Volunteer stories

Volunteering doesn’t just bring benefits to your service and our service users, it’s also a great experience for the volunteers themselves. Here some of our valued volunteers tell us how they found spending time with us:

Jonny – volunteer catering services

Photo of volunteer, Jonny

Jonny says he loves the interaction with staff, service users and the public and it helps to motivate him and lifts his wellbeing.

Jonny decided to volunteer for the Trust so that he could build on his skills and gain some work experience.

Jonny is enjoying his volunteer role and has been kindly welcomed by the staff he volunteers with. He said: “I love it!”

Ann Marie – volunteer

Photo of Ann Marie, volunteer

How long have you been volunteering? I am a new volunteer with the Volunteer Service. However, I am not new to the Trust. I previously worked in the bank office as an administrator and retired in 2019.

Why did you decide to volunteer for the Trust? Having been retired for 3 years, I had volunteered previously elsewhere. That position closed and I was looking for a new role and decided to volunteer for the Trust.

What is your role? I volunteer as a volunteer administrator. I help book and set up meetings, photocopy and collate information, attend welcome events to help set up the stall and meet and greet potential new volunteers and I am currently working on the asset based volunteer role assisting with that. Being out and about and meeting new volunteers is a great way to meet people and helps expand the service.

Do you feel you are gaining anything from volunteering? Yes I do. I want to help where I can, and find satisfaction in providing assistance, as I know it helps the service to move forward. It is a very busy office and gives me the opportunity to utilise my skills in a positive way.

What do you like about it? I like the team I’m working with, it’s an extremely busy team and I am just happy to do what I can where I can to help out the service.

Would you recommend volunteering to anyone else? I highly recommend it! You are helping other services as well as helping your own health and wellbeing. It’s very rewarding.

Would you recommend volunteering as a gateway to a career with the Trust? Absolutely! As I feel you can try out working in a service before going onto a career with the Trust. It’s a great way to ‘try before you buy’ so to speak and looks great on your CV!

Miley – canine befriender

Photo of dog, MileyMy name is Miley, I am four years old and I come from a big family of humans and canines.  I work in the pastoral and spiritual care department as a canine befriender. I am very friendly and my main hobby is socialising and meeting new people from all walks of life.

As a canine befriender my role is to visit the inpatient units and spend time with people and make them laugh. I also spend time with people on an individual basis by accompanying them on short walks or sometimes just sit quietly alongside them while they stroke me and admire me.

Since starting in the role I have met lots of lovely people and made some new friends. One of the main perks is I get lots of attention and people give me lots of biscuits and treats!

Hopefully I will get the opportunity to meet you all at some point.

With best wishes – Miley

Dylan – volunteer

Photo of volunteer, DylanHow long did you volunteer and where?

I volunteered at Fieldhead Hospital in the Volunteer Service. I began
volunteering in 2017 and am currently still volunteering.

Why did you decide to volunteer for the Trust?

After years of suffering with mental ill health I found help through the Trust’s services that gave me the skills I needed to get back on my feet. Part of my breakdown was through Psychosis. After the recovery I decided to take more action to support my mental wellbeing. Volunteering helped me to better myself and use what I had learned and put it into practice. The goal of volunteering was to ease myself back into society and then work full time.

What was your role?

My job was to assist with the effective running of the Volunteer Service across the Trust. This includes many forms of administration and practical tasks. I spent time liaising with other teams to ensure effective service and integration of our volunteers. I also spent time with patients, gathering feedback from the friends and family test for the quality and assurance team. My role included many new opportunities even at corporate level and I learned many new skills whilst performing these tasks.

What did you gain from it?

I gained the skills, knowledge and courage to apply for full time employment within the NHS. I met a lot of people and learned more about them and how we interact together. I made some friends and valuable life skills and lessons along the way. Most of all, I found peace within myself and the means to live with my mental health
conditions. I still volunteer with the Trust and this maintains by stability by having ongoing support from the people who helped me get through the worst.

What do you like about it?

The Trust really lives it’s values and this is easily seen in the daily work. The people are great and you do feel like you are home away from home. The environment is welcoming and comfortable, and all considerations are made to make you feel welcome, especially when adjustments are needed. Most of all, the work is fun and challenging. Exactly what I needed.

How did volunteering enable you to gain employment within the Trust?

