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Meet the Volunteer: Raks

Written by Lily Kehoe, 3rd June 2024

Name: Raks Patel 

Location: Streatham, London 

Role: Volunteer for Reading Heroes, a project promoting the benefits of reading for pleasure with care experienced children and young people aged between two and 15. Children are paired with a highly trained volunteer to read online one-to-one for six to nine months.  

Why did you decide to volunteer with The Reader? 

I saw an appeal for Reading Heroes and immediately thought I’d like to volunteer. Books gave me huge pleasure when I was a child and teenager, and I was keen to share my passion for reading with a young person.  

I thought it would be wonderful to ignite a love of reading within a young person that could last for life. Books are one of life’s constant companions: they introduce you to new people, take you to new places, and open a window on the wider world. You’re never lonely if you have a book! 

What do you love most about your volunteer role? 

I was matched with a teenager, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, who was settling into a care home and a new life in England. It was a privilege to read with him over nine months, exchanging snippets of news about our lives each week, and slowly building a friendly relationship. It was so rewarding to see him enjoying the books we read together, especially the humour in the stories.  

Our sessions were full of laughter. At our last session, he showed me the pile of books we had read together and said each one was a memory. He would be re-reading them as his English continued to improve. I couldn’t have asked for more! 

Any insights or learnings you’ve gained about people, the world, literature, or yourself through your volunteering? 

I learnt it was possible to build a strong human connection, even with very different life experiences, cultures, countries, faiths, and languages. He taught me a few words of Pashto too!   

I learnt about the power of pictures, humour and stories to break through language barriers and transcend borders. 

I got as much enjoyment and satisfaction out of our Shared Reading sessions as the young person; it was a joint endeavour. Our time together is over now, but I’m looking forward to being matched with another young person and starting out on a new reading journey. 

If you would like to find out more about our Reading Heroes project visit here. We’re currently expanding this project and looking for more fantastic volunteers to read with children. Volunteers receive full training and ongoing support from The Reader. If you love reading and can spare up to an hour a week, please get in touch by emailing here 

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