Active Citizens Together Project (part of the East of England Local Government Association), publishes a regular newsletter which, in May, featured our own Volunteering Advior here at CVS Bedfordshire Sue Hay came to CVS offices to speak to Paul Atkin about his personal volunteering story:
“I’m a Volunteering Adviser with Community Voluntary Service (CVS), Bedfordshire.
My story begins at Kellingley Colliery in North Yorkshire, where I went to work straight from school. I had to get up at 4.00 in the morning, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Everybody knew everybody and it was good pay, but difficult work.
In 1994 I was made redundant due to ill health, and had to have an operation on my spine. I couldn’t drive, I was in a lot of pain and had to claim benefits. My mental health suffered as a result of all this.
I eventually came to Bedford when I met my wife, and I now think of Bedford as home. When you go to Queen’s Park you can stand on a street corner and see the mosque; temple and church all at the same time – it’s great!
At about that time the NHS had a ‘Healthy Steps back to work’ programme, so I accessed that, and they suggested volunteering, so I made contact with CVS. But it took me about five attempts to make that phone call, I was so down, and had such low self-esteem with being out of work for eighteen years.
Anyway, I did start volunteering here seven years ago, doing two hours a week, setting up a database. Then one day, during one of the volunteer recruitment sessions, I started chatting to a young man who couldn’t even make eye contact with people. But I managed to find him a couple of things he could try. So that was a real boost for me.
Then I started volunteering with MIND and the Probation Service as well as with CVS, so my two hours volunteering a week turned into three days a week. I had a really good manager at CVS who told me that courses were available, and she sent me on one about how to be a better volunteer manager. Then a job became available and I applied. I had to do a powerpoint presentation, and I’d never done one before, so that was very nerve-wracking, but I got the job and eventually became full-time.
It helped me interact with people. I picked up a lot of skills, and my first job was on the ‘Healthy Steps’ programme, so I’d come full circle!
Your language skills are really valuable to all sorts of local organisations, even if your English isn’t 100% perfect. And I’m living proof that people can get employment through volunteering. Just contact your local volunteer centre, or search on the computer by typing in the search bar “Volunteering in”, and then the name of your town."
If you would like to find out more about Volunteering in Bedford, pop into our offices at 43 Bromham Road, MK40 2AA and have a word with Paul. You can sign up on line to look for local volunteering positions, or you can come along to one of our recruitment sessions on a Thursday between 10:00 and 13:00. Find out more on our volunteering pages on this website.