Catherine's Volunteer Story
21 July 2015
I am 44 and live in Edinburgh. I have been volunteering in some capacity or another since I was 20 for a whole variety of reasons.
As part of my mental health recovery in my 20’s I attended a mental health drop-in where I became involved in the Committee as Secretary and helping with IT and other odd jobs.
In the earlier years I wasn’t aware of the term ‘informal’ volunteering or even appreciated that this was what I was doing but to me ‘informal’ and ‘formal’ volunteering are no different, they provide me with huge richness and great experiences.
Since then I have been involved in:
- Helping my neighbour weekly for over 12 years when she suddenly developed Macular Degeneration and had no family nearby to support her. She has now passed away but I hope I gave her the opportunity to spend as many of her last years at home as she could instead of going into a care home.
- Volunteering with Advocard as a volunteer mental health advocate.
- Volunteering on my local Residents Association as Secretary and Treasurer
- Setting up the UK’s first mental health support site (Mental Health in the UK) in 1998 which still runs today.
- Volunteering with See Me, Scotland's programme to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination.
- Volunteering with Befrienders Highland as a distance befriender providing telephone/email and/or letter support to people experiencing mental health difficulties in the Highlands who are often isolated and alone.
- Volunteering and I have self-employment opportunities with Work4ME which is a consortium co-operative championing the cause for self-employment for people with long-term conditions.
Volunteering has become a big part of my everyday routine and life, it’s what I do. I have used it to fill gaps in my CV, to gain new skills and knowledge, to enhance my studies, to build up routine, stamina and resilience after experiencing poor wellbeing and lastly because I care and have huge passion for what I do. It has helped to develop me as a person.
This close connection with volunteering has led me to support Work4ME’s latest project ‘Exploring Volunteering – a journey of exploration for those living with long-term conditions’
Having been a member of Work4ME’s consortium co-operative championing the cause for self-employment for people with long term conditions for a number of years and supporting other projects, I knew I wanted to be involved in running it. Volunteering while self-managing a long term, fluctuating condition doesn’t always take the route you want it to. But by giving it a go, it’s amazing what you’ll learn about yourself whether you find a suitable opportunity or not. Sometimes the exploration and discovery counts for more.