26 May BLOG: Volunteers’ Week 2022
Volunteers’ Week 2022 will be running from 1st to 7th June during the #MonthofCommunity, which brings together organisations with a range of events in order to encourage us all to think about and join in with activities in our local communities.
At Oakleaf, we feel it is more important than ever to recognise and celebrate those who volunteer for Oakleaf, past and present.
So, we would like to take a moment to thank each and every one of our volunteers who have helped and are continuing to help Oakleaf provide vital mental health and wellbeing support for hundreds of individuals across Surrey.
We are also pleased to be able to share some stories from our wonderful volunteers; Michael, Krista, Joe, Christopher, Colin and Jon, whose support really does make all the difference.
MICHAEL, KRISTA & JOE
“Around four or five years ago, a family member was going through a difficult time with their mental health. Amongst other emotions, he suffered from severe panic attacks. After a couple of visits to the A&E department, we were given a leaflet about Oakleaf. Not knowing what else to do, we took him to the Guildford Safe Haven at Oakleaf, which marked the beginning of his long road to recovery.
A little while after, myself, my wife and our son Joe wanted to give something back; not only to Oakleaf but to society in general and thought the best way for us to do so was to offer our help as volunteers – and so began the journey.
We find volunteering rewarding in many ways. Raising awareness, fundraising and helping to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health is extremely important to us. We wanted to get the message out there that it’s okay to seek help, okay to talk about it and okay to feel the way you do, whether it’s because of depression, anxiety, panic attacks or any issue that is hindering you from living your life to the full.
Everyone, no matter who they are deserves to be happy and content with their life and this is what drives us to help in any way we can.
Over the last few years, this has included volunteering at fundraising and awareness events such as church choirs, 5k/10k runs, festivals, Christmas basket packing, quizzes, fire walks ( very entertaining), golf days as well as manning stalls outside shops & train stations, etc – all so worthwhile because it helps to let people know that there is someone (Oakleaf) who cares and can help.
A difference made to just one person’s life is enough reward for us. Everyone at Oakleaf is dedicated to what they do. They are kind, friendly and so very much needed in today’s, shall we say, challenging environment.”
“As I was concluding my time at University, I sought a short-term volunteering role to provide me with the work experience necessary to gain employment.
Having grown up helping older family members and friends with computers, I was used to providing one-to-one informal support, so when I was pointed towards Oakleaf’s ‘Computer Buddy’ role, it seemed like a good fit.
I did look at other options but felt called towards Oakleaf; though at the time I didn’t know anything about the charity nor much about the clients I would be supporting. I joined the team doing one day a week at first (later adding a second day) and although I was initially fairly shy and lacking in confidence, the clients were friendly, and I soon established a rapport with them.
I had suffered from a spell of depression while at university (as is sadly more and more common) and, while I was not fully aware of this when I began at Oakleaf, I also suffered from OCD.
In my first year, I came to the realisation that my role at Oakleaf was not ‘to support clients in learning to use computers’ but ‘to support clients, (primarily) through learning to use computers’, and this key change in perspective has informed my work at Oakleaf ever since.
Volunteering started for me as a way to get work experience and while it has definitely provided that, I’ve been blessed to have been able to do so with a charity that was both suited for me and enabled me to help others. In the 8½ years I’ve been here I’ve learned a variety of skills and can now confidently prepare and present online workshops for clients.”
“Before Oakleaf, getting the support I needed was hard at first. I was initially diagnosed with PTSD; then with depression and anxiety through my GP. This, along with my Epilepsy since birth and Type 2 Diabetes led me to seek out a support worker, who directed me to Oakleaf.
I have been a client at Oakleaf for a number of years and their support is brilliant. I have attended counselling as well as various wellbeing activities, including: Tai Chi, Photography, Guitar, Counselling and Choir.
I really enjoyed being a part of Oakleaf’s ‘Everyone Choir’ and learning new songs. It was a big challenge getting there, but I recently gained enough confidence to perform a solo.
