Volunteer Stories

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Marese's Volunteer Story

When I returned to Northern Ireland from working in England I was seeking employment. During my employment search I came across the Volunteer Centre’s  website. There was a list of volunteering opportunities within the Magherafelt and Cookstown area and I saw a volunteer opportunity as an administration assistant within the Magherafelt Volunteer Centre.

I contacted Barbara the Recruitment and Placement Officer within the Magherafelt Centre and I was invited to visit the centre for an informal chat. During this time, I was told about what the role would entail and I was asked if this position was something which would suit me and would it be something which I would like to progress with. I was able to choose when I would be volunteering and I started the next week.  The team within the Magherafelt Volunteer Centre were incredibly accommodating and very friendly.

I had mentioned to Barbara  that I had an interest in health promotion and I would like to gain some experience in this field. The team were so supportive of this and actively looked for volunteering opportunities in health promotion which I could do. I was then able to volunteer within The Base as a Healthy Eating Co-ordinator. On a weekly basis I would lead healthy eating sessions with a group of adults. We would discuss healthy foods and drinks and we would also have practical sessions where the group were able to see how to prepare healthy meals.

I have been given the opportunity to give various presentations promoting the Volunteer Centre and sharing my experience with students. One of these presentations was in my former secondary school, St Mary’s Grammar School. It was a very enjoyable experience to be back in the school. I was able to discuss with the students my experience of volunteering and offer advice on how they could volunteer and why it would be beneficial to them. I was able to relate to where they were in their education as I had previously been informed of the importance of volunteering when I was at school. At the time I thought it didn’t apply to me as I thought it was only relevant to careers in working with children or animals etc. I now see how beneficial volunteering would have been to me when I was at school.

There have been various internal and external events which I have been involved with during my time of volunteering. One of the most memorable one was the Volunteer Recognition Awards held in InVOLve House in December 2014. It was fantastic to see so many people who volunteered their time for organisations and to listen to the words of gratitude from the organisations to their volunteers. Each volunteer was presented with an award and the reason the organisation nominated them was read out to the audience. It was great that the volunteers were able to attend an event to show how appreciated they are.

I have also been able to represent the Volunteer Centre at careers fairs at the University of Ulster, Coleraine and the Northern Regional College in Magherafelt. I  met with students and provided them with information regarding the organisations the Volunteer Centre work with and what current opportunities were available.

The Volunteer Centre offer plenty of free training courses throughout the year and I was able to avail of the learning opportunities offered to me. I was able to undertake courses in Dementia Awareness, The Fair Recruitment of People with Criminal Convictions and Substance Abuse and The Older Client. I found these courses very interesting and worthwhile in increasing my knowledge and experience.

Before I was actually involved in volunteering,  I thought that  volunteers worked with charities and that the majority of volunteers worked in developing countries. I never realised the scope and quantity of volunteering opportunities in my local area. Through volunteering I have expanded my skills set and met so many inspiring people. The experiences which I have gained have been invaluable and I am very grateful to Barbara for the kindness and support she and the team have given to me during my time as a volunteer. 

I would highly recommend volunteering as it is such a rewarding experience. Being able to help someone is undoubtedly one of the best feelings in the world!   

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