To make the end of Volnteers week I wrote this blog for Strong Young Minds, one of the websites I write my blogs for. So I thought I’d share it with you all. Please feel free to ask me any questions 😊
I am writing this as Dumfries and Galloway’s Third Sector Young Volunteer and Volunteer of the Year which is so amazing and I still can’t quite believe it.
But I will take you back to a shy, quiet, unconfident 12 year old Amy who didn’t know quite where she fitted in , in this world! At times didn’t even want to be here and frequently missed school and didn’t have that many friends.
It all changed one evening when my Dad took me to youth group where one of his friends was a youth worked at. From being there as young person I began volunteering at there youth groups for primary school pupils and also a project during the summer holiday.
It was while I was there as young person I met Tracey who was a youth worker with the local councils Youth Issues Unit. I got involved in both local and national youth projects including YouthBank, Inspector8 and National Conversation and being part of our presentation to COSLA. I won the Ian McAlister bursary award, a local award for my commitment to the voluntary sector. I also won a Young Quality Scot Award for my involvement in our projects and as a peer mentor. By July 2010 I had done over 500 hours voluntary work from starting there in 2005.
In 2011 I attended an event for young disabled people locally to talk about what mattered to us, organised by DG Voice – the Voice of disabled people in my local area. I met Heather who was the Development manager and I was soon welcomed into the organisation and made a director in 2012. Through the years I have been involved in projects with employability, schools and even was a speaker at our conference on End of Life Matters. My main purpose of being a director was to make the organisation more youth friendly and get more young people involved. In fact my role this summer is to look at how we use social media and how we can use it to benefit us more
What you might not realise is that in these years I was volunteering I was also looking after my Dad who had cancer. From 2003 to his passing in 2010 he had three types of cancer and without his wife and my mum there I was the main carer. Volunteering was a way for me to escape from caring and too me but more importantly to find the person I should be. The evening of the presentation of my Ian McAlister bursary will always mean something very special to me as it was the last proper picture of me and my dad.
It was from the feedback of the Youth Matters conference that the foundations of Inspired Communities Enterprise Trust came from. The purpose of ICET is to give young people with additional support needs training and employment opportunities in hospitality and retail. U have been involved right from the start from us getting funding, learning from other cafes, finding the building, finding our builder, all the legal aspects, spreading the word around the community to finally getting the keys almost a year ago. I have been chair of board of directors for just over a year now, it’s a big learning opportunity for me and can be challenging but with my fellow directors and staff team supporting me I know I can do it. Through the wonderful Usual Place – the café where ICET is based – I’ve been able to meet MSPs, MPs, council leaders, professionals and even the First Minister.
Some would ask why I volunteer when I don’t get paid for it. But for me the benefits are more than that. It’s given me such a confidence boost and created so many amazing experiences. It’s made me proud to have dyspraxia and to show the world that just because I have a disability don’t ever underestimate me. I’ve met so many amazing people on this journey from all the youth workers, other young people, professionals and those at higher levels. I’ve truly been able to spread my wings and its influenced every part of my life. Volunteering has always been there for me through my darkest times of my life and has given me something to focus on.
It’s now 2016 and I’m 24 I have been volunteering for over 10 years now. I am confident in who I am. Looking forward to what the future will bring for my career with the knowledge that volunteering has made me stronger.
So if your thinking about volunteering….then DO it!