Volunteering during the pandemic: meet Sydney

At Rainbow Trust, we provide opportunities for students to gain valuable experience to supplement their studies by offering placements within our care teams. Sydney joined our Essex Care Team in September 2020 and since then has become a valued and key member of the team. Read on to hear what Sydney's been up to, and what it's been like to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm Sydney, I am 20 years old and the oldest of three. I am currently in my third year of four at Loughborough University, studying Psychology. I also have a part time job as a swim instructor and when I am not studying or working, I enjoy swimming and reading.

"I decided to take on a student placement with Rainbow Trust because I always loved the idea of working with a charity. I wanted to make a difference and work with real people, building relationships, rather than a 'normal' 9-5 job. When I found Rainbow Trust, I liked the fact that their work was based around the whole family, not just the sick child. I love working with children and so I thought I'd enjoy the chance to get involved in sibling support, but I also wanted to build on my skills of emotionally supporting adults, and I thought that this would be the perfect place to gain some experience.

"I was so nervous when I first started, but as soon as I went to my induction, I knew that this was something I was going to enjoy - it didn't feel like 'work' at all and that's exactly what I wanted. At my first team meeting everyone was so lovely and I felt like I had known everyone for years. The work was much more hands on than I expected, and the relationships I saw between the Family Support Workers and families are so much deeper than I thought they would be.

"There isn't really a typical day on my placement and that's one of the things I really love! Pre-lockdown, it would generally have involved going to visit families in person, spending time with siblings and just helping the family with whatever they needed. I went shopping for a bed with one family - it was what they needed at that time, so that's what we did.

"Now, because of the national lockdown, I spend more time working from home, which usually involves completing any training I need to do - I've also been doing a few online courses. I've been helping to put together a directory which has a list of local organisations and charities that can help supplement the support Rainbow Trust provides families. I also provide online support to siblings, playing games, doing quizzes and reading; which is really valued by families.

"The team have been brilliant in adapting their support during the pandemic, and have always made sure that I have something to do. It does feel quite different not being able to visit families face to face, but a phone call or video call can really change someone's day.

"What I've enjoyed most about being on placement is that I can actively apply so much of what I've learned at university. It's been really nice to be able to see what I have learned coming to life in the real world. Recently I've learned a lot about grief and talking to children about bereavement. I've also learned a lot about talking to parents about their child, which can feel quite daunting, but my experience with Rainbow Trust has definitely made me more confident. I think being on placement has definitely made me think about going into this sector of work and I am considering going into social work or bereavement counselling.

"I've enjoyed every aspect of my placement, and being able to give time to a family who are in such a tough position is one of the most rewarding feelings."

From the team:

"It has been a pleasure having Sydney as a placement student on our team. We have seen her grow in confidence since she joined us and she has become a valued, reliable and proactive member of the Essex Care Team. Her ability to think outside the box and find new ways to support us all has not gone unnoticed. We want her to know that wherever her career takes her, she will be an absolute asset to those around her."

To find out more about our placement and volunteering opportunities, click here.