How volunteering helped me on my path into voluntary services

Posted on the 29th May 2024

When we talk about volunteering, we often focus on what the individual can do for the organisation, not what the organisation can do for the individual. But when it works well, volunteering should be a mutually beneficial relationship – where the volunteer gets as much from dedicating their time as they give.

Beginning my volunteering journey

My journey into voluntary services began with volunteering in the voluntary services department at my local NHS Trust. I’d been significantly mentally unwell in my final year of university, resulting in time in hospital and engagement with several mental health services.

My confidence was shattered. I’d gone from bright and bubbly to unable to look a cashier in the eye when shopping. I felt incredibly self-conscious, and the idea of paid employment felt completely out of my reach.

My community psychiatric nurse at the time suggested volunteering to rebuild confidence and have some structure and purpose. Truthfully, the idea felt incredibly daunting. The thought of a regular commitment and being part of a team felt very overwhelming.

But the Voluntary Services department was a wonderful place to begin my volunteering journey. My manager was thoughtful and supportive, and I felt comfortable sharing how I was finding things.

Arthur Rank Hospice volunteers

Arthur Rank Hospice Charity volunteers attend a celebration event

From volunteer to voluntary services manager

I began with simple tasks at first: scanning documents and stapling files. These may have been small, but they felt like big achievements to me at the time, and I knew I was helping and making a difference. Slowly, as my confidence grew, I was given bigger tasks with more responsibility, and I found myself looking forward to coming to volunteer and socialise with my team.

I was encouraged to take on more as my confidence grew, and eventually found myself supporting with the admin around volunteer recruitment. I loved liaising with people and helping them in their own volunteering journey.

Eventually, I was offered a part-time paid role in the team, which worked alongside my disability benefits. This felt like a huge accomplishment and an important step into the world of work.

After some time in the team my confidence had grown and my benefits were removed, so I began looking for full-time work. This was a big step for me. It felt like fate when a role opened up at the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity, doing recruitment for the voluntary services team.

Leaping into full-time work was a big change and for the first few months I came home and flopped on the sofa each night, completely exhausted! I’d gone from spending most of my time alone to being in a bustling, sociable workplace, and initially found this very overstimulating.

As time went on, I became used to working full time and was well supported in this transition by my manager. I’ve slowly worked my way through the team over the years, and I’m now manager of the department – a role I’m incredibly grateful for and get so much satisfaction from.

Applying my volunteering experiences to my current role

Every volunteer comes to us with a wealth of experience (often lived experience), expertise and knowledge, and it’s our responsibility to harness this. Each volunteer also has their own reasons for volunteering. We need to explore these with the volunteer and match them to the right role, to ensure they gain what they need.

Volunteering shouldn’t be a selfless act – it’s important that volunteering is a two-way street. Each volunteer will want different things from their time. Younger volunteers may want experience for university applications. Older volunteers may want to build skills for their career. For some, it may be about supporting a service they have benefited from. For others it may be about recovery.

Volunteering was vital to my journey into paid work and a huge part of my own recovery. Without the opportunity to build my confidence slowly, I’m not sure I would have taken the leap into paid work.

Volunteering was so fundamental to me that I feel passionate about supporting others into volunteering. Whether that’s to gain new skills, return to employment, or simply give back, I want to help people use volunteering to support their own needs.

As a manager, I’m able to ensure we not only meet the needs of our service users, but also the needs of our community. We ensure our value of ‘making every moment count’ applies to the people who support us, a well as the people we support.

Visit the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity website to learn more
Staff profile picture


Voluntary Services Manager, Arthur Rank Hospice Charity

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