By Julie Taylor – Development Team Support Officer, One Walsall.
There’s something about volunteering that just makes you feel good! There’s all sorts of reasons people volunteer; for instance, to give back to a charity that is close to their heart, they care about animals, they are concerned about the environment, or to help one another.
But volunteering is not just for other people, it is for yourself too.
I think “what would I like to try outside of my normal routine, that’s not part of my day to day working role,” or “what skills do I need to practice,” then go from there… In the past, I have volunteered for the Cats Protection, Road Peace, a Foodbank and Age UK. I have even found paid roles through my volunteering sessions.
I was introduced to the The Friendship Café through my work at One Walsall. It is run by two lovely ladies, Jo and Bekki, who gel together and make a great team. They create an environment that is friendly, informal, fun for anyone who are isolated and lonely, in the Pelsall area. I was interested in doing some volunteer work and decided to just go for it.
On an afternoon in October, I met The Friendship Café at the Railway Inn pub in Pelsall. How many times can you say to work “I’m going to the pub” and leave at lunchtime?! #LivingTheDream
Although this was outside of my role as Development Support Officer at One Walsall, I realised how transferrable my skills and knowledge are. If you pick something that you are good at and apply it to a different environment, it helps your nerves while you gain experience. My volunteering took place for an Information Event, which was attended by about 25 people of all ages. My role was to talk to the group for a few minutes about volunteering and the services offered by One Walsall. I found this really difficult because public speaking is not my strongest area, but I saw it as a challenge to develop further. After my talk, I spoke to 4 people on a more of a one to one basis and gave out leaflets, which was much more within my comfort zone.
While this was an information session, normally it’s a café type atmosphere where tea, coffee and biscuits are provided in abundance, games, scrabble, colouring in are partaken. I took part in a game of big card bingo using bottle tops as counters, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I didn’t win. But it was lots of fun and a nice way to get involved!
We ended the session with singing Christmas Carols and Bekki took the lead, which meant it was also practice for their Christmas Caroling supermarket session in December.
It was a brilliant experience and I’m so glad I volunteered that afternoon.
People interacted with each other, they got out of the house and were more physical active, but most importantly they enjoyed themselves.
And you just cannot put a price on that.