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Why should I do voluntary work? Christine’s story

Why should I do voluntary work?  Christine’s story

Why should I do voluntary work? This was a question I asked many times before I joined Staywell.  This is the story of how I became a volunteer and ended up thoroughly enjoying it.

A few years ago, I found myself unemployed.  After the initial shock, upset and anger, I realised I would have to sign on at the Job Centre.  Being in my fifties, I knew my search for employment was not going to be easy, but at the time I did not anticipate just how hard it would be.  As the weeks turned into months, interviews did not materialise and no offers of work came my way.  My self-esteem, confidence, and mood became extremely low and all I could think about was the skills I had built up over the years going to waste.  I felt totally abandoned, useless and worthless.

After some months I had to attend a group session at the Job Centre.  It was suggested that voluntary work can sometimes lead to permanent employment and also looks good on a CV.  My reaction to this was:  ‘I don’t want to volunteer – I want paid work,’ so I took no action.

 

Rock bottom

On one of many days, sitting at home browsing websites in search of work, I came across Staywell (known as Age Concern Kingston back then).  First looking at job vacancies, I noticed a section on volunteering.  I noted the telephone number, but even then it took a time before I rang.  When I eventually called, I was at rock bottom.  I went along and had a chat with a lady who dealt with volunteers who told me they needed someone to handle the cash and general admin duties at Raleigh House social centre.  Pointing out that I was looking for paid work and that I had no experience of some of the duties involved, I was taken on.

 

Happy

I found the staff very friendly, helpful and the place had a happy feel about it.  The thing I enjoyed most, and which to me was most important, was meeting and greeting the centre users, having a chat with them and helping them out if necessary.  I began looking forward to my Monday morning – my mood and confidence began to lift, my self-esteem started to return.  I began to feel ‘normal’ and not so isolated – and I was also learning.

After 21 months without paid employment, I successfully applied for a position as a Receptionist/Appointments Clerk.  I was over the moon, however, a big part of me will miss doing my voluntary work.

Volunteering for me has only been a good experience.  It has given me back my self-esteem and confidence.  I also learned a lot.  I’ve met different people and the most important thing is that members and staff appreciate the help you give.  I also believe that working for Staywell helped me get the paid job due to the ‘rescue’ it provided when I was very down.

So, if you are thinking about volunteering, don’t just sit there, go and do it! Who knows what you might gain from it?

I know I will go back to volunteering one day.

 

 

Stories

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