My volunteering journey

Bev Garside

Volunteers’ Week is the 1 - 7 June so I thought it would be good to share my volunteering story.

Where it all began

I can map my career in the third sector and the creation of my businesses back to one place – Sheffield Volunteer Bureau, now the Sheffield Volunteer Centre.

I left school and joined the Civil Service as a Clerical Officer which was, and still is, seen as a great career. However, I knew I wanted more from life than a steady job with good prospects, and as I was living at home, I could chop and change jobs. I would work for a few months in a role and then hand in my notice and go in search of adventure.

Sheffield VB was my alternative Job Centre. The walls were covered with cards offering opportunities to get involved and make a difference.

Volunteering adventures

One of my earliest adventures was as a volunteer with the then “Battered Wives” now known as Women’s Aid. I was placed on a rota which meant if I got a call, usually at night, I jumped in my car and headed to an address to collect a woman who had experienced (and was sometimes still experiencing) domestic abuse.

I hadn’t passed my test so my mum had to come with me, and we would arrive at the address in my car, L plates flapping in the wind and the engine revving.

I would often be met by a woman who would proceed to pack as many of her belongings as she could into my old Viva and jump in. We would then high tail it to the local refuge. I think it was before lone working was a thing!

NACRO was the turning point.

My second role was with NACRO, working with young offenders on a Youth Opportunity Programme, in Sheffield which catered for young people aged between 16 and 25.

The irony being that half the young offenders were older than I was, but that didn’t seem to faze either them or me.

I loved this work and volunteered five days a week and was treated like a member of staff.

One of the most “interesting” aspects of the role, were the trips that the Life and Social Skills Supervisor “Ghandi” (so named because of his gold rimmed glasses) and I, would facilitate, where we would take all the young people from the scheme on a day trip in the minibus.

As we pulled out of the scheme gates, we saw the rest of the staff wave us goodbye, heave a huge sigh of relief and go and get the kettle on.

No trip was without incident, and a trip to York Minster saw us chasing after 22 young people, trying to stop them spitting in the artifacts or shoplifting from the gift shop!

NACRO were amazing in supporting my desire to work in this field and when a role came up in Manchester, working with young people there, I jumped at the chance.

Looking back, volunteering allowed me to create my own apprenticeship, it allowed me to do things I would never have got the opportunity to try in a paid role as I simply didn’t have the experience.

I was valued, particularly at NACRO, and treated like one of the team. I was able to see what skills I had, and what I liked doing and my CV suddenly included skills I hadn’t had before.

Volunteering today.

Of course, things have moved on and volunteering is more structured, so issues around health and safety and lone working are taken seriously. Women’s Aid no longer rely on volunteers to be “Getaway drivers” for women experiencing domestic abuse, so the opportunities are safe.

Volunteering offers a real Win-Win situation if managed properly. The charity gains additional capacity and hopefully someone who is flexible enough to fill the gaps. For the volunteer, it offers anything from a world of adventure to somewhere nice to meet people and give back.

Let’s get volunteering!

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