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UK coast line

Becoming a volunteer changed my life – so I want to encourage others to do the same

When I was at a low point in my life, volunteering helped me connect with the people around me. This Volunteers’ Week I’m helping others to feel the benefits of volunteering too.

Volunteer Jane Barrow reflects on her experiences of helping out at a local social group and the impact it has had on her life.

This Volunteers’ Week means a lot to me.

At the beginning of 2018, I became quite ill. I started taking time off work, and eventually my employers let me go.

It was devastating. All my friends were still working, so I saw less and less of them. When I did see them at the occasional birthday party it wasn’t the same – I wasn’t in the loop, I didn’t have any of the gossip. I felt left out.

I became very isolated and began to feel quite depressed. It was hard to leave the house sometimes.

I had a friend who volunteered with Kent Coast Volunteering at a local social group and she kept inviting me along to help out. I wasn’t sure about it, but in the end dragging me along was the best thing she could have done. It changed my life.

I first got involved with a ‘good neighbours’ scheme, which supports people in the community when they have problems. Now I help out on Wednesdays at the Ramsgate over-50s group. I do the teas and coffees usually, take money at the door, and help to run with the quizzes.

They’re a brilliant crowd, and it’s a space where I feel totally comfortable.

All sorts of people come to the group, from different backgrounds and abilities, but everything we do is really inclusive and everyone gets involved. They’re a brilliant crowd, and it’s a space where I feel totally comfortable.

But we’re always stretched for volunteers, and it gets pretty tight sometimes. On Thursdays now we only have three volunteers, and when people are away over the summer it’s hard to make sure everything’s covered.

So this week, for Volunteers Week, we’re changing our regular social group into an event to encourage the people who come along to the group to get involved in running it. We’ll have a quiz and games – I’ve written the questions for Blankety Blank! And there will be an opportunity for people to shadow volunteers, to find out what it’s like and what’s involved.

This event is part of a bigger ‘supported to supporter’ programme, which is about encouraging people who have been helped by volunteering organisations to become volunteers themselves.

Volunteering has been life-changing for me – if it wasn’t for getting involved, I would have been in a very bad way. As it is I’ve been really supported and it’s been wonderful. We would love to see more people getting involved so we can keep supporting people in turn.

Jane volunteers with Kent Coast Volunteering, one of five projects working with the Centre for Ageing Better and DCMS to test new ways that organisations can better support people in later life to volunteer and be involved in their communities. For more information about how to make volunteering more age-friendly and inclusive can be found here.

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