TWO students from Bournemouth School for Girls are among a group of teenagers who would have been sitting vital exams this summer but have instead channelled their energy into volunteering to help vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among them are Freya Pretty, 18, and Olivia Minnock, 15, from Bournemouth School for Girls. Freya has joined Ferndown Coronavirus Community Support Group and Olivia, from Bournemouth, helps mental health charities and BCP Council with their response for young people.

The pair were upset when they couldn’t sit A-Levels and GCSEs but instead of being down-hearted decided to do something positive to help others.

Both are seasoned volunteers thanks to Community Action Network’s (CAN) young volunteering scheme, they’ve previously supported beach cleans, helped protect wildlife habitats and visited care homes with CAN, which supports the voluntary sector in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

CAN’s Youth Development Worker Dani Ford-Horne is full of praise for the girls: “These two are an inspiring example of how our young people go above and beyond to help their communities. We believe passionately in the value of youth volunteering - Freya and Olivia are doing a wonderful job.”

Freya, along with mum Vanessa and brother Josh, 16, helps deliver shopping and medicine for the Ferndown support group, which helps more than 200 vulnerable or elderly people.

"Seeing the look on people’s faces when they see me or hearing the happiness in their voices when I phone is the best reward there is,” she said.

Freya lost her hearing in one ear aged eight and has restricted hearing in the other, but copes well and has also learned sign language.

She added: “The community spirit is great, whether it’s clapping for the NHS or looking out for one another. I’ll stay friends with residents and continue volunteering after the pandemic.”

Freya has also created a ‘positivitree’ with her eight-year half-sister Phoebe filled with goodwill messages to cheer people up and collects for her local food bank.

Olivia works for BCP Council’s Youth Forum helping influence decision-making to improve services for young people.

During the pandemic, she has helped schools, the council and local mental health organisations, MIND and CAMHS.

“It’s really empowering that I can help give a voice to 200,000 young people across the South West,” said Olivia.

“I have got to know a lot of different people from very varied backgrounds.”

The girls’ parents are extremely proud of their commitment to helping others during the pandemic.

Olivia’s mum Faye said: “She’s a wonderful girl, who would help anyone. She’s got a very kind nature.”

Freya’s dad Darren added: “It’s a great testament to her character. She never let her hearing loss hold her back.

“She became deputy head girl, led scout trips and is always helping her community. She’s a fantastic daughter.”