I first began volunteering around 10 years ago when my local church opened a foodbank and debt advice centre. At the time, I had no skills related to either activity, but I had spare time, energy, a willingness to learn, and a desire to support my local community.
That period in my own personal life was shadowed by uncertainty and I longed for purpose and meaning amid the turmoil. What I found during my voluntary shifts was belonging and a sense of deeper meaning. I found that not only was I learning new skills, I was also experiencing personal growth. I was developing empathy, becoming an advocate for those who were vulnerable and really understanding where the gaps were in the support networks available locally.
This summer, volunteering at PARCA showed me that more than a decade later, in a completely different setting, the joys of being a volunteer remain the same. I approached the organisation for information and advice and found myself presented with the chance to get involved. Rather than being signposted to what I came for, I was asked “Can you help us?” and I’m happy that I said “Yes!”
Not only was I able to give my time and skills, I was also able to lend an ear, provide ideas and insight based on my previous experience and build relationships with other volunteers, staff and some of the service users from the wider community.
I started off assisting the ESOL teacher by supporting those who needed more attention twice weekly. When summer approached and some staff were heading off on annual leave, I offered to support the summer programme. From conversational English sessions to applying dyes to rice, to knitting, crochet, baking cakes and gardening – there was always something new, interesting, and often very entertaining taking place.
The women who work at PARCA and those who came in with their children, were a pleasure to work with and for. It was a joy to witness their strength, talents, bravery, humility, and sense of fun. During that time, I was able to put my focus and energy on positive outcomes for others. There are many beautiful memories I will take away from this summer.
Some days were challenging for me as I prefer to stick to what I’m good at, but along with the learners, I was able to try new things in a safe, supportive environment. Rather than organising and administrative tasks (my strengths), I was more hands-on with teaching crafts, getting involved in children’s activities and responding to any other ad-hoc requirements from day to day.
The sense of well-being, purpose and adventure that comes along with volunteering is worthwhile on so many levels for both the volunteer and those who benefit from it - and all it takes to begin your own journey is hearing the call to action and simply saying “Yes!”
To find out how you can become a volunteer at PARCA, please contact the team on 01733 563420 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer at PARCA