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  • Writer's pictureGerry Monaghan

A word from our European volunteers – Ardalan catches up with Célia

To celebrate Volunteers Week, we asked our French European Solidarity Corps (ESC) colleague Ardalan to interview her compatriot, Célia to find out how her NOW Group placement has been going

From left to right: Ardalan and Célia observe the yellow line while waiting on the train

Célia works with young adults with autism and learning disabilities in our Transitions I and II groups. These groups aim to support participants on their journey to independence as they prepare to be work-ready and join one of NOW Group’s other programmes. Célia mostly works on social and well-being topics with the groups, and on the day I spoke with her had been running a session on nutrition and the importance of healthy eating and discussing what makes a balanced meal.

Célia brings a personal commitment to this role based on experience she had working as an au pair for a family with an autistic child. The child’s mother explained to Célia that it was usually difficult for her son to be with people that he did not know – but that he bonded really well with Célia and that she had a special skill in this area. This inspired Célia to carry on her devoted work in the field and put her abilities into practice for the greater good.

Célia mostly enjoys getting to know NOW Group participants to figure out how best to work with them. She has learned how to make jokes in English to help build relationships whilst also always remaining professional and ensuring no boundaries are crossed. The local accents were, of course, a bit tricky to negotiate initially!

Célia feels that our approach is very participant-centred and we strive to give everyone the right service for their particular needs rather than using ‘one size fits all’. A phrase her manager uses, she says, typifies our way of working – ‘we can’t run before we walk’.

But the pandemic presents a very challenging environment for staff and participants alike as services have moved online. The lack of direct contact with participants is difficult to negotiate and social isolation is a factor for many. It will be important, Célia feels, to support participants back into a full social life and society as restrictions ease.

Going forward, Célia wants to continue her work in the field of learning disability and feels that the structured approach she has been part of at NOW Group will stand her in good stead going forward. Her dream, in the long term, is to become an art therapist with children on the autism spectrum where she can help support emotional development.

We have been so fortunate to have Ardalan in our Marketing team and Célia support our Community Opportunities programme since last autumn. We thank you both for your brilliant work and dedication during this time and in the months to come.

The European Solidarity Corps is an initiative of the European Union that aims to give young people the opportunity to volunteer or work in projects organized in their own country or abroad to help communities and individuals throughout Europe.

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