So before I begin this, I just want to say that this post is not political or for a pat on the back. It is to raise awareness of volunteering and to encourage people to support their local charities.
If anything, I started volunteering for selfish reasons. I was feeling incredibly lost in my life as I had gone from working in a school for twelve years to working at home on my own. It was a shock to the system and I found myself feeling very lonely. I had gone from sharing an office with six funny, interesting people to spending all day at home on my own. I’m not going to lie… I have really struggled.
I love running my social media, finding and sharing Disney products and having incredible opportunities. However, the main reason I gave up my job was to be there for my family. Take the boys to nursery and school, pick them up, just be more present. My job never allowed me to do that. I never took Aoife to school, never picked her up and could only attend one school event a year. This continued throughout her whole childhood and I just didn’t want to do that again.
So I started to apply for jobs, I had interviews and was offered a job. At the same time, Gareth was offered his job and I just couldn’t commit so I decided to look into volunteering. I have always been keen to work with the elderly or refugees but when I have applied for jobs in these areas I have been rejected as I didn’t have enough experience in these areas.
So I applied to volunteer at a Refugee Project in Newcastle and work there one day a week. The process was very easy. I had to complete an enhanced disclosure form, which was accepted about three weeks later. An Enhanced Disclosure is needed by anyone who works with vulnerable members of society.
Once the form arrived in the post then I could get started. I felt so nervous on my first day. It was very strange to changing from a postition of authority that I had in school to being a volunteer. Also I didn’t know a soul and was worried that they might not like me… But do you know what?
I have loved it from my very first day. I just kept my head down really, it takes a few weeks for people to get to know you. The project itself is amazing and the support ( both practical and emotional) is invaluable to the people who attend. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the people who visit the project but I will say that there are many times that I have cried hearing their stories and also don’t believe everything you see on social media or read in the news. Some of these people have been through some terrifying experiences and they are so grateful for the help that they receive – I am in awe of some of them. And for those people who make sweeping statements about “immigrants” taking all of our jobs or that they are just here for the money. I would love for you to spend ten minutes with the beautiful lady that cried with me today. She is from a war torn country, living here on her own with two children and she would give anything to go back to her old life but she can’t! Sorry just some things I see online make me so angry!
Anyway, Wednesday is my new favourite day. Wednesday is the day I volunteer and feel like I am doing something to make a difference but also give me some balance in my life. I have actually worked twice a week on some occasions as I genuinely love being there.
So the real reason for writing this post is to encourage you to volunteer. I know that it might seem daunting or scary but I have developed new skills and understand processes that I knew nothing about three months ago. I have colleagues that I now look forward to chatting with each week and we have a good laugh. I also look forward to the clients arriving, especially the children! Almost all of the volunteers are retired and the service simply would not run without them. I am lucky that I am able to make a living from social media, otherwise I would have no choice but to try to get a paid job, but for the time being, I am grateful to have this experience.
Many projects including the one that I work at would also not be available without they donations from people. So, if you have the chance then donate to the homeless, less privileged or vulnerable in your community.
Volunteering is perfect for people who want experience in a particular career, feel a little lonely or lost or are struggling to get a job. You can volunteer in many different services and if it is some particular service that you are interested in then just give them a call or send an e-mail to get more information. I leave the project each week feeling happy that I have contributed in some way to helping people. It has brought some much needed balance to my life. I would love to help anyone who was looking for advice on how to get started in volunteering, just let me know.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.