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From volunteer to employment

My volunteer journey with Dorset Mind

My previous working life involved working in the Hospitality Industry managing a variety of bars/restaurant with my ex-Husband. As a result of life changes, I found myself a stay-at home Mum for four years, caring for and home schooling my Son. During this period I had very limited connection with the world and found that I had lost my self confidence within working environments.

I joined Dorset Mind as a volunteer in December 2016. I had already had some engagement with the charity. It was through some fundraising and awareness activity my Son had been involved with as an Ambassador.

Having not participated in a professional environment, I remember feeling very anxious about attending my volunteer interview. I probably talked too much, but the team very quickly made me feel at ease.

I was offered the opportunity to volunteer in the office for three hours a week alongside attending some adhoc events, to help run the information stand.

Initially this was a very frightening prospect as I had never worked in an office environment before and had very limited computer experience. Although at this point the Dorset Mind team was very small this personally was a big step for me. Being at home as a full-time carer had left me mostly socially unconnected and feeling isolated. The idea of returning back to work was actually quite terrifying.

Overcoming hurdles

My manager was incredibly patient and spent a lot of time supporting me to feel welcome, building my confidence and teaching me how to use the computer systems.

The first event I attended was a Lions Sponsored Swimathon in Dorchester, raising money for Dorset Mind. This was another big step personally. For most of the event I was too nervous to engage with the public. My manager was incredibly kind to me during the event and without her support I would have probably given up and gone home. Towards the end of the event there was a Mum who came over to talk to us about her experience of caring for her son with Asperger’s. This was something I felt I could relate to and I plucked up the courage to speak to her. For me this was a turning point and felt right.

I very quickly became more involved with Dorset Mind working more hours in the office, answering the phones and regularly representing the charity at events. With training, in mental health awareness and safeguarding combined with working with a kind and fully supportive team, gradually my confidence and self-worth began to grow.

Dorset Mind actively encouraged me to apply for a paid role. I actually remember the CEO suggesting several times over a period of months, that I should apply for the bid writer role. But I felt I wasn’t smart enough and didn’t have the skill set to do the role justice.

Due to a need for paid employment I eventually agreed to give it a try.

Becoming a paid member of staff

The Dorset Mind team supported me with this role providing me with training both internally and externally. In time I gained knowledge, skills and confidence to proactively write bid applications and had some success. My manager also nominated me to participate in a National Mind Pilot to introduce a legacy programme into the charity.

Four and a half years on and I am employed by Dorset Mind in a full-time role. I have been involved with various aspects of the charity, primarily focussing on grants and bids. I support other areas, including research and statistics, investigation of data management systems, frequently working events and working with our ambassadors. On one occasion I even attempted to over-come my fear of public speaking by speaking at a Bournemouth Law Society evening. This was something I never thought I would be able to do.

Outside my job I have also participated in various fundraising challenges. This led to me taking part in a sky dive! Something I would never have had the confidence to even consider before working at Dorset Mind.

Additionally, working with Dorset Mind, I have been helped to understand my own mental health challenges and to reach out for support to improve my own wellbeing.

The benefits of volunteering

Since volunteering at Dorset Mind I have..

  • Gained new skills and qualifications.
  • Had new experiences.
  • Overcome fears.
  • Embarked on a new career.
  • Learned a wide breath of knowledge about mental health.
  • Been pushed outside of my comfort zone.
  • Made new friends and social connections.
  • Improved my confidence and self-worth.
  • And had the opportunity to help others.

In conclusion, volunteering at Dorset Mind has completely changed my life. The support of the management and the team has given me the opportunity of a future in employment that five years ago I never dreamed I could achieve.

Special thanks to…

Our guest blogger this week is our amazing Bid Writer/Legacy Lead/Administrator Marie.

If you’d like to find out more about the volunteer vacancies we offer, follow this link.

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