International Tree Foundation has been supported on our mission to plant trees by countless volunteers who gift us their time because they are passionate about reforesting the planet. Much of what we do would not be possible without their generosity. But as an organisation we also support our staff to lend their time and talents to other organisations.
For Volunteer’s Week 2021, Lorna, our Finance and Administrative Officer, has written about how she is making a real impact for people living with cancer by donating her time.
My time as a volunteer
I started volunteering a few years ago. It’s not something I had ever considered before. I have always worked and never really had much spare time as I am a single Mum to amazing two sons but, as they got older, their demands on my time gradually reduced. There were 3 things that pushed me into volunteering.
Firstly, I was working for an organisation which supported volunteers. Being surrounded by these wonderful, passionate people every day and hearing their stories was really inspiring and made me appreciate how important volunteers are. Secondly, I went on a course with Oxfordshire Mind as I had been struggling with my own mental health. One of the things they talk about is the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’, and volunteering was one of the suggestions. Helping others while also helping myself, it seemed like a ‘no-brainer’.
Thirdly, I really wanted to give something back. That’s why I chose Breast Cancer Now (or Breast Cancer Care, as they used to be called). Just before Christmas in 2013 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was one of the most traumatic times of my life but I was one of the lucky ones and, following treatment, I feel blessed to say I am currently well. After treatment a lot of people find it difficult to return to ‘normal’ life and I struggled too but with support from a number of different organisations including Breast Cancer Now, Oxfordshire Mind, and the Maggie’s Centre I worked through the challenges and am now much stronger because of it. None of these organisations could do what they do without the commitment of their wonderful volunteers.
I applied to become a volunteer with Breast Cancer Now, and was so pleased when I was accepted. I was really looked after, attending an induction and training in London before starting my in-house training, alongside another volunteer.
My role is to assist with their Moving Forward courses. I help to set up the room and clear away, make cups of tea, sign people in etc but I am also there to share my own experiences, keep the conversations running smoothly and be there if someone needs a chat. It was a bit daunting at first trying something new and I was worried I would get it wrong but I had lots of support and was soon trained up and ready to start.
The courses are quite hard work, not physically but emotionally. The rewards however are amazing. The knowledge that you have been there for someone, able to help them through a difficult time and that your presence may have enabled them to feel listened to and perhaps even helped in some small way.
Unfortunately, when Covid came along, the courses were put on hold but they will be starting up again as soon as it is safe to do so.
The commitment for me is just a few hours a week a couple of times a year and that’s the beauty of volunteering, you choose how much time you feel able to give. I am completely in awe of the people who put so much of their time into helping others, the youth workers and scout leaders, those running the food banks or taking calls on helplines, school governors and charity trustees, and those who make the sandwiches at the league of friends, the drivers, the carers, the listeners and the supporters. My time is just a drop in the ocean compared to them but I know that what I do makes a difference and I’m happy with that.