Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland
By our Anonymous Blogger
Wow! It has now been 6 months since I became a volunteer and the time has just flown! Not only have I changed, but so too has my role! I believe that, from the very beginning, what has kept me coming back week after week has been the variety of experiences and challenges I have faced.
I began my adventures doing data entry and trying to get to grips with Volunteer Connect, Northumberland CVA’s online database that helps match volunteers with the organisations that offer volunteering opportunities. I initially found this very difficult because I hadn’t used a PC for many years and had not used a data entry system for over 6 years. Indeed, just getting to grips with my own computer password was an achievement in itself! But thanks to the help of very patient colleagues I regained some computer literacy!
I went on to attend meetings to find out exactly what Northumberland CVA does, and its variety of functions. I have chatted to potential volunteers here at the office and gone through the opportunities on Volunteer Connect with them to encourage them to volunteer. I have handed out flyers in Ashington (despite heavy rain!) inviting the public to attend a Volunteers Fair, which I also helped to set up (with, I must say, some very artistic and strategic placing of the bunting!). I have supplied the Local Authority with 40 volunteering opportunities to post on their own internal intranet system. I have used Microsoft Publisher for the first time and produced my own flyer to encourage people to volunteer. I have been interviewed on Koast Radio and have become a voice-over for a short film.
Indeed, I think my participation in a conversation on Koast Radio has been my most memorable moment so far in my volunteering career! In fact, our volunteering development officer Michelle deliberately didn’t tell me about it and I had no idea we were going to be interviewed until 2 hours before we left the office – which with hindsight was perhaps a good thing because I would have probably ‘bottled’ it had I been given more time to think!
I have also met a lot of very fascinating people who have had some very interesting stories to tell and so far I’ve written 9 blogs (this one is number 10). What struck me most about all of these stories is that everyone wanted to do something different from their day to day lives; they wanted to use skills they already had, as well as acquiring new ones. And all felt challenged, in a positive way, by their volunteering experiences. Many people got so much out of it that they became ‘serial volunteers’ because every role has its own rewards! All described an increase in their self-confidence, a sense of purpose and achievement, of belonging and friendship, but overall every individual expressed positive effects from their involvement.
I too have found that volunteering has given me a sense of purpose and increased my confidence. I really appreciate the support, sense of camaraderie and banter amongst my colleagues within the office. I’ve also found working in creative collaboration with Michelle to be a very rewarding experience… Thank you Michelle!
To her credit, Michelle took on the task of being my supervisor, my ‘go to person’ and she has been amazingly supportive. I have had a supervision chat every 3 months in a coffee shop of my choice, where we sit and discuss what has happened, how I feel about it and decide on a loose plan of action for the next 3 months. Thanks to Michelle also for the really imaginative and thoughtful things she does to spread happiness, such as the ‘Gratitude Flower’ and my 6-month Anniversary card, as well as the very tasty scones she made for us all! Indeed, what has really surprised me about my role is just how much I love the creative side of what I have been doing. Although biographical writing was part of my previous working life, creating flyers and making a film are completely new activities for me – but they definitely utilise an innate artistic skill I’ve probably always had, and rarely used.
Finally, I would like to say to anybody out there reading this, do a little bit of research, go online and have a look at the opportunities available on Northumberland CVA’s Volunteer Connect, or come in to the office to examine the opportunities available if you feel you need a bit of extra support. You‘ll be amazed by the variety.
Think about your past experiences, what you enjoyed and what you didn’t enjoy, what skills you have and what skills you’d like to learn? Never feel you have nothing to give because there is always that special someone (you!) who is needed for as much or as little time as you can give! You can work with people, animals, or vehicles, in the countryside or in an office. You can have a ‘behind the scenes’ role or be more of a ‘people person’. The choice is yours because just as you are different so too are the volunteering opportunities out there!