I learned that the work I present in this page is formally recognised as a recovery approach by the name of vocational rehabilitation. When I undertook my volunteering path it wasn’t with any objective towards recovery, I simply did it because I wanted to have a vocational purpose. With hindsight, my path through various volunteering positions was a structured approach which I don’t think I could have improved upon if I was consciously deriving a path back to professional employment. However, at the time, I just did these things because I wanted to get more satisfaction from my life, it was very successful, returning to paid work was simply a by-product.
Midlands Air Ambulance (Charity Shop)
I worked in the charity shop basement store room, sorting clothes into same-sized (small, medium, large, etc.) piles. I was offered the role after I walked into the shop and asked them if there was any way in which I could help. I was satisfied to do the clothes sorting, however, it wasn’t mentally stimulating and there were often no people around to chat to. It was with regret I advised MAA that I would no longer be helping them out.
Royal Voluntary Service (RVS)
I undertook voluntary work for the RVS after doing research on a volunteer’s web site, named ‘do-it’: www.do-it.org. I principally befriended two people: Trevor and Gloria. Trevor was based in Hartshill and was a very awkward person who I struggled to like, but nevertheless I persevered. There came a point where he was just too unpleasant with his attitude about some of the people in his life who cared about him that I had to withdraw from befriending him as he made me feel uncomfortable. Trevor was also a person who was ‘right about everything’, even when he was plainly wrong. I became good friends with a lady named Gloria, who lived near Westport Lake. Gloria was lovely and I think we shall remain friends for good - even though my RVS volunteering is in my past… for now.
A third person I briefly helped was a ninety year old man who lived in Trentham, I’d take him by car to Haywood hospital every week to visit his son who’d had a stroke. I visited Broadfield Ward where I had been a patient myself. Some staff remembered me, I had apparently told the staff that I was there after having a roller coaster crash on the Smiler at Alton Towers.
The RVS asked me to do an interview with the Staffordshire Evening Sentinel regarding my work with them, a PDF of the interview can be accessed by following this link.
Newcastle Library (IT Buddy)
I seemingly stepped up from befriending to doing IT work - helping the elderly and unskilled to use email or search the internet with Google. I acquired this work from a direct email exchange with a member of the library staff after the enquiry I made to their 'do-it.org' listing didn’t progress. I started off doing one four-hour shift at the library, but after a month or so I learned that I enjoyed it so much that I would do two eight-hour days. The library staff would sometimes have to insist that I went for a break to get my lunch.
It quickly became apparent that IT was about ten per cent of what the job entailed, it was empathy which people seemed to need and my RVS work had likely helped me on that score. I dealt with people who had physical disabilities, dementia and one guy with terminal cancer - he joked about how his best forecast was two years remaining, worst case was one year. I enjoyed my IT buddy role immensely and I became good friends with a number of library staff. Upon leaving my IT buddy role to go back into professional employment, I wrote the piece in the snippet shown below for the library to put in a case study they were producing. I miss being an IT buddy - not for the work, but for the feeling of making a difference to people’s lives.