Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland
By our Anonymous Blogger
As a follow up to my first blog about my own experience as a volunteer I thought it would be interesting to take a look at other peoples’ experiences.
To break myself in gently, I asked a colleague at Northumberland CVA, whom I knew had started as a volunteer and who had received the offer of permanent employment as a result, to give his story. If you’ve visited the Northumberland CVA offices in Ashington in the past few years, you’ll no doubt have met Simon, who covers reception. He was happy to be identified and talk about the difference volunteering made to finding paid work after years of unemployment (although he really didn’t want me to take his photo for this post).
ME:Why did you volunteer?
SIMON: It’s a long story, but initially I was sent here by the Job Centre because I had expressed some interest in Administrative work so I didn’t really have a choice! I had been unemployed for years and all my previous work experiences had been totally different. I had worked as a drilling technician on rigs and land fill sites, I’d delivered carpets, done some care work and also worked at music festivals, but I’d never done any office work. I decided I would like a total change.
At that time, 5 years ago, the organisation was running a return to work sub-contract for INGEUS and I took part in their work placement programme, but when it ended I decided to stay on as a volunteer because I was enjoying the work so much. When my placement finished I carried on volunteering for 4 days a week for another 2 years.
ME: What did you do?
SIMON: Just a bit of everything really, answering the phone, filling in forms, sorting groups out with the rooms and generally just helping people.
ME: What was your first impression?
SIMON: My first impression was that the staff were very friendly and I felt at ease and comfortable straight away! In fact, on my first day they hadn’t known I was coming so were surprised at my arrival but I was quickly being shown what to do and within minutes I was answering the phone!
ME: Any positives?
SIMON: I learnt many new skills during my volunteering. In fact I got to complete a level 3 NVQ in Business Administration. The other thing was that once I started to volunteer directly instead of through INGEUS, although I still had to apply for other jobs every week, I didn’t have to attend basic training sessions or interview skills training which I felt were a waste of my time!
ME: Did you have any negative experiences?
SIMON: I cannot think of any negatives at all about my experience as a volunteer to be honest, that’s why I stayed.
ME: What happened after your volunteer post finished?
SIMON: Well, after 2-year experience as a volunteer a post became available here for an Admin Assistant. I went for it and got the job! I was amazed.
I’ve worked here now as a permanent employee for 3 years and I really can’t believe it; the time has just flown! Because we rely upon funding I know it might not last but I tend to get my contract renewed every 6 months and I’m still here so that’s okay!
ME: If you hadn’t been sent on a return to work programme or experienced volunteering from the inside what would have motivated, you to volunteer?
SIMON: I wouldn’t have thought of volunteering to be honest. To me at that time, volunteering didn’t strike me as a useful way to get a job. It was a going nowhere type of thing. It just wasn’t for me. Like people working in charity shops for instance, I didn’t see them as getting proper jobs from the charity when they finished their voluntary work, but as it turned out I did get a job and it was my volunteering experience that made all the difference.
Simon’s experiences clearly demonstrate that volunteering is a great way to get back into employment after a long absence from the work place. But that isn’t the only reason people volunteer. I’d love to talk to others about their own motivations and experiences of volunteering.