Action for Children volunteers celebrated!
“Action for Children Independent Visitors photographed by their young people in this wonderful project organised by Dorset and New Forest portrait photographer Jerry Fenner!”
This project arose out of my work with Landmark Worldwide in London, when I was coaching on the Self Expression and Leadership Programme early in 2017. The major feature of this programme is getting out into the community to make a difference, to make something happen, and the project I developed was to let the young people and children with Independent Visitors in Dorset create a photographic portrait of their IV and express the value they find in the relationship. By the way, this is the second project I have done because of my involvement with Landmark – the other supported mums who breastfeed in public, and it was called Taboob.
So having sought the co-operation of each young person, and their IV, I met up with them and just talked them through the concept of a portrait photograph – what kind of image did they want to create?
Head and shoulders, half body, whole person, whole figure in the landscape? Location and background? Which lens to use, and film speeds, apertures, shutter speeds – briefly and simply and without blinding them with all the techie detail, while they got the chance to handle professional grade camera kit. They were all amazed by the size and the weight of the kit I use every day! Most of these kids will only ever have used their smartphone for photos of course.
For the final part of the session, we asked their IV to move out of earshot while we talked about their relationship. That was often so moving, the value these young people place on their IV.
What’s an Independent Visitor?
Every looked after young person and child has a right to have an Independent Visitor(IV) if they want. I am an IV volunteering with Action for Children and it has been such a rewarding experience. When an IV is requested, a young person is matched with and then confirms a volunteer IV who visits them usually about once a month for a few hours, or half a day, or for whatever period works for both parties.
The IV is kind of a favourite uncle or auntie, and fulfils a different role from the plethora of other adults who appear in the life of a looked after young person. A different role, and a very unique role, for though there might be certain things an IV needs to know about their matched young person, things important for safeguarding perhaps, the IV is pretty much the only adult who will not have seen the case file that goes with the young person. Each relationship is unique, and special and for this reason an IV is usually only matched with one young person at a time.
And so the relationship that they develop is organic and natural, and begins without any preconceptions by the IV, and is much more like the relationships that the rest of us just take for granted – our friends know as much or as little about us as we choose to tell them, and so it is with an IV and their match.
So what does an IV do?
Whatever the young person wants them to really!
The IV will listen and help if there are problems or issues that the young person wants to talk about. And if the young person feels that they do enough talking, and answer enough questions with all the other adults they see, and they just want to have fun, then that’s what’ll happen. Fishig, cycling, shopping, eating, films, bowling, eating, strolling around, hanging out, did I mention eating… eating does seem to play a big role in IV outings!
Can I find out more?
Yes, of course. Contact any of the major children’s charities and they will be able to help you. I’ve worked as an Independent Visitor in Dorset with Action for Children and had the most amazing experiences. In the words of so many of the young people I interviewed, just do it.