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My Volunteering Story

After being made redundant at the age of 36 after 9.5 years working for a major utilities company, I decided I needed help. I had been suffering from depression and anxiety since my early twenties, and had developed a drug and alcohol problem. 6 Months after leaving work I went to my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

With the help of Narcotics Anonymous and Cranstoun Drug and Alcohol service, where I attended an abstinence day programme, I was able to become abstinent. I had been signed off by my GP and was receiving ESA benefit. I was feeling much better and decided to look for help going back to work, and was introduced to Twining Enterprise. My advisor helped me to identify key areas I needed to address, and recommended volunteering as a positive first step. After attending a Volunteering event run by Camden Volunteer Centre and One Housing, I was successful in joining Voluntary Action Islington’s Volunteering to support Employability Project. VAI had a history of working in partnership with Cranstoun so were aware of many of the issues facing me.

After training I worked as a volunteer on their Brokerage desk, helping other people to find voluntary work.

I had been made redundant in November 2012, and started volunteering in June 2015. It had been a long journey of recovery. Volunteering for 2 days a week was a fantastic way to get back into the swing of things, without the added pressure that a full or part time paid position would have involved. My confidence and people skills improved, and I was able to get my administration skills back up to speed. I would have struggled if I had gone straight into full time employment. Volunteering was a gentle return to work. Being in a working environment, traveling to and from work, and having responsibilities all helped to make me feel part of society again. My anxiety lessened as the months passed. I decided to look for full time work and was successful in my application to join one of Britain’s major super market chains.

There are many reasons why people decide to volunteer, mine was to gain the confidence and skills required to go back to full time work. Volunteering not only prepares you for a return to work after a long absence, it also makes you feel good about yourself. The help, support and encouragement I got from all the services I engaged with was all important in my journey of recovery. Volunteering gave me a route back into employment, back into society. The impact it had on my self-esteem is immeasurable. It gave me the confidence to go back to work. I would recommend it to anyone.

As a postscript to this in December whilst still in his probation period there was an approach by what turned out to be a mystery shopper at the branch of the supermarket he works at. The chain use this system to decide at which stores the staff receive a Christmas Bonus. His standard of service and customer care was so high that the staff all received bonuses and on the basis of the reports of his work he was made December Employee of the Month.

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