Hello, my name is Harriet, I am 18 years old and I have been volunteering at Challengers, Guildford for the past 18 months. I first heard about this wonderful organisation 5 years ago when my sister volunteered here, in addition to it being promoted at my school, Tormead in Guildford.

Being a volunteer means a lot to me – volunteering here has provided me with a breadth of experience that I would be unable to encounter anywhere else. As well as allowing me to give something back to the community, I really enjoy spending my Saturdays and holidays working with such an amazing group of individuals, both my fellow staff members as well as the children and the families that benefit so much from the charity. I still remember my first day when I was standing by the door, waiting for the children to arrive. I was nervous as I didn’t know what to expect but I remember so vividly all the children coming in with huge smiles on their faces and it made me relax instantly. Working with children with disabilities provides so much valuable experience for me, particularly as I am hoping to go to Brighton and Sussex medical school. As an aspiring doctor, Challengers has helped to build my self confidence, teamwork skills and communication abilities – all qualities that are required to be a good doctor. The involvement is especially useful given some children at Challengers are non-verbal, which means we are required to use problem solving skills in order to ensure that every child feels included and most importantly, has fun.

I don’t know if any of you have seen the new CBeebies advert that comes up on BBC – for those that haven’t, it is a short clip of a group of children talking about what makes them different compared to one another. The really special thing is that these children do not compare each other by their appearance, gender or disability but, for example, by what food they like such as lettuce or tomato sauce. This advert reminds me a lot about Challengers. Each child that steps through the doors here may have different difficulties and obstacles that they face, but here we treat each individual as equal and make sure they get the most from their day, highlighting the importance of this amazing organisation.

Challengers is also really fun for me too. Studying four A levels in addition to other commitments such as hockey and work outside of volunteering can make life very busy. This fantastic opportunity has acted as a stress relief for me by providing an enjoyable place to work alongside people with a wide range of backgrounds. It is a privilege and is so rewarding to be able to put a smile on a child’s face, knowing that you have also helped the parents of these fantastic children have some relief, reassured that their child is in safe hands here at Challengers. So yes, while this organisation has helped confirm and develop my aspiration to go on to be a paediatrician, it has also inspired me by making me realise that little things that we do can impact people within our community so much. For this, I am proud to be part of and to volunteer for this amazing organisation – thank you for making it possible.