Volunteering makes Tuesday a highlight for me

    Role and motivation to volunteer

    I began to volunteer in January 2020 with the Recovery College. My role is life-coaching, specifically in a group setting. I would describe life coaching as software engineering for people! We are all programmed by our past experiences, so sometimes we need to review our software to make sure we are using the right programme for what we want to achieve and that there is nothing misdirecting us. In our group sessions we clarify goals that clients want to achieve, identify obstacles holding them back and then come up with strategies to overcome these obstacles. Every client will set a goal that they want to achieve at the beginning of the course. This could be anything from improving their health, starting a musical project or increasing their self-esteem.  We review our progress in each session, increasing self-awareness through questioning ourselves in a safe and supportive environment. It is less about giving people advice and more about giving people the opportunity to explore themselves. We work on overcoming challenges together. During the sessions, everyone gets a chance to speak and works on their goals outside of the group. This ensures clients remain on track to achieve their goals and the group gives people a chance to reflect and work on their progress.

    I wanted to volunteer with St Mungo’s after meeting a street fund raiser and he explained St Mungo’s cause. I was really moved by this and wanted to contribute in a way other than financially. I thought I could use my skills with the organization, so I contacted the volunteering team at St Mungo’s and things went from there, now here I am!

    The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on volunteering

    When the first lockdown happened we weren’t able to meet up to have the sessions in person, so we quickly adapted and changed to a digital model to deliver the sessions remotely. This was actually a more convenient and effective method to run the course. After some initial technical hitches and getting familiar with working online, it was easier for people to log in remotely rather than travelling to the Recovery College. It also made it more accessible for people, so we were able to offer the course to more clients.

    There have been some challenges in that it is harder to build a rapport remotely rather than in person and there have been some technical issues in getting clients connected, but overall I would say it has made volunteering more accessible and convenient. Everyone has become more familiar and comfortable in the setting. Also, I am currently in Prague and am still able to volunteer so it is great to have this flexibility!  Whilst the pandemic has made volunteering easier, Covid-19 has obviously made life more challenging for everyone.

    The impact of volunteering and highlights of volunteering during a challenging year

    Every Tuesday is a highlight for me. I love to see clients progressing and working towards their goals. Every week we have an opportunity to learn from each other’s journeys and progress as we uncover the answers which lie within ourselves. Seeing clients improving their confidence, decision making skills, assertiveness, changing their life perspective, increasing their self-esteem, and more is really rewarding. Volunteering gives me a real sense of purpose and I really enjoy the energy of the group, helping people to realize their goals is incredibly  satisfying and I really enjoy my volunteering experience!

    Volunteering to help people blossom


    Peter is one of our Gardening volunteers at a hostel in Lewisham for people experiencing homelessness. Here, he shares his experience of supporting people in their recovery from homelessness by helping them to grow and learn new gardening skills along the way.


    Tell us about your role?

    I work at St Mungo’s Lewisham Assessment and Recovery Centre (LARC) and run the garden group on my own. I get roughly about three or four guests taking part in gardening. The tasks include weeding, planting vegetables and fruit trees, and pruning the garden.

    Our tasks at the moment are are bulb planting and sowing some wildflowers and my plan for the winter would be to build a pergola for the guests.

    Unfortunately, due to lockdown last year I missed the springtime, but I’m looking forward to this year and hopefully more people can get involved.


    What kind of tips would you give to someone who would be interested in volunteering as a gardener at St. Mungo’s?

    My tip would be to let the guests figure out what they would like to do at first; they might just want to come and sit and have a chat or they want to do some weeding. You should also try and encourage guests to take on having their own gardening bed to grow some vegetables and flowers.


    What kind of training do you receive as a Gardening Volunteer?

    You receive all sorts of training from St. Mungo’s in general. The ones I have done are relating to drug and alcohol misuse as well as a conflict management session. They’ve been quite helpful to understand what the guests are involved in when I’m with them in the garden.


    Do you get good feedback? Do guests find it helpful?

    Guests find it therapeutic – when they come out and they do a session out in the garden for an hour or two they normally feel much better, just from being out in the fresh air.

    I have seen changes in people who haven’t done gardening before, and they’ve found it a great experience. These people have also continued with their gardening once they moved on from the centre which is very positive.


    What’s your favourite part of the role?

    Meeting different people – they’re an interesting bunch! And the St Mungo’s staff are always so supportive; when I first started by myself, I felt quite nervous, but the staff stood by me and supported me all the way through.


    What are your hopes for the future of the garden?

    I’d like to see the garden flourish thorough the seasons, and I think it would be amazing if some residents could take care of the garden independently not just when I am there.


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