The past few years have been a rollercoaster for me. They saw the end of a serious relationship, debt problems, losing my home and the death of several people close to me. In fact, I would say that the last eighteen months have been some of the most difficult and heart-breaking of my 31 years. So I’m sure it would be surprising to hear that I’m also the happiest I have ever been. It sounds like a huge contradiction doesn’t it?
My involvement in volunteering came about early in 2016 when I was spending a large amount of time helping out at a friend’s pub trying to keep busy. I spent a lot of time talking to the regulars and one day struck up a conversation with a couple who were out for dinner with an old friend. This friend, they told me, had lost two of his three daughters to Cystic Fibrosis by the time they were 18 yet used his grief to help others – he was now the Chairman of a bereavement counselling charity in our local area.
For the next few weeks this man’s story kept coming back to my thoughts and I couldn’t help but be inspired by him. His really was a story of taking a negative and turning it to a life changing positive. I eventually made contact with the charity, explained how I knew of them and asked if there was anything I could do to help.
I met with the Chairman of Cruse Bereavement North Hampshire to discuss volunteering opportunities. They train Bereavement Volunteers to provide counselling to those struggling with the loss of a loved one but as I had suffered bereavement so recently I wasn’t eligible to train. So we chatted and I explained how, a couple of years previously, I had made a career change from law to marketing at which point his face lit up. Their recent fundraising and marketing volunteer had retired and they were in desperate need of someone to replace them. A rather energetic conversation followed and I was promptly invited to attend the next meeting to join their committee.
I have spent the remainder of this year learning more than I ever thought there was to learn about the running of a charity, fundraising and Third Sector marketing. Sometimes I wondered if I would be better volunteering on the ‘front line’ but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that the charity’s activities cannot take place with the administrative work of the committee plus, I was already happily absorbed in my role behind the scenes.
Then, at the end of August, I saw a Marketing Officer role for a local cancer charity advertised. I was happy in my current role but definitely wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the IT industry and decided to take a chance and apply. I was amazed when I had a phone call inviting me to an interview and even more amazed when, less than a week later, I was offered the job.
I am now in my third week as Marketing Officer for a small but well established cancer charity in my home town. I still volunteer for Cruse, and it is thanks to the volunteer opportunity they gave me that I am now working full-time in the Third Sector.
Less than a year ago, when everything seemed so bleak and I felt so lost, I would never have imagined telling the story of how I found a marketing career in the charity sector. Not only that, but I never imagined it would feel so right.
So though my story is somewhat different to other volunteer stories of people doing fantastic work sacrificing their time and directly helping people in need, my volunteering experience has certainly directly helped one person: me. Sometimes I imagine where I’d be now if I hadn’t taken the opportunity to help Cruse, but I quickly remind myself to look forward. I wouldn’t say all my emotional wounds are healed but the number of inspiring people I’ve met, and continue to meet, and the opportunities I have been given have certainly put me on the path to recovery.