitation amongst young people in schools and also provides business administration support. She has also met with the parent peer group - providing relaxing hand massages -and delivered mental health training for staff.

Julia Hodder, right with Safe and Sound CEO Tracy HarrisonJulia Hodder, right with Safe and Sound CEO Tracy Harrison
Julia Hodder, right with Safe and Sound CEO Tracy Harrison

She said: “There is a real sense of belonging here and volunteers are not treated any differently to full time members of staff.

“It has been a very positive experience and I feel that I am contributing my skills which is helping to make a difference to the lives of young people.”

This was echoed by other volunteers at Safe and Sound.

Mother-of-two Persha Ward’s initial motivation for volunteering with Safe and Sound was to thank the charity for the support they gave her as a young person. Persha, now in her mid twenties, was referred to Safe and Sound when she was 13 and in a downward spiral of exploitation at the hands of a group of older men. She is also an Ambassador for the charity – supporting fundraising events – and continues to do business administration work to support the team.

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She said: “The support I had from Safe and Sound was amazing. They helped to open my eyes to what was going on, taught me to respect myself and gave me the support and strength to realise that I deserved better.

“As a mum, I am determined that my girls have the best childhood they can and part of that is to support the charity that helped me move on with my life after exploitation.”

Vicki Clarke is a former police officer who is now learning mentor, mental health lead and deputy safeguarding lead at a city junior school. Keen to get involved in a young person-focused charity, she signed up as a volunteer more than two years ago and has been involved in several aspects of the work – particularly outreach – so much so that she has now taken the post as volunteer lead for this important work in the city centre.

Vicki explained: “I wanted to get involved in something meaningful that would make a difference in our local communities and I particularly enjoy the outreach work.

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“I get a lot out of volunteering for Safe and Sound. It brings me into contact with people I would not usually meet and getting out and about is good for my mental and physical health.”

Environmental scientist Obinna Okoro has just started volunteering for Safe and Sound as part of his research programme at the University of Derby which has a focus on communicating with young people.

“Throughout my career I have been involved in many aspects of education from working with organisations such as Unicef to mentoring in schools.

“My research programme in Derby has a strong focus on communication with non-specialists and young people about energy efficiency and climate change so I know that the volunteer work with Safe and Sound will help me improve those skills in the classroom.”

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University of Derby student Amber Dalton continued: “The outreach work and being part of Safe and Sound’s HAF work to provide healthy meals and holiday activities for young people has been amazing. You really feel that you are making a difference.

“As a university student, I am also hoping that my volunteer work will help to boost my CV – especially as I hope to work with young people as a career after I graduate.”

And barista Pete Marris has been volunteering his time to Safe and Sound to take him out of his comfort zone and develop different skills.

Pete supports the charity with writing funding bids which he is able to fit in with his other commitments.

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He said: “I have worked in hospitality for many years but wanted to expand other skills and saw that volunteering was a great way of doing that as well as putting something back to the local community.”

Safe and Sound CEO Tracy Harrison concluded: “Choosing just one of our volunteers for an award was a really hard task as they all do such an amazing job for us. Julia has helped the organisation in so many ways and is an asset to the team.

Mrs Harrison continued: “We are proud to be a volunteer-led organisation with more than 50 people utilising their lived experience and expertise to work alongside the 20-strong team with the shared objective of keeping our local communities safe.

Volunteers from all walks of life join the charity’s community outreach and youth work teams whilst others provide vital support to behind the scenes work from marketing communications to HR and accountancy advice and support. They are also integral to the HAF programme – delivering meals to vulnerable families.

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“We also benefit from the input of our Board of Trustees, Ambassadors, young people and parents.”

Safe and Sound works with children as young as seven, young people and their families across Derbyshire whose lives have been affected by child exploitation including online grooming, sexual exploitation, County Lines, trafficking, modern slavery and radicalisation.

To find out more about the volunteering opportunities at Safe and Sound, please visit www.safeandsoundgroup.org.uk/i-want-to-volunteer-my-skills/

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