What’s it like to be a volunteer at E2M? Spencer’s Story
Spencer is a student at Lancaster University, currently completing a Master’s degree in Media and Cultural Studies. Before coming to Lancaster, she used to work as a TV show host for an educational children’s series in China. Sadly, the show got cancelled and Spencer had to look for an alternative career. She decided to pursue a Master’s degree in the UK as a way of boosting her career options. After some time, Spencer began to notice that every Thursday, one of her coursemates would leave their study sessions early to go to work. That coursemate was Escape2Make’s production assistant who was helping out with the Film Club and Press Club sessions on Thursdays. Upon learning about the organisation, Spencer immediately took an interest and asked if she could volunteer, as this was an opportunity for her to reconnect with young people and work on her English in a non-academic environment.
She has now been with us for 6 months and has described her time with Escape2Make as something that has changed her life:
“Their passion, their enthusiasm, and their imagination! They heal me! I feel so happy and full of hope for life. I would say they have significantly changed my attitude toward life!”
Spencer felt quite intimidated prior to her first day at E2M. She had grown used to the rigid system imposed by schools and other educational centres, where one constantly feels the pressure to work to achieve something and works towards a certain level, so she didn’t know what to expect. She found herself pleasantly surprised by the relaxed environment she stumbled into. Her experience with E2M didn’t involve supervising a silent gloomy classroom but rather, she has been busy building time machines, discovering the ugliest fish in the ocean, and writing a touching love story about a bunny and a rain cloud. Needless to say, she has quickly grown to love Escape2Make’s working model:
“I’m a very typical Asian kid, who grew up with an educational system that involved putting in a lot of effort to get results or achieve a certain goal. On my first day at E2M, I was confused and surprised to find that in a group where a bunch of kids gets together to do crafts, you can just choose not to do it, or you are free to choose what you want to do, without expecting results, without being pressured to improve, and without aiming for perfection.”
Working with young people
In terms of actually working and collaborating with the young people who come to the sessions, Spencer claims that she has stopped feeling like a ‘volunteer’, who’s responsible for doing a job and has a certain responsibility. Instead, she has been able to have interesting conversations with the kids, laugh and joke together with them and genuinely enjoy working on the activities together. She believes that the sessions she has attended have helped her grow as a person and has found the young people’s attitudes and outlooks on life inspiring:
“During these six months, I have become friends with these kids, who always surprise and inspire me in unexpected ways. During my time at E2M, I can say that I have wiped out my arrogance and ignorance. I used to think of teenagers as just childish and overdramatic. But during this experience, the kindness and patience that sizzle from this group of teenagers has changed my attitude towards life. I was able to recapture the enthusiasm and careless joy of my teenage years and have truly cherished and loved each day!”
She also claims that they have greatly helped her improve her level of English. She studied English at school growing up but has never been exposed to it in a social environment prior to coming to Lancaster. She refers to a time when some of the young people would sit with her and introduce her to all the accents you can find in England and how to recognise them. As well as that time, when someone sat down with her and explained to her what marmalade is. In turn, she has also been able to introduce them to Chinese culture by talking to them about her experience and bringing them occasional Chinese snacks.
Her experience with E2M has inspired her to look into a career involving working with young people, particularly teenagers, which is something she has never considered before. Now she is hoping to be able to spread the joy and positivity that E2M brings and apply it in her own personal and professional life.
And to all the young people out there, she would just like to say:
“Please keep being dramatic and fearless, as that is a privilege of being a teenager. And in the meantime, don’t forget to study hard!”
And if you’re considering joining E2M:
“Just come and be a weirdo. You are not alone.”