Anna Marta Sveisberga on how volunteering with Positive Help can make a real-life impact in a child's life
If you have seen the TV show “It's a Sin,” and remember Jill helping her friend Gloria who was living with HIV, then you've had a glimpse into what Positive Help does! Positive Help was set up in 1989 in response to requests for day-to-day help from those living with HIV. Back then Edinburgh was known as the “AIDS capital of Europe”, a tag that we have thankfully shaken. Since then, our services have developed to meet the changing needs and increasing number of our service users. In the past our work may have been about end-of-life care, but now it’s more about support for mental health, consistency with medication and improving the life chances for the children and young people we work with. Our original mission remains the same, though the range of people we support has broadened. Positive Help gives free practical support to people living with HIV and Hepatitis C throughout the Lothians.
With the support of our dedicated staff and committed volunteers, we provide a range of life-changing services. Our aim is to rapidly respond to those in need and with the ever-changing situation of COVID-19 affecting everyone our services are in greater need than ever before.
I encourage anyone with an interest in supporting young people to find out more about our Study Buddy and Befriending services for families affected by HIV or Hepatitis C. Many of the children that we work with have undergone Adverse Childhood Experiences, which continue to negatively affect their lives today. Many of them struggle with literacy, numeracy, inability to focus, low self-esteem and physical and mental health. But all of them are looking for the opportunity to have fun and learn new things.
One of the main goals for Befriending and Study Buddies is for children to develop a trusting relationship with an adult who provides them with the one-to-one attention, support, and encouragement that they might lack in their family life. Caring, consistent relationships can lessen the negative impact of the trauma they have experienced, making them more resilient and positive about the future.
Study Buddies are particularly needed since many children's educational development has suffered due to the pandemic. The children who have had our Study Buddies service show improved engagement with learning have built confidence, become more curious, and exhibit self-directed learning. All of this improves their life chances. This effort contributes to ending the cycle of poverty and enables these children to aspire to a better future.
During Befriending sessions, the child can explore a wide range of interests, that they otherwise wouldn't have access to; for example, museums, climbing, or kayaking. One of our Befrienders took the child they volunteer with to see the beach for the first time ever, an unforgettable experience for both. Befriending sessions take off some pressure from the children's everyday lives – this is a time when they can have fun! A time when they are the centre of attention and can be playful.
All our families recognise the positive contribution that Befriending, and Study Buddies have on the children and their family as a whole – they love and appreciate their volunteers. Volunteers for Positive Help make a real-life impact for our community.
If you're interested, please, sign up for our upcoming volunteer information session on 26th May 6pm https://buff.ly/3eYr1l8
And you can apply to volunteer here:
If you have any questions, please, do not hesitate to get in touch: email@example.com
Anna Marta Sveisberga is Children's Services Coordinator for Positive Help