"What keeps me passionate about this job is that I get to work with an amazing group of people who are also passionate about their work"

Volunteer & Student Union Support Lead

Buddies create a legacy here at the college. I’ve been able to really see the difference a Buddy can make in helping a student engage and access our courses at the College. Their presence and support, however minimal, can really help a student flourish. 

Hi, I’m the Volunteer and Student Union Support Lead at Brighton and Hove Recovery College.

I have several different responsibilities here. I co-ordinate the Buddies, lead on the Student Union, and also work in Student Involvement. 

Buddies are volunteers who have lived experience of mental health challenges. Most Buddies have been students at the Recovery College who have moved on in their recovery journey and have seen the benefits of attending our courses. They want to give back and help other people access the college.

Buddies offer peer support to students wishing to engage with the Recovery College. They work with coaching principles and can offer support with travel and getting to the course, paperwork, classroom materials, engaging with peers, and attending events. 

Anxiety is the most common reason a student might want Buddy support. Sometimes support can simply be sitting next to a student in the classroom. Courses can touch on sensitive issues and some students can feel very anxious. If a student steps outside of the classroom, a Buddy can join them and support them through the experience.

A lot of our students might not have been in a classroom for years or engaged with the community or services before, so one-to-one Buddy support can really help sustain engagement with a course. They also help by working with students on achieving aims.

We also have Classroom Buddies who are a valuable resource for all the students and the teaching team. They are sensitive and aware to what’s going on in the classroom and make it the best experience possible for our students.

Buddies, in their one-to-one support, can offer help around mental health difficulties and some of them use this volunteering opportunity and experience as a stepping stone for their career development. They gain training, experience, confidence, validation in their role and in the community, and reward in seeing their students flourish.

We’ve put in place training opportunities for Buddies, and systems and processes that make the role structured and supported. Buddies have their own mobile phones, attend open days, talk to students about their support needs, and are sometimes involved in the Buddy-student matching process based on experiences, needs, and previous contact.

The Buddies have been very involved in creating and developing their roles because they have the experience. Through this programme they have also become more integrated into the Recovery College team.

Buddies create a legacy here at the college. I’ve been able to really see the difference a Buddy can make in helping a student engage and access our courses at the College. Their presence and support, however minimal, can really help a student flourish. 

Buddies are very unique to recovery colleges and bring that additional community feel to ours. 

As Student Union lead, it’s also my role to look for ways that students want to be involved in the college and to support them into making the union their own. I make sure it is functioning the way they want it and that they are supported in doing it themselves. 

We’re the first recovery college to have a student union become officially affiliated with the NUS. This really validates our students, gives them a stronger voice, and connects them with the NUS.

Our student union is quite unique because our focus is on recovery. Everything it achieves or aspires to achieve is centred around the question, ‘How does it aid recovery?’ The key is for students to have a voice in the college – to feedback on what works and what doesn’t work. And to have a voice in the larger conversation of mental health.

My work in Student Involvement involves ensuring that students are involved in the work the college does with partner organisations like the Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust. It’s also important that our students can take part in larger recovery college conversations.

In my role I also co-ordinate the other Recovery College volunteers and involve them in the work the college does and our work with other organisations. 

What keeps me passionate about this job is that I get to work with an amazing group of people who are also passionate about their work. I get to see them flourish, develop, and grow.

 

Delivered as a partnership with the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the Brighton and Hove Recovery College uses education in a supportive learning environment to help people with mental health challenges become experts in their own self-care and recovery. The College provides a wide range of courses which are co-produced and co-delivered by people with lived experience of mental health challenges and are delivered in community and educational venues across Brighton and Hove.