My New York City Volunteering Experience

Posted on: 5 October 2022 by Samantha Riella in Student experiences

Recent UoL Psychology graduate Isobel Bryce, took part in the New York City volunteering experience with HYPE, Merseyside, a charity which is ‘Helping Young People Everywhere’.

What have you been up to since finishing your final year and graduating?

In July, I was lucky enough to be selected for the New York City volunteering experience with HYPE, Merseyside, a charity which is ‘Helping Young People Everywhere’.

How was travelling in New York and New Jersey?

The trip involved coaching underprivileged children across America who had enrolled in the camps located in New York and New Jersey. As volunteers, we ran multiple different activities for the children in famous parks such as, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge and Hudson River Park. We were also able to make our mark in the parks as we participated in the Vibrant Parks scheme, which transforms forgotten green spaces for the benefit of the community. To do this, we were gardening to clear the way for the development of a new youth area.

Aside from volunteering in the parks, we had many sightseeing opportunities, from Times Square to the Statue of Liberty, to the top of the Empire State building, to the Yankee stadium and the 9/11 memorial. One of the most eye-opening moments during our time in the city was when the young people had designed posters for our campaign across Brooklyn Bridge, to strike against issues such as, gun violence. It was heart-breaking to see how these issues were so apparent in these young people’s lives.

For someone who had never been excited by the thought of camping, sleeping in bunks in the middle of a 4,500-acre forest, in New Jersey, was definitely a new experience for me and a situation I would never have imagined myself in. However, even though our living situation was so far out of my comfort zone, I felt completely safe and soon adjusted to camp life. The camp staff’s friendly and uplifting energy created an extremely warm and welcoming environment in the camp, making it easy for us to understand why it is such a special place for many underprivileged children and young people in America.

What made you want to pursue a career in the charity sector?

Working within the charity sector can be a very rewarding and fulfilling experience as unlike other career sectors, you are able to see the direct impact your hard work has on individuals who benefit from the charity. This work provided me with a great sense of self-worth and purpose.

The great thing about the charity sector is that it is something that you can either be completely devoted to by making it your full-time job, or you can help part-time or volunteer in your free time.

I chose to volunteer with HYPE because of their 3 impact goals to; create more opportunities for young people, to support young people to reach their potential and to strengthen local communities. HYPE’s goals aligned with my own interests as my psychology degree provided me with a deep understanding of child psychology, where I learned the importance of socioeconomic status and family support in a child’s happiness and ability to succeed. Additionally, I had prior experience of working with young people as a peer mentor, sports coach and summer camp leader. However, it became apparent to me that this prior experience typically involved supporting children from privileged backgrounds in the UK. As such, the opportunity to work with HYPE and coach disadvantaged young people internationally in the iconic New York City, not only broaden my coaching experience, but also developed my cultural awareness, whilst deepening my understanding surrounding child psychology, as I was able to compare the differences between the lives of children across international borders.

What is the most rewarding thing about volunteering?

For many tourists, New York is seen as the city that never sleeps and a place that is full of endless opportunities. However, talking to the underprivileged young people revealed to me how lonesome and isolating life in New York can be, with individuals explaining that despite always seeing lots of people around, ‘making friends in this big city is super difficult and it makes me feel like I don’t matter and that nothing I do will matter to anyone’. Hearing stories like this from the children I was working with, made me emotional but made the whole experience so worthwhile as I was able to see these previously distressed young people excel and truly enjoy themselves. Therefore, the most rewarding thing about volunteering on this trip was seeing how our actions as volunteers can really make a significant difference to people’s lives, as we saw these children and young people grow in confidence not only in the physical activities, but also in their ability to interact with the coaches and other children.

What are your plans for the upcoming year?

My experience in America has taught me to say ‘yes!’ more, make the most out of life, be grateful for even the smallest things and push myself out of my comfort zone. As a result, I have decided that volunteering in New York and New Jersey is just the beginning of my journey into the charity sector. Being a recent University of Liverpool Psychology graduate, I have decided to embark on a new adventure exploring and travelling the world. Whilst travelling, I hope to volunteer with charities across the globe.

I hope these new experiences I gain from immersing myself into different cultures and communities, will further enhance my cultural awareness and understanding, whilst also developing my transferable skills.

On this trip, I made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. The lessons I learnt about myself, history, poverty and life in New York have had a great impact on my life and perspective already. I hope to work with HYPE and charities alike in the UK and abroad in the future. Massive thanks to Matt and the rest of the team at HYPE for making this trip happen and to the team at Hands In For Youth who hosted us at their Camp Vacamas in New Jersey.

To see the 2022 trip in action, watch this video.

If you’re interested in making a difference whilst seeing some iconic New York City sites, apply now to be part of HYPE’s 2023 Trip.