For many the notion of volunteering is tied in with the desire to ‘give something back’ to their communities - but for SureStart volunteers Angela Doherty and Rose Doherty offering their time to the Little Hands Project has offered them so much more than a sense of altruistic wellbeing.
And as Volunteer Week is celebrated this week, the women were both keen to share their experiences to encourage others to get on board and see just what volunteering can do for them.
For Angela it was the daunting return to work after 15 years raising her family which led her to first get involved with the Little Hands team who are based at Rosemount Primary School.
“After being out of work for so long it was really hard to get employment. I went through Rutledge at first - and started as a volunteer.”
Having been out of work for so long Angela wasn’t sure of exactly what she wanted to do - so starting at a project as all encompassing as SureStart allowed her the chance to try her hand in a number of different roles - from working in the childcare setting to helping out with office admin.
And it was with office administration that Angela found her niche. “Although things had changed an awful since I had last worked as a secretary, so there was a lot to learn.
“But coming in as a volunteer felt less pressured and SureStart supported me through training.
“There was nothing they wouldn’t show me - all I had to do was ask.”
The knock on effect was that Angela found herself gaining confidence in other aspects of her life. “I went on to study at the North West College. Before I had been with SureStart I would never have had the nerve or the confidence to try that - but volunteering opened up a few new doors for me.”
With her new found confidence and qualifications Angela was able to secure some banking work with the SureStart project which gave her a start. It is a role she loves - and, as she points out, she is still learning.
“If there is training I want to do, they support me to do it and I have, from the moment I first came here, been made to feel part of the family.”
Rose Doherty really was, for 11 years, part of the family. As the organisations Volunteer Co-ordinator she had a close bond with SureStart and with volunteering. When her failing eyesight forced her to retire she didn’t feel ready to give up on the world of work altogether. So along with volunteering for the RNIB one day a week, she also helps out at two of the drop in sessions at SureStart.
“For me it is the best of both worlds,” Rose said. “It gives me a routine to my week - something I think I would really miss otherwise.
“Even within the programme I can choose from a variety of different roles - and it is brilliant to be part of such a busy environment where everyone is just there to help each other.”
Karen Davidson who is the Senior Family Practitioner at Little Hands said the volunteers who help with the running of the organisation play a “vital and integral role”.
“Volunteering with Sure Start is a two way street.
“We are delighted to have people offer to help - and indeed we find that many of our parents want to give a little something back when their children have come through the programmes.
“But it is also a brilliant way to learn skills which could increase your employability if you are looking to get back into the workforce.”
Sure Start currently benefit from the support of five volunteers but will soon be launching a recruitment drive to get more on board.
“There are a number of areas in which we could support volunteers,” Karen said.
“From admin to maintenance, childcare to helping with our community library programme - we can offer a wide range of opportunities.”
Sure Start take care of all paperwork, including appropriate vetting, and offer initial training to all volunteers.
Angela said this welcome proved to her that even from the start she was valued as part of the team. “My confidence has just grown and grown since I came here.”
To find out more about volunteering opportunities with SureStart visit www.littlehandssurestart.org.uk or phone 71367524 or 71267524. The organisation also offers a number of opportunities for apprenticeships within various settings.
For more information call or email.