‘A rewarding experience’

Volunteer tutor Mario West, left, with Luke Belshaw, 12, as kids enjoy the facilities at Wigan Youth Zone, a week after the grand opening
Volunteer tutor Mario West, left, with Luke Belshaw, 12, as kids enjoy the facilities at Wigan Youth Zone, a week after the grand opening
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WITHOUT its volunteers, there would perhaps be no Wigan Youth Zone.

They are key to the running of the place for so many reasons. On the one hand, they save the facility an additional £150,000 in staffing costs per annum while on the other, their enthusiasm and eagerness to help the development of the town’s young people has been an essential ingredient of the club’s success.

At present, 190 people actively volunteer at the Youth Zone from all walks of life, young and old, all giving up their time for nothing.

Well, it’s nothing in terms of cash but what they put in is rewarded in other ways.

Like many young people, Laura Bent struggled to get into the world of work but found volunteering the perfect route.

The 22-year-old from Tyldesley said: “I went for a job at the Youth Zone and although I didn’t get it, I then spoke to them about volunteering.

“I’m the kind of person who will just crack on with work while having a laugh at the same time and all the staff have been like that too. I’ve made some lifelong friends here.

“At first I did a bit of everything but I really liked doing the sport. I was looking for work for quite a while and now I’ve finally got a job at Iceland which I really enjoy.

“I don’t think I would have got the job had it not been for my time at Wigan Youth Zone. It has helped my confidence and I would recommend volunteering to anyone. If there’s something you enjoy like music or art or sport then volunteer at the Youth Zone.”

Kim Hill, 42, first started volunteering there to keep an eye on her son Bradley.

She said: “I want as many opportunities to be open to Bradley as possible, but he does have autism so I just wanted to check he was dealing with the new surroundings ok and was making friends.

“I’ve always liked doing work with kids and when I was originally shown around the Youth Zone as a volunteer it felt like all my Christmases at once – it was exactly my kind of place.”

Mario West, 53, has set up his own Rock School Academy each Saturday for junior members and even looked after the sound for the Prime Minister’s visit.

His great work volunteering in the music department led to him landing a job at the Youth Zone. To date he has helped more than 120 young people learn the drums.

“Before the place was even built, I read about the music studio and everything they had to offer,” he said. “I immediately thought, that’s the place for me, that’s where I want to volunteer.

“I never thought for one minute I would be responsible for the sound engineering when David Cameron visited last year. Although I was nervous, I pulled it off and it was great experience. Since then I have learnt so much about youth work too and how to deal with different situations. My time here has been a huge learning curve and I’m a completely different person now, but I still think you can never learn enough.”

Rachael Foster, 20, has the official title of being Wigan Youth Zone’s first ever volunteer. It has been really rewarding, as I feel like I’ve had a lot of positive influence on young people’s lives while developing my own skills,” she said.

“I ended up playing my ukulele at the summer ball, one of the fund-raising events for Youth Zone. Martin Ainscough heard me practising and came in and took the instrument off me and we had a jam. He was so impressed he funded a whole set of ukuleles for the music room.”