Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland
by our Anonymous Blogger
I am a 56-year-old former Social Worker who has been out of the job market for over six and a half years.
I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to drop out of employment though. As with many other people (particularly women my age), it was a series of life events that de-railed me, and at one point seemed to overwhelm me. Indeed, after supporting both parents and my husband through a series of serious health issues in relatively quick succession, I also developed health problems of my own and my work life simply imploded.
However, after moving to a new area a year ago, I realised that I needed some kind of occupation other than the usual housework, decorating, gardening and grandchildren! Something that would engage my brain and apply the skills, I thought I may still have. Like a lot of people who have been out of the labour market for a period of time though my confidence was low and although I wanted to take the risk I was also scared of rejection, of not being ‘up to it’ anymore.
I therefore decided to do a trawl through the internet just using the search terms ‘Volunteering’ and ‘Northumberland’ and I found the site for Northumberland Community Voluntary Action (Northumberland CVA). I then came across an opportunity for a Voluntary Volunteering Adviser that I thought may suit me as it seemed to require some of the transferable skills I was pretty confident I still had.
Initially, I emailed the Volunteering Co-ordinator at Northumberland CVA, who suggested I fill in the application form, which I found relatively straight forward. Subsequently I was contacted by Jackie, who is the Information and Communications Officer, who asked me to call into the office for an informal “chat” and I discovered that the Volunteer Co-ordinator I originally contacted was no longer with the organisation.
Jackie was very friendly and open and explained that, after some restructuring, the position I had applied for no longer existed but there were two other options available. The first was to work on a one to one basis as a mentor to someone who has difficulties accessing the labour market. The second was to work on the administration side, inputting data into the new Volunteer Connect System, which allows organisations to advertise their volunteering opportunities and potential volunteers to search for opportunities they like. After some consideration, I felt I would rather opt for the latter option both because it was something I thought I could do, and because the alternative was too close to the work I had previously done.
My initial volunteering experience however wasn’t as straight forward as I had assumed. Although I regularly used an iPad at home, I was very anxious about using a PC as it had been some years since I’d used a real computer and several years since I’d last input any data.
At first I felt totally incompetent. Nothing would sink in. Everything I tried to do went wrong.
I didn’t know how the system worked and felt a nuisance asking my very patient colleagues for help.
After the first day, and then the second day I had ‘brain ache’ and wondered whether I should return because it seemed just too difficult! Indeed, my colleagues appeared quite pleased and encouraging when I kept turning up!
Eventually things began to ‘stick’ and I was able to get on with less and less help, I felt comfortable amongst my peers and my confidence increased.
This week is my 2-month anniversary and I feel my volunteering experience is not only using skills I already had, but it is also giving me new ones! Indeed, writing this Blog, which I have never done before, seemed like an impossible challenge just a few weeks ago, and today I have not only completed it, but enjoyed the whole process!