I have been volunteering with VARB since October 2016. This followed a very difficult period for me after the death of my elderly and infirm father who I had cared for for full time at home for four years. These caring responsibilities also immediately followed the death of my mother.
All the team immediately made me feel very welcome and have always been very supportive, encouraging and very friendly.
I am a Volunteer Administrator. The work I have been doing has been varied and interesting. I have mostly been updating the database. I have learnt new skills as I had not used databases before and this should be very useful to me for the future too. I have a lot of experience in secretarial/admin and am pleased to be able to use my IT and admin skills in my work.
I volunteered for a variety of reasons. To share and develop my existing skills; to gain new skills and experience; to have the chance to meet new people – caring for a somebody full time at home can lead to social isolation; to regain my self confidence as I have been out of the job market since 2011 when I started caring for my father – I had prior to that been working full time In both the publishing and legal fields for 20 years.
I have also, for the past two years, helped at their Festive Feast Community Christmas Day lunch for the lonely who would otherwise be spending Christmas Day on their own or for people who enjoy celebrating with others. This is a very enjoyable and rewarding occasion working as part of a large team of volunteers all coming together to help others.
I very much feel valued and part of the team. My general well-being is much improved and I am regaining my self confidence again.
It was suggested by my work coach at Jobcentre Plus, during the summer of 2017, that I might find it beneficial to do something of a purposeful nature. After an interview at VARB; they suggested I volunteer with KSS CRC (Kent, Surrey & Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company) who deliver a range of rehabilitation services to people who have been sentenced by a court to either custody or community supervision. To cut a long story short, it has not always been easy with some of the service users I support, as cooperation is needed between mentor and mentee. However, I have found it interesting doing research and finding suitable opportunities in which mentee’s could participate in activities such as using the Mary Frances Trust or taking part in one of the courses offered by the Recovery College. However, whatever is placed in front of mentees is no more than suggestions and it is their right to refuse. Sometimes I might take a step forward or two back, but it has been a valuable learning experience for me and, despite some disappointments, I have no regrets.
“I’ve volunteered since September 2017, working in the office which I have never done before but wanted to experience to see what it be like. I was very nervous and anxious but excited to start volunteering to help me get back into a working environment, also to help with my anxiety. The staff and other volunteers have been very friendly and welcoming, also been very understanding and supportive with my anxiety.
During my time volunteering I have really enjoyed working in the office and I’m learning so much, I have grown in confidence and I’m less anxious too. The staff have been a joy to work with and starting to feel like I’m part of the team.
Then October 2018 I got offered a job working part time in the office, which I never thought that would happen to me and I’m very thankful for the opportunity. I’m really grateful and happy with all the support and kindness with everyone I volunteer with, I can honestly say that volunteering has been one best thing I have ever done and has made such a big difference to me. Even my family and friends have notice the change in me and I’m a lot happier, I’m starting to feel like myself again and feeling positive about the future”.
John wanted to volunteer to gain experience in the office environment and gain knowledge in using a Content management System to edit website news. He has also met new people and gained confidence working within a friendly team of people, he’s been able to keep busy and learnt new things about computers. He tells us he “Gets a sense of achievement and job satisfaction and is gaining valuable work experience. I get to be busy and keep myself doing things so that I don’t end up staying in bed or doing nothing on a Monday morning”.
“I began volunteering at the YMCA in Redhill in January 2015, working as a receptionist two mornings a week. Prior to this I had worked as a physiotherapist in the NHS for 15 years until I became ill in 2012, which resulted in being unable to work. The volunteer post was a way of getting back into the habit of working.
The YMCA are used to having volunteers, so have been incredibly supportive and encouraging in their approach. I’ve felt included and been made to feel like one of the team.
As my health has gradually improved I’ve been able to look around for work as a physiotherapist again, and through contacts I made at the YMCA I was put in touch with a private clinic in Crawley who were looking to fill a vacancy. I applied, and found out last week that I was accepted! I start working there next week.
The volunteering that I have done has made all the difference to me. I can honestly say that without it I wouldn’t be returning to work. It’s been fantastic.”
‘I met with Chrissy from the Aspire Project initially, who then referred me to the Patchworking Garden Project. I was going to help out with Administrative work, however Carmel, the Project Leader, suggested that I have a go at something outside. I started clearing brambles and found this surprisingly enjoyable. I then decided to keep doing outside work instead of Admin. I particularly enjoy the woodwork, and since starting there I have built a Bird nesting box, 2 Bat roosting boxes and quite a lot of plant boxes, which then have plants put into and then sold.
Time always goes very quickly and there’s no pressure to do anything. It makes you feel more worthwhile and there is a real sense of fulfilment and a sense of pride in what you are doing. It’s a positive cycle of practical skills and interaction with people. I always go, always look forward to it, and always come back feeling great.
It’s very rare that you find something totally positive, but this is.
It’s been a revelation! I really enjoy it!’
Linda has worked in both hospitals and care homes in both administrative and caring roles. She recently left her job as a Carer in a local care home due to decreased mobility which has caused her a period of depression.
Linda’s confidence and self-belief was starting to suffer greatly, she still wanted to work in a job helping people and didn’t know where to start as she felt most options were closed to her due to her physical health issues. I then introduced her to Chrissy at Aspire to explore her skills and see what options were available.
Chrissy identified a voluntary role in another local care home, supporting residents with dementia to build memory books. Linda is thriving in this role which incorporates her caring, administrative and research skills; she now feels able to start looking forward towards paid employment again.
ESRA – Employment Manager
Erin was referred to ESRA on a Programme supporting clients at risk of losing their homes and she had 2 young children and had not worked for some while. Erin had no family and friends living in the area so was feeling isolated.
Together we identified that Erin lacked some basic qualifications and she agreed to enrol on a Maths and English course at College. She is proud to have passed both courses and has enrolled on another Maths course surprising herself.
It was suggested that to raise her confidence that she might consider volunteering, and ESRA referred her to the Aspire Project (Voluntary Action Reigate and Banstead). Erin had an informal meeting with them discussing her interests and sensitive information and it was agreed that she may benefit working supporting elderly people.
She was accompanied to a day centre for the elderly, where she was introduced to staff and clients and fairly quickly she started fitting in. The manager saw a keen and eager person wanting to do their best and learn new things.
She now volunteers there 2 days per week and has got to know the client group really well and say’s that they are her family. It won’t be long until Erin finds paid work as she now has the confidence and increased skill set to find employment. She also has a new home.
ESRA – Employment Manager