Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland
By our Anonymous Blogger
My latest blogging experience not only highlights the fact that volunteering is a great way to refresh employment skills prior to a return to work, but also shows that sometimes people need that bit of extra help – help that focusses on the individual as a whole, aimed at all their problems, not just their lack of employment.
I would like to give a Big Thank You to Sarah (not her real name) who gave me her story.
After a 12 year break in her employment history (the last time she worked was in the South East of England, where she held a variety of clerical roles including a stint as an Employment Advisor with the Job Centre) Sarah needed to refresh her skills and gain some up to date references and work history.
Sarah moved to the area with her eldest son to stay with her sister and had applied for many jobs, but through feedback she received on her applications, she soon realized she needed to refresh her skills. Like many people, she found herself in a ridiculous vicious circle of not being able to get the current experience she needed because she lacked current experience!!
After a period struggling on no income, Sarah was initially referred for employment support by the ‘Word of Life’ Church to enable her to access computers and join the Job Club. However, she was then able to get help from a number of other organisations and soon she was not only receiving support to access computers but also discovered what benefits she was entitled to and was helped with other family and accommodation issues. Soon she found that her confidence in her own abilities and skills was returning and, with additional support, Sarah began volunteering at the local Credit Union to gain some of the valuable current work experience she needs.
When asked what her initial expectations of volunteering had been, Sarah says she went into volunteering with an open attitude and has found that her role, which involves administration and customer service work, is very rewarding. She was naturally apprehensive on her first day but as soon as someone suggested that she file some documents, she immediately relaxed. “Then, I knew what I was doing!” she says.
Sarah feels she fits in well at her placement and has found her new colleagues to be “easy and welcoming” and “very, very supportive!” Her duties as varied and include administration and receptionist work, making phone calls, opening mail, as well as taking enquiries about withdrawals through BACS, handling requests for loans, booking in appointments and giving out appropriate documentation. Sarah also handles cash and checks the previous day balance and close against the new day balance.
Sarah feels she has definitely developed through this experience and, due to her contact with the people that the Credit Union supports, says she has not only improved her customer service skills but also acquired new financial skills that she hadn’t previously possessed. Sarah receives supervision from her Service Manager, who quickly reassured her that her development was very important to the organisation and that any issues she encountered would be promptly addressed.
When asked what she has found to be the most positive thing about volunteering, Sarah immediately said “Oh, being able to update my CV with new and more current skills!”
Sarah also feels that her engagement with the organisations involved in helping her deal holistically with her problems and find a volunteering role, as well as her voluntary experience with the Credit Union itself, have all had positive consequences. In fact, recently she has been offered interviews and feels that it’s now only a matter of time before she secures employment.