I currently work for Leeds Teaching Hospitals as a Team Leader. Volunteering gave me what I needed to make this possible. The experience, knowledge and support put me on the path to succeed in this profession.

Would you recommend volunteering to anyone else?

Absolutely! Even if you are not doing it for a career or recovery, volunteering is a great way to keep a healthy mind. There are a plethora of opportunities and many ways in which you can contribute. Volunteering is not just about what you can do for the Trust, but what the Trust can do for you.

Would you recommend volunteering as a gateway to a career with the Trust?

This Trust values it’s workforce and are always helping us to improve ourselves. It is governed by well trained
people and those people are very down to earth and supportive. The work done here is great and very worthwhile doing. Volunteering will give you either a glimpse into this career path or educate and coach you into a full time career in the NHS, giving you the skills required to get you there without having to spend the rest of your life trying

Alex – volunteer recovery college

Photo of volunteer, AlexHow long did you volunteer and where?

I volunteered at The Exchange Recovery College in Barnsley from 2019 to 2022.

Why did you decide to volunteer for the Trust?

In 2019, I decided to take a year out from university and move home due to a breakdown in my mental health where I could not leave my flat and completely isolated myself. As part of my recovery, I accessed courses at The Exchange Recovery College which really helped. However, I knew I needed to continue to push myself in my recovery through volunteering where I could feel good about myself giving back to the community there and the Trust and for also implementing a new level of responsibility for myself through volunteering that I could feel proud about. Not to mention that the Trust and staff within it were understanding of personal situations and health so it felt possible to be open and honest making volunteering feel achievable and worthwhile.

What was your role?

I started in an administration role as I was not yet confident enough to interact with lots of learners or people accessing the college. This meant I worked in an office with a small team where I used Excel to create feedback reporting systems and used that data to analyse what people liked and disliked about accessing the college. I was supported in my progression throughout volunteering and was given the opportunity to be involved with co-production of courses and training.

What did you gain from it?

Not only were there practical gains but there were emotional and wellbeing gains too. I was able to achieve Mental Health First Aider training and I was encouraged to undertake their Facilitation Skills course. The staff there recognised my own skills before I did and thanks to the course, I had the self-belief and trust in myself to apply to get my teaching qualification after. I was able to gain invaluable experience that focused my future career goals. Evident in my role progression whilst volunteering there, I gained resilience and the strength to be vulnerable and open up about my mental health and experiences. I was no longer ashamed of my mental health illnesses, and I was able to connect with other people, such as other volunteers, which continuously led to more confidence and the feeling of being supported and welcomed within the Trust.

What did you like about it?

Something that I am sure many other SWYPFT volunteers would agree with, I liked volunteering within an NHS trust that I had relied upon when I was at my worst and being able to invest my time in an organisation that had invested time in me and my health. I enjoyed being able to connect with likeminded volunteers who had so much passion for helping others and giving back. I liked both positions as they were interesting and insightful, and I really appreciated being given the flexibility to try new roles as my wellbeing improved and I was ready to develop.

How did it enhance you to gain employment with the Trust?

As mentioned previously, volunteering equipped me with training and work experience that meant I could smoothly transition from volunteer to staff member, particularly as I was already treated as equal to staff when volunteering. It also made me value my lived experience and the insight I can share through that, which I know is highly valued within SWYPFT as an employee and therefore, helped me to showcase what I could offer as an employee. Finally, volunteering meant I had some prior knowledge and experience to SWYPFT as a workplace which provided me with the courage to apply for employment within the Trust.

Would you recommend volunteering to anyone else?

I would recommend volunteering within SWYPFT to everyone and anyone. There are so many varied opportunities and roles, and the environment is always so supportive. You get the opportunity to be involved in meaningful work that is rewarding, inspiring and you are making a difference. It also can provide purpose and routine which are incredibly useful for wellbeing and the opportunity to meet lots of wonderful people. Volunteering was a successful part of my recovery and I feel confident in encouraging anyone to try.

Would you recommend volunteering as a gateway to a career with the Trust?

I do not think I would have had the confidence to apply for my job within the Trust now without my background volunteering within the Trust. Volunteering as a gateway to a career provides the knowledge and networking that is highly valuable within employment at SWYPFT and you feel much more supported through the application and new job process. I also think progressing to a career from volunteering emphasises your own self development and increases that sense of pride as you progress.

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