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Thamasha Perara, City Year London, 2011-12

Volunteer mentor in uniform

I joined City Year UK straight after A-Levels. What drew me (apart from the bright red jackets!) was being able to support children full time. I had run after-school clubs at local primaries and helped out in a Year 1 classroom during sixth form, which was enough for me to know how much I enjoyed doing it.

I could not have imagined a better way to spend my gap year!

My highlights include getting my focus-list child enthusiastic about one-to-one reading, to the point where he was eagerly bringing me books, and running breakfast club; watching the children’s faces light up when they saw us early on a bleary morning.  There was also the time I was beaten by an eight year old at basketball, despite my three foot height advantage!

City Year UK was simply the best experience of my life. It gave me the confidence I needed after sixth form, as well as introducing me to people from a wide range of backgrounds so very different to my own.  It made me realise how sheltered I had been and I thoroughly enjoyed breaking away from that. At times, it pushed me out of my comfort zone.  It gave me a sense of community and belonging, I had never experienced, and I am now far more out-going and proactive. I still see all the close friends I made during my City Year. I have no doubt that they are friends for life.

Immediately after graduating from City Year UK, I worked for The Challenge Network as a Senior Mentor over the summer.  I was one of the youngest Senior Mentors they had, yet I felt perfectly comfortable in that role thanks to my City Year.  In turn, that has acted as a springboard for other positions.

I’m currently in my final year of a BSc in Biological Sciences, hoping to go into palaeontology but I’ve been spending my Sundays as a Learning Volunteer at the Natural History Museum. I sit out in the gallery with casts of sabre-toothed cat skulls, alligator skins, and fossils, facilitating discussions that capture children’s interest. I’m taking the skills I gained at City Year UK and putting them to good use. Being able to combine my passion for palaeontology with my passion for working with children is absolutely wonderful and I find myself leaving knowing that I’ve made a difference to someone that day.

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