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"My time volunteering with JAI has been hugely rewarding but most importantly, a lot of fun" - a Volunteer's Perspective of JAI

Meredith Adams 1Meredith Adams from Standard Life, a new supporting organisation for the 16/17 school year, has written about her experience of being a JAI volunteer.

Soon after arriving at the Standard Life Dublin office, I was asked to setup our volunteering relationship with Junior Achievement Ireland (JAI).

Unlike previous school programmes I’ve worked on, JAI fully train their volunteers and provides them with resource packs for the classroom sessions. Volunteer training was a great experience and started with everyone explaining why they had decided to get involved. I was impressed by the range of answers…people wanted to improve their presentation skills, gain confidence, contribute to their local community and share business knowledge – amongst other things! There were also a number of parents in the group who had heard their children speak so positively of their own JAI experiences that they felt compelled to contribute to the charity’s work.

JAI match their volunteers to schools near where they live and I was tasked with delivering the ‘Our City’ programme to 3rd class (ages 8-9). Over the course of 5 sessions, the class learn about zones in cities, create their own city, and become business owners whereby they market their business, design a pricing strategy and learn how to finance this whilst balancing loans and bank interest! JAI designs their programmes so that each lesson leads on from the previous with the concepts and themes becoming increasingly more complex.

Resource pack ready and slightly nervous, I arrived to teach my first JAI class at Scoil Treasa Naofa. To be honest, one of the trickiest parts of coordinating all the Standard Life volunteers has been learning how to pronounce the names of local Dublin schools! The silent letters and non-phonetic pronunciations have not gotten any easier with time….

Meredith Adams 2Meredith's 3rd class in Scoil Treasa NaofaClass 1 started with introducing myself and explaining what I do at Standard Life. It soon became apparent that Meredith wasn’t quite snappy enough a name for me, and I transitioned to simply being called ‘teacher’. The actual class teacher, Niamh, was on hand to help at all times and I think quite enjoyed having someone else answer the many calls of ‘teacher, teacher’ for a wee while!

With our town planner hats on, we began by learning about the residential, industrial, business and agricultural zones of a city – what these are and the types of activity you’d expect to see in each. The pupils then had to become architects and builders as we learnt about blueprints, including why they’re called this (a new fact for me too – google it!). I introduced the concept of scale to the class and we actually created 3D buildings which the class had to appropriately locate in the different city zones. They really loved naming their businesses and deciding where they should go on our big city zone map….

During the next few sessions we learnt about entrepreneurship as we created and opened restaurants and ice cream shops in our city. Important decisions needed to be made such as what to serve, who to employ and what to charge. The class had a great time advertising their eateries and I heard some interesting ideas such as serving the ‘best ice cream flavour which will be a bit of all the flavours’ and making an American-Chinese-Italian-Indian restaurant to ensure everyone liked something. One marketing savvy pupil commented that it wasn’t enough to advertise the restaurant by making posters but that we should also be promoting the brand through Just Eat, radio adverts, schools and TV – I’ll make sure to pass this advice onto to the Marketing team! We finished the 5 week block of classes by learning about savings accounts, loans and interest. Despite these being new topics, the class were enthusiastic to learn and had a great attitude towards all the topics we covered.

Thinking of volunteering?

Meredith Adams 3Meredith's students after receiving their Certificates of Achievement This term, we had 12 Standard Life volunteers deliver 5 classroom sessions to schools in Dublin. This equates to 12 days of volunteering and engagement with 272 pupils! These numbers are a great contribution from the Irish business to the company wide target of 2,000 volunteering days in 2017.

My time volunteering with JAI has been hugely rewarding but most importantly, a lot of fun. I loved getting to know my class and building a relationship with them as we became town planners, builders and business owners, and also hearing all their weird and wonderful stories – some of which were more relevant to the topics covered than others!

I would encourage anyone interested to get involved as it’s a great way to use your volunteering days to promote the world of work, whilst having some fun and getting involved in the local community. And when your class looks this chuffed to complete the course, how could you not want to return?!

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