Our Gateshead

Chris Murray, Barnardo’s Volunteer, May 2017

Retired teacher Chris Murray first saw her volunteering role in Gateshead Council News and felt it was just what she was looking for.  Chris worked in adult education for most of her career and for the last 10 years in dyslexia.  The role she saw was working for the Gateshead SENDIAS Service, run by Barnardo’s.  SENDIAS stands for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support and the service helps the parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs and disabilities (SEND) to understand the SEND system and what might be going on with their child.  The service is also there for the children and young people themselves.  Every Local Authority in the country has to have one and Gateshead LA out-sources theirs to Barnardo’s who run it with the help of volunteers.

Chris explains, “I had just retired and was looking for something stimulating to do when I read about this volunteering opportunity in the local Council News.  It looked perfect.  I have a granddaughter with SEN and learning difficulties and know how hard it is for parents so it was something I was really interested in helping with.  I also have a background in teaching.  I have been doing the role for three years now and I really enjoy it.  I like the flexibility and the variety.  It is not the same every week.  I enjoy supporting parents and I have learnt a lot, it is very interesting.  I have to say that the training and support is very good and we are allowed to continue our professional development.  I feel as though I am still mixing in the working world but in a more relaxed way.”

The Gateshead SENDIAS Officer Elizabeth Lowery said, “Our volunteers are invaluable to the service, we simply could not provide the level of support to parents that we do without them.  They build so much extra capacity into what we can offer.  Chris has been an outstanding volunteer and done so much that last year we nominated her for a national Barnardo’s award.  She came second winning one of only two runner-up positions in the whole country.  We are so grateful that she saw the role in the Local Council News three years ago and grateful for the support from Gateshead Council to promote our volunteer role.”

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