|"I began volunteering for Time2Talk in September 1997. I had just graduated from a degree course at Nene College in Northampton that I began as a mature student. My previous jobs had been in the business sector and ranged from working for a vet's to running the local branch of a truck rental company! My first volunteering role was at the Central Museum and Art Gallery in Northampton and I was engaged on a project that catalogued and updated information relating to their internationally important geology and fossil collection. The work was very interesting but lacked any real people contact, I was buried away in a dusty basement, most of the time on my own. Despite having a real interest in Natural History I couldn't carry on working away in splendid isolation!
My mum had volunteered for Time2Talk in the past and suggested I go along and check it out which I subsequently did!
I knew a bit about Time2Talk already and whilst at college I had become involved with various societies that were set up to provide supportive networks for students and thought I would try and draw on and develop those experiences. I definitely didn't go along with the "I want to help people" attitude. Of course there were elements of that but I wanted to gain something from the experience as well! I knew Time2Talk provided a supportive environment and offered good quality training so I did expect that I suppose.
Well being accepted by the organisation for a start was a supprise! The selection process was quite rigorous and has to be when you are dealing with young people and their issues. I successfully completed the training course and had lot's of opportunities for training along the way, at the same time I was supporting myself doing a variety of temping work. As the months went on I decided it would be great to be able to get a job in this field of work and the opportunity came along to apply for Time2Talk's Accommodation Support Officer post, part time and for 12 hours a week. I got that job and thoroughly enjoyed it and after a year or so, the manager at the time moved on. Because I had volunteered for the agency on a very regular basis and because of the experience I had gained from the accommodation project I was in a fantastic position to apply for the vacant manager's post. I knew the agency better than most and that stood me in good stead. I did get the managers job and the rest is history as they say. The work is challenging and demanding but working as we all do at Time2Talk in friendly and mutually supportive environment, makes the job that little bit easier. Also having begun as a volunteer (I still do volunteer for the organisation) sometimes for Time2Talk and recently did a parachute jump from 11,500ft with my colleague Julie who also began as a volunteer and is now a paid member of the team. We managed to raise a couple of hundred pounds for the agency! Not bad for someone who still has a fear of step ladders!!
There is of course a clear division of responsibility between paid and volunteer staff. However, on the ground we all work as part of a close knit team and everyone's contribution is equally valued. I would recommend volunteering as a brilliant way of developing skills and contributing to the wider community, it can, as it did in my case lead on to a rewarding career! "