Having volunteered with Sova for the last 8 years, there is no one better placed to give us the low down
I had been working in recruitment until a personal tragedy meant I was unable to cope and had to leave work. I was struggling to reconnect, on any level, when a friend suggested volunteering as a way to rebuild my confidence and get me out of the house. At that stage I was living at the YMCA where I had automatically taken on a mothering role amongst the other residents. A key worker recognised how much I enjoyed supporting others and told me I had a gift - I had studied nursing after school but, after travelling, quickly fell into a completely different occupation – to get the opportunity to work and support young people felt like I had come full circle.
Sova were incredibly welcoming and the interview process really helped me understand how volunteering would be and the prospects it offered. Over the course of the last eight years I have worked on a number of projects from Appropriate Adults to mentoring, and am currently volunteering with families. I really enjoy working with families on a 1-to-1 basis and interacting with the young people. In a short space of time you can see positive changes in the way family members interact with one another. The clients we work with at Sova have chaotic lives and often feel disillusioned with life. By showing them a new way, providing consistency, empowering and encouraging them, we can help bring them back to life. Sometimes it’s just the smallest thing like showing a single mother how to cook healthy food on a budget - the appreciation they show and seeing an individual’s development is fantastically rewarding.
To volunteer you need to be a good listener and timekeeper, to be empathetic, understanding and aware of today’s diversity. As in most situations, a good sense of humour is an absolute must. The opportunity for your own personal growth is excellent, giving you a real insight in to the world - I came from a relatively privileged background and was unaware of the problems many face - my clients have helped open my eyes. It is really important people continue to give their time to support others and help unify the community.
My proudest moments have to be receiving a Justice Award in 2009 from Derbyshire Constabulary, attending the House of Lords with my young person and receiving a ‘Shining Star Award’ from the Mayor. Whilst it’s great to be recognised for the contribution I’ve made, the benefits of volunteering are so much more than that - the more you do, the more you want to do.
Sova really support their volunteers and make me feel like an integral part of the team. I don’t know what I would do without them, they have become like family to me!