CAN YOUNG VOLUNTEERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE DURING PANDEMIC Local teenagers who would have been sitting vital exams this summer have instead channelled their energy into volunteering to help vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them are Freya Pretty, 18, (pictured in face mask) and Olivia Minnock, 15, (pictured below) from Bournemouth School for Girls. Freya has joined Ferndown Coronavirus Community Support Group and Olivia, from Bournemouth, helps mental health charities and BCP Council with their response for young people. The pair were upset when they couldn’t sit A-Levels and GCSEs but instead of being down-hearted decided to do something positive to help others. Both are seasoned volunteers and thanks to our young volunteering scheme, they’ve previously supported beach cleans, helped protect wildlife habitats and visited care homes (Olivia is pictured above at Abbeyfield Wessex in Bournemouth, earlier this year), supported by our Youth Development Worker Dani Ford-Horne, who is full of praise for the girls: “These two are an inspiring example of how our young people go above and beyond to help their communities. We believe passionately in the value of youth volunteering - Freya and Olivia are doing a wonderful job.” Freya, along with mum Vanessa and brother Josh, 16, helps deliver shopping and medicine for the Ferndown support group, which helps more than 200 vulnerable or elderly people. "Seeing the look on people’s faces when they see me or hearing the happiness in their voices when I phone is the best reward there is.” She lost her hearing in one ear aged eight and has restricted hearing in the other, but copes well and has also learned sign language. Volunteering has brought her closer to local people: “The community spirit is great, whether it’s clapping for the NHS or looking out for one another. I’ll stay friends with residents and continue volunteering after the pandemic.” Meanwhile, in Bournemouth, she’s created a ‘positivitree’ (pictured) with her eight-year half-sister Phoebe with goodwill messages to cheer people up, left free planted sunflower pots - to spread a little sunshine and collects for her local food bank. Olivia belongs to BCP Council’s Youth Forum helping influence decision-making to improve services for young people, During the pandemic, she has helped schools, the council and local mental health organisations, MIND and CAMHS. She joins weekly video calls and completes surveys. “It’s really empowering that I can help give a voice to 200,000 young people across the South West,” says Olivia. “I have got to know a lot of different people from very varied backgrounds,” She has worked for years with young children and since lockdown has been helping school friends in the year below prepare for their exams next summer. The girls’ parents are extremely proud. Olivia’s mum Faye says: “She’s a wonderful girl, who would help anyone. She’s got a very kind nature.” Freya’s dad Darren adds: “It’s a great testament to her character. She never let her hearing loss hold her back. She became deputy head girl, led scout trips and is always helping her community. She’s a fantastic daughter.” Click here for more on our young volunteering scheme Click here for more on our crisis response or follow us on Twitter @can100org and Facebook @communityactionnetwork.org Click here to view The Bournemouth Echo's coverage of this story.