I have also learned a lot of new skills through Oakleaf’s IT Training, such as using Microsoft Office, and I passed all of my OCR level 1 and OCR level 2 exams. I eventually began volunteering within the IT Department and have been helping clients with their coursework as well as setting up exams and marking mock exams for about three years now. I also help to run their Coffee Shop, serving up drinks and snacks.
Volunteering at Oakleaf is great as there is none of the pressure you might get in a working environment, and it gives you a sense of accomplishment as well as a confidence boost. The experience is really valuable, particularly if you have been out of work a long time.
Oakleaf is a safe zone for me. I used to struggle to venture out on my own due to negative experiences in my past but my confidence, since attending Oakleaf, has grown immensely. If I need help, there is always someone I can talk to. Being in an environment with people I trust has helped me to thrive in this volunteering role, and I would not have been able to achieve any of the above without the continued support from all of the staff at Oakleaf.
There is definitely stigma in the community surrounding mental health, and I feel like there needs to be more awareness of places like Oakleaf and the work they do to support people.”
“I have been a volunteer at Oakleaf for around four years now. After I retired from full-time work, I wanted to find something interesting to do aside from gardening and watching holiday programmes on television.
I had heard about the Guildford Safe Haven from a friend but apart from that, I knew little of Oakleaf’s work until I was introduced to their then Volunteer Coordinator, Katie, who suggested I volunteer on reception; welcome people in, watch the phones. So, this is now what I do once a week.
I know many people close to me who struggle with mental illnesses including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and special needs. I myself, can feel very anxious and afraid of new challenges. In my experience, having someone to talk to is vital for getting you through these times; also finding something to do, either creatively or through some form of exercise, can be a fantastic way to stimulate your mind and body, create new friendships and gain confidence.
I really enjoy my volunteering role. It really is a pleasure. Between the people who seek help from Oakleaf and the people who work there, we do have quite a few laughs – having a laugh about one of life’s absurdities, or simply managing a smile can really kick-start the process of feeling that little bit better. I hope this helps other people because I really do enjoy it.”
“A few years ago, I’d reached a point where I felt as though I’d hit rock bottom and even came very close to ending my life due to some issues that had negatively affected my mental health. I really struggled to get back into any kind of paid employment and had very little motivation to want to do anything besides staying indoors at home with the curtains closed.
At the risk of becoming a complete recluse, I was prompted to consider doing some voluntary work as a means to help get me out of the house so I made some enquiries and became aware of a role as a Volunteer Receptionist at Oakleaf. I was already aware of Oakleaf because I was a regular attendee at the Guildford Safe Haven, located within the same building, and I thought it would be great to do some volunteering for an organisation that helps individuals to improve and manage their mental health.
I started on the reception desk just under two years ago and really enjoy this role; it’s like some of the jobs that I’ve done in the past and no one day is ever the same. I help by welcoming clients and visitors, accepting deliveries and answering the telephone.
Being the person that people usually come into contact with when they enter the building was quite daunting at first, however I’ve received so much positive feedback from clients, staff members and visitors as to how friendly, hard-working and welcoming I am, which has really helped to rebuild my confidence and self-worth.
Combined with the fantastic counselling services that are available at Oakleaf, I’ve begun to feel so much happier and healthier (both physically and mentally) and have even started to develop my knowledge and increase the necessary skills I need that will assist me whilst on my path back into full-time employment – I’m now in the early stages of establishing my own business and I’m very excited to see what the future may bring as a result.
Overall, volunteering has helped me immeasurably and has given me an opportunity to give something back to a wonderful charity that has done so much to help me; and for that, I will be eternally grateful – thank you Oakleaf!”
Volunteering is a brilliant way to connect with people and in turn, give back to the community. There are many ways in which you can use your time and skills to volunteer at Oakleaf:
- Wellbeing Activities
- Work-Related Training
- Fundraising Events
- On reception or in our coffee shop
- CV writing and job searches