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Impacting many children's lives as a volunteer

#Volunteersweek takes place 1-7 June every year. It's a chance to recognise the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities and say thank you. Focus Surrey would like to recognise the more than 380 volunteers who have been pivotal to the success of the Saturday club which has been running since September 2016.

Tom Rasey is the longest-serving volunteer at Focus Surrey. He has volunteered since February 2017 (Term 2) and had an impact on many children’s lives. Tom, who has a brother with autism, wanted to volunteer to support young people with autism. A professional accountant, Tom Rasey explains what attracted him to volunteer at first and what keeps him coming back year after year.

Tom sees it as being “a big kid for the day” and using play to help children improve their communication skills. Tom has built up some really strong connections to some of these children and their families and have even seen some of them outside the club.

Tom was recognised for his contribution to Focus Surrey at the Merton Partnership Civic Pride Volunteer Awards at a ceremony at AFC Wimbledon on Friday June 2nd.

Asked for their feedback to add to his nomination one parent said: "Tom supported my son [Z], who has ASD and communication issues, at Focus. Tom has a busy work life as an accountant, but his volunteering at Focus has always been something he places enormous pride in and he prioritises this, fully committing to the children he supports. In turn, they adore him. They sense his exceptional care and his personal investment and they trust him, meaning that they develop and make progress at the group. My son was able to build his social skills and counts Tom as a friend as well as his advocate and supporter. Over the past five years, where [Z] has been through a lot on a personal level, he has reached out to Tom because he feels able to confide in him. Tom has a gift as a volunteer of helping kids feel comfortable and confident, and he is thoroughly deserving of any award."

Consultant Board Certified Behaviour Analyst Patricia Guerrero said: “Tom has made a huge difference through volunteering at Focus Surrey! He has made our job as consultants so much easier because not only does he have a contagious energy to support every single child that he comes across with in his group, he also actively involves and role models to our other volunteers. We regularly have volunteers from universities (undergraduate and postgraduate level) who benefit from having a first-hand practical experience with children with autism. Tom has influenced all these future teachers, educators, clinical and educational psychologists, Speech and Language and SEN professionals who will be better equipped with skills to engage, play, communicate and better support autistic children. Tom has not only positively touched many children's lives directly; he has positively influenced our future professionals in related fields!”

Parent Sam Rahman said: “Tom is a very worthy nominee! He has been so fantastic with my son (C) with his endless enthusiasm and high energy. I can remember when C was really into being chased and just wouldn’t tire of it and Tom would carry on doing it for as long as C wanted. Sometimes he’d be exhausted but still had a smile on his face. C loved being in sessions with him - I have a lovely photo of him hugging Tom - and he was lovely with his brother D too. D drew a tube map and gave it to Tom a long time ago and when we saw him recently, he told D he still has it 😀He is so warm and friendly and intuitive to the child’s needs I think he definitely deserves an award. Also, I’m so impressed he has volunteered for so long and given up so much of his time, and always with a smile on his face. We are very appreciative for the time he has spent with C and I do feel he helped draw out his communication a bit more when he was his 1-2-1.”

Current parent Danu said: 'Our son loves Focus and a large part of that is down to Tom, whose positivity, humour and skill as room leader really helped our son to settle in to focus club. Tom is kind and sensible in his communications with us and our son loves seeing him. We are so grateful for Tom's kindness, good humour and generosity.'

Another parent spoke about how Tom helped her daughter during the long Lockdowns of the pandemic, when she struggled with isolating. Tom would have a regular weekly Zoom call with her, play games, draw characters and make her laugh, to help her stay calm and distract her from the realities of home education.

In 2021, Tom himself explained why he volunteered

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