Avalon Accommodation Service welcomes young volunteers from National Citizens Service

Together’s Avalon Accommodation Service had a selection of visitors in the past 2 weeks as young people volunteering with the National Citizens Service (NCS) carried out work to tidy the gardens of the building and learned about the residents and their experiences with mental distress. Avalon is a 24 hour recovery-focused supported living service for eight adults with a range of mental health needs. Each tenant has their own room, and everyone shares a communal lounge, kitchen/diner and conservatory where the residents interacted with the young people during their visit. The house is a spacious two-storey building, set in large secluded gardens with a pond and pergola which is used regularly by residents. Staff at the service love the garden and the wellbeing benefits it provides for service users and them alike although as professionals they specialise in mental health support and so devote all of their time to the needs of the residents meaning there is little time for maintaining the gardens, which is where the NCS volunteers came in…

Volunteering while learning

NCS is a programme open to all teenagers aged 15-17 that can be life-changing and allows them to discover who

they are and what they can do while providing valuable help to a service like Avalon. Volunteers have the chance to explore, be inspired and find their passion or in this case to increase their understanding of people’s experience of living with mental distress and the participant’s commented on how their perceptions had changed over their 3 visits and how stigma had been reduced. That was achieved by providing the volunteers with an information day initially led by the Avalon Project Manager Daniel Osborne and also informed with lived experience by resident and peer supporter Melvin. Once the young volunteers had gained a better understanding of the service they could get underway with their activities which had previously included leading cooking lessons and on this occasion meant working on the large garden space.

National Citizens Service volunteers prepare to get to work at Avalon
National Citizens Service volunteers prepare to get to work at Avalon

Linking with the local community

For the residents and staff at Avalon having the young volunteers help is greatly appreciated and the benefit of meeting different types of people and interacting with them was something the residents could enjoy. When describing the NCS programme Project Manager Daniel Osborne explained how:

“It (the NCS programme) gives young people an insight into working in a service such as Avalon that is for vulnerable people with severe and enduring mental health conditions. The scheme benefits, as we receive fund raised money, get to link with our local community and then get something practical at the service attended to, such as the garden bushes, which always need trimming. The campaign day also raises the profile of the service and organisation.”

To read more on the National Citizens Service go to www.ncsyes.co.uk/ or for full details of Together’s Avalon Accommodation service go to www.together-uk.org/projects/avalon/.