Welcome to Volunteering
Welcome to Volunteering is a project running in Guildford, Surrey Heath and Waverley to support people into volunteering.
We spoke to Lorraine Yates, Welcome to Volunteering Coordinator in Waverley, about how volunteering has made a difference for two people she has worked with. Please note the names in these case studies are not the individuals' real names.
How did Charlie get involved with the Welcome to Volunteering Project?
Charlie was referred to Welcome to Volunteering by The Welcome Project and another voluntary organisation in Waverley. Charlie cared for both her elderly parents and so had been out of the work place for some considerable time. This had resulted in a loss of confidence and self-belief and the organisations were concerned about Charlie's wellbeing.
What did Charlie want to achieve through her volunteering?
Charlie was living off her savings and was very keen to re-enter the world of work. Charlie was already volunteering for a few hours a week in a local charity shop and was keen to find another volunteering opportunity which would help build her skills, employability and confidence.
How did the Welcome to Volunteering Project help Charlie?
Charlie was open-minded as to where she could volunteer but her lack of confidence meant she would need a nurturing and encouraging environment where she could build skills and challenge herself. A lack of transport and the increasing cost of public transport meant she would also need to find a local opportunity.
In an effort to establish the level of Charlie's IT, admin and communication skills we created an opportunity for her to volunteer for a six-week taster session at the Volunteer Centre in Farnham. As part of this Charlie completed a variety tasks to help with running the Volunteer Centre.
What outcomes did this achieve for Charlie?
Charlie has been transformed from the timid, softly spoken lady who arrived at the Volunteer Centre six weeks ago. Through her volunteering, Charlie has steadily grown in confidence and she clearly enjoys the interaction with the staff team and other volunteers. She is happier and quite obviously more self-assured. After a few weeks Charlie felt confident to start searching for paid work and we supported her with this by helping her tweak her CV, talking through interview techniques and offering encouragement.
What's Charlie doing now?
Charlie has recently been offered paid employment which is to start with immediate effect.
Charlie emailed me to say "I want to thank you for all you have done for me while I have been with you, which I should have done much earlier. You have been so kind all this time. Thank you to everyone at The Volunteer Bureau for helping me so much. I have enjoyed all my time with you very much."
How did Lucy get involved with the Welcome to Volunteering Project?
Lucy was made redundant after working in the same company for 15 years. This affected her mental health quite dramatically and she sought medical assistance. Lucy's GP was concerned about her increasing social isolation and was keen for her to find another job, and so referred her to Richmond Fellowship, an organisation that supports people suffering from mental ill health back into work or volunteering.
After several months it seemed that Lucy was just not ready to go back into the work place, so the advisor at Richmond Fellowship referred her to Welcome to Volunteering in Waverley.
How did the Welcome to Volunteering Project help Lucy?
I met Lucy close to her home and found her to be very receptive to the idea of volunteering. We discussed all sorts of available opportunities but she was quite specific she wanted an admin/reception type role. I set about researching local opportunities and arranged to meet Lucy again to discuss. Communication with Lucy became difficult at this time as she had limited funds and no credit on her phone. She became embarrassed and ashamed at her situation and didn't reply to any correspondence.
I have a very strong working relationship with colleagues at Richmond Fellowship so they were able to speak to Lucy and encourage her to get back in touch with me. We arranged to meet and start the process again. It turned out Lucy wasn't keen on the volunteering opportunities I had suggested initially but didn't know how to tell me. We had a very honest conversation and afterwards both felt we really understood what it was that Lucy wanted to do. We went away from the admin idea as these roles were too similar to what Lucy had done before and it brought up all sorts of difficult memories for her. Alternatively I found a local Charity Shop, with a fantastic manager who completely understood that due to Lucy's mental ill health she would need time, support and patience.
What's been the benefit for Lucy?
Six weeks on Lucy is thriving. Lucy is thoroughly enjoying her role, making new friends and becoming an asset to the shop. I was delighted that Lucy attended our Volunteers Christmas Party looking so happy and relaxed, having come directly from her voluntary work. She told anyone who would listen that she had the best job in the world.
I also learnt a lot from working with Lucy. On paper and when we met for the first time, it seemed as though she would be easy to place. She knew what she wanted to do and so I set about finding it. In hindsight, she wanted something quite different. She needed to be in a safe, caring environment where no pressure would be put on her as she recovers her confidence and self-esteem. It made me reflect on my practice and think about challenging people's ideas, if I don't think they are suitable for them at that time.
For more information about Supported Volunteering Projects in your area, contact your local Volunteer Centre.