‘My future is now bright’: Volunteering helped Thornton Heath student smile again and now she’s inspiring others

A Thornton Heath student turned #iwill ambassador is calling on young people to volunteer after it helped turn her life around.

Fran Oliver had a difficult time growing up, suffering from depression and anxiety, but has now regained her confidence through volunteering.

When the 20-year-old Croydon College student started volunteering and taking up social action in her community it helped her as well as others.

Fran said: “Because of my own emotional past, I started volunteering at my church, Streatham Baptist Church, helping with their youth work.

“I also did some volunteering at Brixton Prison, talking to the prisoners and helping them with their personal development and discussing what they know about God.

“I then started volunteering for a company called NoSexWithoutLove which encourages women to not give their body without having love involved in it.

“After that, I started putting my hand in any organisation that would have me and got in touch with the Prince’s Trust because I wanted help with my own business, Believe Aspire Conquer.

“It’s mainly about empowerment of women and young girls, equipping personal development and self-awareness.

“I want people to realise it’s all about what you have within and not needing to go out and get validation from anywhere else.”

Fran is now an ambassador for #iwill, a national campaign aiming to make social action part of life for as many 10 to 20 year olds as possible by the year 2020.

Fran OliverFran with Prince Charles: Fran wants volunteering to help others like it helped her

She said: “The Prince’s Trust helped me to set up that business through their enterprise programme, and I’ve become their young ambassador, where I speak about my past.

“Through rebuilding myself and my life, I realised I could help other young people to do the same.”

When growing up, a family illness led to Fran taking on more responsibility at home at a young age, which she says came at a difficult time and led to her falling into the wrong crowd.

She fell into an abusive relationship which led to her taking a long-term absence from education.

She suffered from depression and anxiety and her confidence plummeted, culminating in her trying to commit suicide more than once.

Fran found religion and she credits God and the Prince’s Trust with helping her gain confidence.

“God helped me change my life and the Prince’s Trust and volunteering contributed to my personal development of believing in myself and understanding my own self worth,” she added.

“My future is now bright. I’m going to university this year and when I finish that I plan to launch my social enterprise fully and make that my full-time job.

“I want to empower people to see who they are and help them embrace their individuality.”

Fran is urging other young people to offer their services for social action.

She said: “I think that every young person should volunteer, it helps them when they apply for a job or even in terms of everyday life.

“You learn about other people’s experiences and the difficulties that many people have to face.

“At first when people told me about volunteering, I wasn’t sure and I know a lot of people will wonder why they are giving their time for free when they could be making money.

“For me, volunteering helped me learn about different experiences and helped my personal development and my job skills.

“It helped my CV become a lot stronger and I don’t know if I would be in the position I am today without volunteering.”

Images courtesy of Step Up to Serve, with thanks

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