A few years back, I was lucky enough to be introduced to a wonderful volunteer organisation called Family Friends, which provides mentoring services in the Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham and South East Brent areas of London.
Family Friends, a registered charity since 1993, is the brainchild of Sheila Paget, who realised that the more support children and parents received during short-term difficult periods of time, the less likely those children would need to be put into care in the long-run.
Family Friends provides this support with a large network of highly trained volunteers, who commit to only two hours per week, for one year, and befriend a parent who is in a difficult situation, or mentor a child who may need some extra support.
I was asked to mentor a 6 year old girl who lived in a loving, yet difficult family situation. Without divulging any more information, I will say that I great very fond of both the child and her mother and our experience together was a great success. I would recommend Family Friends to any one who was interested in volunteering in a one-on-one manner.
Though my commitment to this family was for one year only, I keep in touch with them and visit with the child whenever possible. This weekend, we spent the entire day together at Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park.
Going to Winter Wonderland would not have been acceptable while I was working with Family Friends. They have a very strict budget that the volunteer must adhere to (I will admit to having difficulties with this!). Sticking to the budget is very important because the volunteer cannot set up false expectations with the child for after their tenure is finished.
Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park is perhaps the most expensive funfair one would ever hope to attend. The rides are at least six pounds a go, games around that same amount, and the food is also higher priced than you would find at any other fun fair. But the fair is big and shiny and in Hyde Park, the best part of London.
I bought two coaster passes online. Had I known what I was doing, this would have been fine, but as I didn't, the coaster passes proved an exercise in futility. They only worked on the actual coasters, and there were only three of those that my girl was big enough to ride. For all other rides, a paper token was still needed.
We also went ice skating, went to a beautiful show of ice sculptures and ate giant burgers sitting on a bench.
Even with all the rides and fun, the second best part of Winter Wonderland, and the cheapest, is just walking around; seeing the lights and the people and smelling cedar wood chips, log fires and sausages on the grill.
But the best part of going to Winter Wonderland was being together. Two old friends (one older than the other, of course!), just spending time together, having loads of laughs and talking the day away. Ultimately, this is the goal of befriending a child with Family Friends, and I will be forever grateful for the experience of meeting this family and for the occasions when we spend time together.