The rewards of volunteering
I was inspired to become part of the Community Links volunteer community support volunteer programme after my own experience with mental health- after undergoing my own personal journey, I felt like I wanted to offer support to someone else and it has been just as rewarding as I hoped it would be.
Upon starting my volunteering, I was initially really nervous. Because I didn’t have any professional background in mental health, I was really worried that I wouldn’t say the right things and that I didn’t have enough knowledge to help someone to feel better! The great thing about Community Links was how supportive the team are -I knew I could ask for help with absolutely anything and advice would be at hand.
I immediately booked onto a few training courses to further my knowledge; Mental Health First Aid and ASIST, and these really helped me to figure out that it was near impossible to say the wrong thing- the very fact you were supporting a service user and taking on this role was enough to allow that person to feel that they were being listened to. Not only this, but the training has really become something that I have been able to apply to my personal life as well as my volunteering, I now have great and effective coping mechanisms for my own anxiety and fears, as well as learning the importance of speaking about suicide and what to say to someone who may be having thoughts of suicide.
This is something that has been really valuable to me, as I have learnt the importance of opening up conversations about mental health to those around me who may be struggling- and inevitably, speaking to people about my volunteering has done just that. In other areas of my life, people have felt really at ease in approaching me and talking to me about their own problems and experiences, and my experience at Community Links has provided and helped me in advising and helping others. it’s a great feeling knowing that being a part of this is helping to tackle the stigma of mental health in other areas of my life.
The sense of community in being part of the volunteering teams is brilliant, and it’s a presence that I felt from the very first moment I met people from the Community Links team: when I had my interview for the volunteer role, I was immediately put at ease and felt a sense of encouragement from all staff. Meeting with other volunteers at volunteer social events as well as on training courses is inspiring; people from all walks of life and a range of diverse backgrounds come together in this experience, and everyone has their own personal reasons for wanting to volunteer. It’s great to share inspiration and knowledge with other volunteers and the rewarding feeling volunteering brings is very clearly a universal one.
After meeting my service user, all of my initial apprehensions faded away immediately and I felt a sense of reward after the very first meeting. There have been setbacks as well as positivity in the process, and I initially had some struggles with helping the service user to engage, but after much encouragement the volunteer and service user relationship began to blossom. The service user I help has chosen to write their life story, which has been a brilliant and inspiring process to take part in. It’s great to be able to work towards something, and this was a goal that the service user has had for a significant part of their life so to be able to turn that into reality is amazing. We are now well on our way to finishing the story which will offer a great sense of achievement for us both.
I remember receiving some written feedback from the service user I support and I felt completely moved and appreciated. To know that someone feels you are making a significant difference to their life and recovery provides a sense of pride that is simply unexplainable. Ultimately, volunteering for Community Links has brought personal growth as well as assisting in the growth of a service user; I have learnt so much about myself in the process of offering support to someone else and it really has changed my life. Every day as a volunteer brings something new, and I feel very lucky and extremely fulfilled to be part of such an experience: I will certainly continue to be a part of it wherever life takes me.
Abbie, Community Links Volunteer
To find out more about volunteering with Community Links click here.
To find out more about National Volunteers Week visit – http://volunteersweek.org/