ANGEL Alvey would be the first to agree that she has not always lived up to her name. But what she has lacked in the past has been more than made up for by the volunteer work she carries out in the city.
The 18-year-old gives up several evenings a week to help run activities at Enthusiasm, in Cotton Lane, a charity which aims to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds in the city reach their full potential.
Angel was herself referred to Enthusiasm for mentoring when she was just 11 years old and already in trouble with the police. For the first 18 months, she would only engage with her mentor when they were sat back-to-back, but now recognises that without this unwavering support she may have been in prison by now.
Her early experiences have made Angel realise the important role Enthusiasm plays in the city and such is her commitment that she has been jointly appointed to the city’s Youth Board, representing the young people who attend Enthusiasm and the community they live in.
She has also been asked to sit on the charity’s board of trustees, giving Enthusiasm’s attendees the opportunity to help shape its future.
Angel said: “Enthusiasm has helped me such a lot and I honestly think that without them I’d probably be in prison by now. I worked with a mentor here for about five years and they helped me realise who were the right people I should hang out with and how to stay on the right track in life.
“I volunteer here because I want to help kids who are just like I was. I help out as often as I can – and I’m always here on a Wednesday and Thursday evening. It’s a great place to hang out and it feels like a family, a place that you can just be yourself.
“I was proud to be asked to represent the young people on the Youth Board and when Enthusiasm’s trustees have meetings. It means they can ask us what we really want to do, or what we’d like to see money spent on, and it feels good to know we’re helping to make Enthusiasm an even better place to hang out.”
Representing Enthusiasm alongside Angel is 17-year-old volunteer Aaron Payne, who lives with his mum and his 13 brothers and sisters.
Like Angel, Aaron was mentored by Enthusiasm after being identified as being at risk of exclusion, anti-social behaviour or offending. Born with a heart condition, Aaron was also diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 11 years old, a diagnosis which led to depression.
Today, Aaron gives up at least three evenings every week to work with the young people attending Enthusiasm, running football training sessions alongside Derby County Community Trust and assisting at Youth Club.
He also helps to run school holiday activity clubs and is now training other volunteers in how they too can help Enthusiasm provide a safe place for young people.
Aaron, who is also doing a construction and bricklaying course at Derby College, said: “I was on the verge of being excluded from school when I was first referred here and my mentor didn’t speak to me like I was a little kid, he spoke to me like I was a friend and it helped me to stay on at school.
“Then I was diagnosed with epilepsy and I didn’t think I would ever be able to drive, which made me very depressed. I’ve almost gone a year without a seizure now, so hopefully I will be able to overcome that. I have to take a lot of medication, and I will need more open-heart surgery in the future, but I am able to manage the way I feel about these things now.
“Enthusiasm has made a big difference to my life, which is why I enjoy helping out here. Growing up in a big family has meant I am good with younger children and I have lots of patience which I think really helps me make a difference at Enthusiasm.
“I was really honoured to be asked to represent the young people of Enthusiasm on the Youth Voice board and on the board of trustees. It’s great that people think Angel and I have something to offer and I am enjoying the responsibility.”
Since Aaron and Angel have walked in the same shoes as many of the young people they support staff say they are the perfect role models. But it’s not just young people that keep the wheels in motion at Enthusiasm – Helen Lenton has been associated with the charity for almost half her life.
Her journey with Enthusiasm started when she attended the Friday night youth club herself, some 20 years ago. Both her children have gone through the charity’s mentoring programme and Helen has given back to the organisation in every way she can.
From running weekly coffee mornings for mums, to planning day trips during school holidays, volunteering at youth club and supporting fundraising events such as summer fairs, Helen is always willing to help.
She is also an advocate for Enthusiasm in the community, spreading the word about the good work it does and guiding those who need support to attend. She has helped to build a bridge of trust between the community and Enthusiasm, championing everything the organisation does in order that more young people can access its support.
In turn she gathers information from the community about the challenges they face and how Enthusiasm can tailor its approach to best support them.
Helen, who has two children, said: “I came here as a kid and my son Darby was mentored here when he was struggling at school and it has helped him immensely.
“I try really hard to raise awareness of Enthusiasm so that more teenagers come along here. I’ve taken leaflets into local primary schools and have been running coffee mornings for parents here once a week.
“I’ve recently started the Grow Project, showing kids the journey from seed to plate – by actually planting up seeds. I’d like to be a special needs teaching assistant eventually, but I think I’ll always be associated with Enthusiasm.”
Children who attend Enthusiasm are primarily drawn from Osmaston, Allenton and Alvaston with smaller numbers from Chellaston, Sinfin and Shelton Lock.
They are usually aged between 11 and 18 years old and are often referred to the centre by schools, police and other agencies if they are deemed to be at risk of exclusion, offending or anti-social behaviour, including the influence of negative peer groups and gangs.
Enthusiasm CEO, April Allman-Hayhurst, said: “Without volunteers like Helen we simply couldn’t open our doors to so many young people in the local area. Nothing is too much trouble for her – she runs baking sessions, has arranged litter picks and provides a listening ear to anyone who needs one.
“We cannot over emphasise just what a difference all our volunteers make to the Enthusiasm family and it has been a joy to watch Angel and Aaron grow in confidence and stature since gaining more responsibility. We are enormously proud of them both.
“People like Helen, Angel and Aaron help raise aspirations individually and, in the community.”